Food became less about flavor and more about sustenance for me. I had a little over a cup of cashews left in my freezer and i used the last of them to make a “cheese” sauce to go over the gluten-free pizza crust my sister had put in her suitcase and flown to me when she came back from college in a state with one of the best gluten free bakeries only a town over from her dorm. It must have been 4 or 5 years old. It had severe freezer burn but, food was food and i was grateful for it. After the pizza crust/“cheese” sauce creation was consumed i took to mixing gluten-free flour, water, and salt, flattening the mixture on a cookie sheet and baking it in the oven. It produced a dense kind of flat bread with bland flavor but i was out of most of my spices at this point and didn’t have any veggies to add to it. I made plain flat bread whenever i was hungry and it silenced my nagging stomach but my tastebuds were not impressed. All the regular things that went into gluten free bread (vanilla hemp milk, apple sauce, egg substitute)…those things were a luxury that could not be obtained or afforded at this time. So i continued mixing water and salt with chickpea flour, tapioca flour, and rice flour depending on the day.
This particular day was a special one. I found some food stuffs i had forgotten about and decided to prepare a little feast. It started with the location of a slightly moldy orange at the bottom of my work bag. I was so excited! What a find! I started thinking, “there must be other things i’ve neglected to remember or find.” so i searched the back of the refrigerator and all crevices of the pantry. Those who know me well know that i had to have this giant free-standing pantry with magnetized doors that i saw on a website shortly after i moved into my house. It was the most ridiculous contraption to ship. It took two 75 lb boxes just to get all the pieces in one room and i couldn’t start on assembly until the second box arrived. Assembly was a massive headache as the instructions were about as clear as a corn maze near sundown and i kept having to assemble and disassemble the pieces depicted in various steps due to them being put together facing the wrong direction as the picture would indicate which piece should be used but display no distinguishing features to identify what side the viewer was looking at. In the end it all ended up being worth it because of the thin bottom shelf. I just knew i had to have that pantry and it has paid off. The bottom shelf was only about 2 inches from the bottom of the pantry itself, leaving a short, dark, dry compartment. I typically stored onions and squash down there and they would remain edible for months after purchase. It was like a little bitty root cellar. So on this particular day i reached back there and pulled forth 4 squash. Jackpot! I was amazed. I had bought them before the farm stand had closed. That would have made them 4 months old. They were shriveled and wrinkled in places on the outside but still fairly firm and not molded. So i cooked them. The taste was a bit rancid but it was still edible and i made a go of it. It was sustenance, and something other than gruel. I picked all the seeds out and roasted them. They were harder and chewier than the soft fresh seeds i normally roasted but i ate them as well and was glad for the different texture. I included my last two prunes and a couple brazil nuts in the feast. Then, a healthy dose of the lentil mash i had in the refrigerator. It was a meal to remember. The novel idea of having variety on the plate…not just one type of food in a plastic solo cup, was not one i had entertained in a while. Knowing it was the last of the non-dry bulk food in the house, i savored it and allowed myself an episode of “the office” while i sat in the rocking chair and ate my meal.
After a while i began to hunger for things like chocolate and apple juice; luxuries that were not necessary for survival but were still craved nonetheless. I had an old box of stevia packets in my tea cabinet, a bag of carob powder in the pantry, a third of a bottle of fruit-juice sweetened probiotic gummies, and from time to time i could get my hands on some lemons. So i began making myself improvised candies and lemonade. I would mix the carob powder with a packet of stevia and some water in the bottom of a cup. Then i would drop a couple of the probiotic gummies in and roll them around until they were coated. After that i would fish one out with a spoon and eat it. The gummy was sweet and the carob frosting that surrounded it was velvetty and rich. It was wonderful. You would have thought i was eating the most expensive and decadent candy the world had to provide. All that was really happening was that it’d been so long since i had tasted something sweet, my tastebuds were burning with desire for a treat. Even more than the candies, i liked the lemonade. I longed for a big glass of apple juice. At times i just put a packet of stevia in water and stirred it up, but by itself it didn’t taste right; not like juice. When i could get my hands on some lemons i made a real production of it. I poured a cup of filtered well water and then chilled it in the refrigerator for an hour. At that point, i’d slice the lemon in half and squeeze half of it into the cup of water, careful not to spill any of the juices dripping down my hand. There were only a couple of lemons each time and every drop of juice had to be savored and appreciated. Then i would stir in a stevia packet and sit down. I would sit in the rocking chair and take tiny pull after tiny pull on the side of the cup, tasting the sweet and sour, ice-cold goodness. Lemonade.
Finally, the blackberry bush began producing.