The problem was food: how to keep enough on hand, cut back on waste, decide what to prepare. How to balance the menu, which recipe to use. Cater to the tastes of different family members. Diets. The caprice of appetite. Shopping, Cooking. Making sure everything is ready on time. Meeting schedules.
Hunger, she thought, had little to do with it. Hunger was simple, pure, basic, easy. Hunger made demands she could understand: the fundamental need to be filled, restored, satisfied.
Sometimes she felt trapped by cupboards, gaps on the shelves. By shopping lists that multiplied in geometric proportion. Advertised specials, coupons. Comparison shopping. Bargains that never measured up to her rising expectations, hops for deliverance: to economy, simplicity, convenience.
Meal planning was big business, a full-time executive occupation. Or vocation, she called it, a calling that demanded creativity of a very high order: an eye for color, design, concern for taste, nutrition, vitamins with their constantly changing requirements. Calories to count. Recycling. She needed a computer to tally and receive information, a dancer's ability to move gracefully in and out of the maze.
Other skills: human relations. Sometimes you had to coax the recalcitrant eaters, find a jest or bon mot to ease hurt feelings, lighten the atmosphere as an aid to good digestion. Set the stage. Make conversation with dinner. Lunch. Breakfast. All part of the problem of food. Words to go with the vegetables, interesting topics to accompany rice and fish, stories, and laughter as side dishes.
She clipped recipes, tried new ones, kept files, traded ideas with friends. Checked the specials, tried convenience foods as time-savers. Shopped at the co-op, the Farmers Market. Set up menus and cooking schedules for three meals a day. Everyday.
How easy it looked! How effortlessly the family fell into the line! Nobody suspected a problem with food, that anyone could tire of food! A demanding delicious trap: soups and fruit, juices and casseroles, desserts, salads; appetizers and breads, crackers, cookies, vegetables fresh and frozen; fish and meat, poultry, sandwiches. Planning and buying. Preparing. Serving. Even with help, she kept leap-frogging ahead to the next meal.
Too many grocery stores. Supermarkets gobbling up the land. Produce markets and health food stores, delicatessens, gourmet cookery shops-- all proliferating. There was no way to stop thinking about food, no way to escape. Party invitations, reciprocity, dinners out at too many restaurants. Snacks for committee meetings, refreshments after church. Potlucks, teas, 'happy hours.' Where would it end?
Sometimes, on more bizarre days she looked around and saw herself surrounded by open moths, rows of teeth ready to bite and crunch and chew. The city seemed one insatiable appetite, a creature that did nothing but eat, where people talked only of food. An endless indulgent circuit of passionate edible pleasures.
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