Spoiled

Every once in a while the fedex box of produce would arrive with a hole in it or with the ice pack warm and melted. It just depended on how well it was packed and how gingerly it was handled on its journey. Inside was my week’s worth of food. Spoiled or not, it was my food for the week. If something was beyond salvageable, i could call the company and say it arrived smooshed or rotten and they would refund me the money spent on the item. However, it was not as if i could turn around and use that money to buy more food. Each individual produce item in town was a dollar at least. They didn’t stock brown rice anymore. Also, people wanted to stone me every time i walked into a store. They felt i was dangerous and risky to be around because i worked in healthcare. Mask or no mask, i was not welcome in the grocery in town. I knew that if i asked for a refund for an item and threw it out, i would just have to stretch what was left that much harder until the following week. So i ate it, spoiled or not. When food arrived smelling sour and fermented the first thing i did was cook it. I cooked the dickens out of it, both to kill anything growing on it and because i secretly hoped cooking the slimy white-spotted pieces of squash would make the taste morph into something less unpleasant. It didn’t. It also didn’t help the smell. I would make a big pot of brown rice. I would spread a layer of rice on the plate and put the spoiled vegetable pieces on top of it and then go to youtube and turn on a tv program i liked. I would get my little plastic spoon ready and get really into the tv program. I would cover the whole plate with a thin dusting of salt and then i would force myself to eat it while trying to remain lost in “storm chasers” “deadliest catch” or “cops uk bodycam squad”. It tasted awful and my tongue rebelled the entire time, sending my brain signals that the food was off, instinct attempting to kick in and steer me away from certain poisoning. I continued on until the plate was empty. When i was done i would sit still in the rocking chair for an hour and let the food settle. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience, eating spoiled food, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was simply necessary. I was hungry. If i ate the spoiled food i wouldn’t be hungry. It was what i had to eat, so, no matter what condition it arrived in, i had to eat it. One week all 18 nectarines arrived bruised and moldy. I washed them one by one and poked through the white-spotted fuzzy mushy spots, letting the goo run down my fingers and into the sink. Once i had the salvageable bits of the fruit cleaned i put them all in a ziploc freezer bag and stashed them in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator. I would eat two to three a day for the rest of the week. It would leave my stomach confused and sensitive but it was necessary. That was all the fruit i had, save for a few apples that were already designated for lunches at work. It was necessary to consume them if i wanted to be able to make a bowel movement for the rest of the week. Getting enough fruit in my diet to stay regular was a challenge during the pandemic and fruit had to be salvaged at all costs. Once, my shipment of oranges arrived with no moisture in them. They were dried up and brittle on the inside. They fell apart in my fingers when i tried to separate the pieces. I put a cup of water next to my plate with the orange on it and i chewed the dry pulp, taking sips of water in between each bite. I couldn’t afford to waste the oranges. They were the fruit for the week that was going to make moving my bowels possible. Otherwise i’d end up like my patients on heavy pain killers who couldn’t go to the bathroom until their turds were hard as little rocks that came out like deer poop in tiny pieces. I prayed a lot about those boxes. I prayed the food would arrive and not get lost in the warehouse, as other peoples’ boxes had in the past. I prayed that it would arrive in good condition, and i prayed i’d be home from work in time to get it out of the yard before it baked in the sun. It seemed hunger had become a big part of my life. I was always hungry. I was always rationing the food i had to make it last throughout the week. I knew i would never look at food the same. I would never waste anything again. I would never leave pulp on the seed, throw out the crusty bits of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, or waste spent cooking oil by washing the pan instead of sticking the next vegetable straight into the oil from the last one cooked. I had become like the survivors of the great depression. Food was gold to me and wasting any of it would be an unspeakable crime in my mind. Ultimately, i was willing to risk an upset stomach if it meant it wouldn’t be empty.

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