I had a running balance on my credit card, for the first time in my life. I knew it was the right decision to make for my little family at the time but it left a lump in my throat and a weight on my chest to know that i had outstanding debts that i couldn’t pay. I had to purchase feed, medicine, and supplies while they were still available. I couldn’t wait for sufficient funds to come in. So i did, with the idea that i’d pay it off a little more each month as the paychecks came in. I wanted to handle this sooner rather than later so i forbid myself to spend any money on food until the debt was paid. For a little over a month i ate nothing but the dry food and prunes that i had in the pantry. I lived on rice gruel, oatmeal, beans, rice, rice noodles, lentil noodles, quinoa, and prunes. It wasn’t too bad at first, but as the weeks stretched on i began to hunger for something green, something sweet, something fresh, something flavorful. I began to ache with thirst for fresh food. Boxed rice and noodles certainly kept one alive and filled one’s belly but it didn’t provide the vitamins and nutrients my body was craving. I told myself, i would pay off the credit card balance and once i’d done that i could go to walmart and buy a bit of food. Well, pay day came and it was not what i’d hoped it’d be. We had fewer patients than usual because of the pandemic. That meant less than 40 hours a week for all of us therapists, and my paycheck reflected it. I did not have enough money to pay off the credit card balance and so i’d have to wait until next month to clear it. I’d have to wait one more month to go to walmart. One more month of pantry food. Then my coworker asked me, “Hey, did you get your stimulus check this morning? I did!” I dropped my bag in its cubby, “What?” He said, “Check your bank account.” I logged onto my mobile app and clicked the account. Sure enough, the irs had added $1200 to my account. I now had enough to pay the balance on the credit card! I could go to Walmart!!! I hurried out to my car where i sat in the drivers seat and paid my credit card bill by phone. I couldn’t stop smiling all day. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have outstanding debt anymore. I was so happy. Nobody knew because my mask covered my face but i was grinning ear to ear, dreaming about green things and maybe bananas, sweet fruity bananas. Oh the possibilities!
After my work day i drove to the walmart in town. I had butterflies in my belly. I had never been so excited to go to walmart. After a month of boxed food only i was finally going to get my hands on some produce. I was so excited i could have peed myself! I tried to pull it together. I told myself i just needed to go into the store and see what they had and i could celebrate later, once i was home.
To be clear, this was back before the governor got on the television and told everyone it was the healthcare workers that were carrying covid-19 and it was the doctors, nurses, and nursing home employees that were infecting everybody. This was back when i could still walk into an establishment wearing scrubs without getting stoned or chased out to the parking lot.
To my surprise, there was not a lot of produce present at the walmart. The shelves were empty. I hadn’t realized that the lines to get in the store formed about an hour before opening time and the housewives and unessential workers cleaned the store out every day while the essential workers manned their posts, so that there was little left by the time the essential employees clocked out and drove over. All of the green items were gone. There were no peas or broccoli. Spinach and kale were a rare find. They were usually out of oranges, though occasionally i got lucky and found a bag during the next month. There were potatoes. There were onions. There were bananas and apples. Over the next few weeks i bought a bag of potatoes, a bag of onions, a bag of apples, and a bunch of bananas. Anything else produce-wise that was still left by the time i entered the walmart, i got that too, but my staples were those 4 things. Sometimes i got lucky and found a bag of frozen broccoli crowns or a plantain that wasn’t solid green. One day i found a bag in the frozen section that had kale, greens, and chard all in one. I grabbed that and stuck it under the potatoes in the basket, worried someone would snatch my find out of the basket when i wasn’t looking. Mushrooms were available pretty often. Nobody seemed to want those, so i took them gladly. They went well with potatoes and onions in a skillet.
Anything green was heavenly! Especially the bag of kale, greens, and chard. It was like food of the gods. I was starving for vitamins and minerals and this green stuff tasted like a party in my mouth. It was savory and buttery and had a flavor i couldn’t describe. I knew it was just my body playing tricks on me. On a normal day i hated kale, but at this time it was the best thing i’d ever tasted and i was beyond grateful for the find of that bag tucked behind the fish sticks in the frozen case.
These were the last plantains i would taste. After that, people would snatch up all the brown or yellow ones while i was at work and the only ones present by the time i hit the store were solid green. They would maybe never ripen. They weren’t worth the money to take the chance. I left them in the bin.
Quinoa, beans, and mushrooms
This became my quarantine food for a few weeks. A starch, onions, mushrooms, and if it was available, something leafy and green.
One week i found a bag of frozen broccoli florets and it was so good! I cooked them on the stove with vegan butter and salt and i’d never eaten anything so heavenly. I held them with my fingers. As i bit into the soft florets the buttery juices ran down my fingers and coated my lips. The steam smelled like warm broccoli. They were this beautiful color of green. They were the best thing ever.