A couple of hours ago, I was ravenously hungry and waiting for the clock to tick around to lunchtime. Something reminded me of a post on one of the forums I frequent. The writer had recently married and moved in with her husband. They had virtually no food in their home and, with the exception of £10 she'd managed to raise via eBay sales, no money to take them through the week until payday. In addition, her employer had recently folded and she had learned that she was not entitled to contribution-based benefits such as Job Seeker's Allowance or statutory redundancy money because the company had not paid over tax or National Insurance Contributions that they'd deducted from their employees. She'd been crying because her husband had gone to work without breakfast and had had nothing to take for lunch. The forum gave her some good advice about spending her precious £10 on potatoes, oats, eggs, milk, discounted bread, etc, as well as on how to stretch the few items she had in stock.
While waiting for lunch, I started to ponder what I'd do in the
writer's shoes. The biggest difference between her and me is that I
have a store cupboard. When I fed two adults in February 1991 on £25, I
had some food already in stock: flour, some tinned
goods, spices, sugar, pasta, rice, as well as a few things in the
freezer. And I worked for a company that fed me lunch. If I'd been
truly desperate, I could have made myself toast for breakfast at work,
too. There were days later on, say in 1995, when
I ran out of cash and only had 10p to buy some apples for lunch, but I
always had food at home and I could have brought my lunch into work if
I'd been more organised. (Different employer by then.) My store
cupboard is a lot bigger now and I have a freezer
that is so full of food, I have to play Freezer Tetris whenever I try to
take something out. Truth be told, as long as I was allowed £20 to buy
some milk, eggs and veggies (mainly potatoes, onions, mushrooms and
carrots), I could get by without spending anything
else on food until May. Or, possibly, June. But then I'm not
particularly narrow minded about food; although we are meat eaters, we
eat a lot of pulses-based dishes as well as a reasonable amount of fish
What would really panic me, would be not having cooking facilities.
I could probably get by without an oven and without a microwave,
although I use my microwave-convection oven every week, but not having a
hob to cook on would almost kill me. Yes, I could
light the barbecue and cook on that but I'd need something for fuel.
(And it might not be strong enough to hold my saucepans.) If the loss
of power was due to some regional disaster or war, would I have to
quickly scavenge all my wood supplies and barricade
them inside my house? Isn't that what happened in war-torn Europe
during/after the Second World War? And in Kosovo? Another thought: when the
television cameras focus on the faces of the starving and hungry in
famine-torn parts of the world, do we consider that having
walked hundreds/thousands of miles to get to the refuge camp, they might
not have a pot to cook in? Or any fuel? How many women were raped,
maimed or murdered in Darfur because they dared venture out of the
refugee camps to find fuel so that they could cook
their UN rations?
It's a sobering thought, risking it all just so you can feed your family and yourself. It certainly puts any recent episode of "I wants it!!" into perspective. If the dice were rolled differently, that could be me or you or family or friends. As my mother used to say,
"There but for the grace of God, go I".