We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for some philosophical musings.
Lately I've been doing a lot of canning as well as re-canning to round out the pantry -- peas, carrots, mustard, pizza sauce, salsa, chicken broth, things like that.
I've also been harvesting the garden -- right now it's pears, onions, potatoes, and herbs. Oh, and seeds. I've been harvesting seeds -- broccoli, corn, melons, tomatoes, beans, etc.
Already we're looking ahead to next spring. We'll save some potatoes for seed. The garlic is already planted. We're getting in more tractor tires to expand our raised beds. We enjoy this miraculous cycle of food production and the seasonal changes it brings.
The cycle of harvests in this country used to be entirely dependent on seasons. Due to a lack of refrigeration as well as the inability to dependably import things from abroad, everyone was forced by necessity to preserve food during times of abundance in order to get them through the lean months of winter and spring.
This natural cycle –- preserve during abundance for times of scarcity –- used to be a way of life for literally everyone. Even growing up as I did during the 1960s and 70s, I clearly remember my mother preserving food for the winter. (She never canned, but she froze many in-season fruits and vegetables.)
But the artificial abundance in grocery stores has disrupted that cycle. Now we fully expect strawberries in January and corn in May. We import foods from all over the globe to fill those expectations.
Since a cycle of harvest and preservation is no longer necessary for our survival, we’ve completely forgotten how to do it, and even why to do it. People expect fruits and vegetables even out of season, simply because they can. These out-of-season foods are relatively inexpensive and available in even small towns or rural areas.
The complacency toward food (and other supplies) as a result of this easy availability has made us unable to grasp its absence. Our approach toward abundance is casual, relaxed, even careless. So what if I don’t have any flour in the cupboard? I can always get more tomorrow from the grocery store.
Now what would happen if the bleep were to hit the fan? To find your answer, visit any Wal-Mart and look at the food aisles just before a major storm or hurricane makes landfall. They are stripped bare. People are panicked. There is pandemonium. Anger. Fighting.
If you visit any wholesale grocer or Costco location, the amount of food you see at any one time would feed about 30 people for a month. Or 60 people for two weeks. Or 120 people for a week. That’s it.
Now how many people live in your city? Do the math.
I don’t care how many grocery stores are scattered throughout a metropolitan area –- there simply isn’t enough food in those stores to support the population for more than three days. Three days until anarchy breaks out because people are hungry. Three days.
Yet we can still –- right now, as of this writing -– buy a 50-pound bag of rice for about $20. No lines, no panic, no chaos.
Folks, it’s not necessary to face panic and pandemonium from empty store shelves if your pantries are already full. If you have the ability to casually waltz -– tra la la -– into a Costco or wholesale grocer and stock up on basic foodstuffs while things are calm and no one’s worried, then you have no need to panic before that storm or if the bleep hits the fan.
In other words, take advantage of the abundance of this country. While food and other supplies are cheap and available, it behooves us to store things against the times when supplies may be scarce and expensive.
We must also learn ways to preserve that abundance. Food preservation is a dying art, but what an art it is. Learn to pack dry foods (such as beans, rice, or oatmeal) to keep them away from moisture, rodents, and insects. Learn to dehydrate. Learn to can. These methods of food preservation are vital if we're ever faced with lean times.
I am bothered by the cavalier attitude that even struggling people have toward abundance. For better or worse, the safety nets in our country have cultivated an attitude of flippancy among everyone. No one will starve because someone will always provide food.
It’s kind of like the tragedy of the commons: what’s freely available isn’t valued. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the notion of personal responsibility (“I will can these carrots”) and developed a sense of entitlement (“I won’t bother canning these carrots because someone will give me more carrots next week”).
Abundance is a blessing, a blessing people won’t miss until it’s gone. Like all good things, it must at some point come to an end. In the past, smart people recognized the fleeting nature of abundance and took steps to make sure they wouldn’t starve in the interim from harvest to harvest. In our current time of abundance, it behooves us to preserve food for a time when it might be scarce.
As the saying goes, we would rather be prepared for nothing, then unprepared for everything.
This concludes my philosophical musings for the day. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.