Albert Lawundeh, TSE photographer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

To Market, To Market

It's snowing in Northern Virginia.  A lot.  We had an actual blizzard last weekend that dumped about 20 inches of snow on us, and tonight we're receiving somewhere between 10 -20 more.  This is unusual for our area.  We usually get a few polite little snows, with the occasional foot once a season or so - but it's rare to get this kind of one-two punch.  People in this area are therefore a little...shall we say, reactionary - when we get this kind of record-breaking weather.  Typical response pre-storm?  Everyone rushes to the store to stock up on shovels, milk, bread, toilet paper, and ice cream.  (Yes, ice cream.  I don't why.  I'm from Florida.  I think the whole thing is bizarre).

We've been jokingly referring to this storm as "snowmageddon" or the "snowpocalypse," but to be honest, to go to any one of the area grocery stores the day before the first flake falls is like witnessing the end of days.  People behave as if they are unsure that they will ever see the inside of Giant again.  They fill carts and push their way into checkout lines, frantic to get out of the store with the last package of toilet paper before the snow falls. 

Today was even weirder.  Forced to go to Giant by the utter lack of food in my house, and caught between the storm that hit us this past weekend (so okay, we're out of food mostly because we hosted a giant Superbowl party too, but still - no food) and the one hitting us tonight, I found myself standing in a completely decimated produce section this morning.  I am literally in possesion of the very last tomato Giant had.  There was no chicken, no ground meat of any kind.  There was skim milk and soy milk, but that was it.  There were eggs, but no butter.  The strangest thing of all was the people.  The store the day before storm #1 hit was populated by rabid, mean, frantic and angry people fighting (literally) over the last package of Wonder bread.  The people in the store this morning looked like victims of the aftermath.  People wandered around as if in a daze.  It was oddly quiet.  No one seemed particularly upset that there were no onions or  chicken breasts.  They were just figuring out how to make do with what was left.  No onions?  Maybe leeks will work....

It reminded me of conversations I've had with Fudia, the wonderful cook of the MTC (Missionary Training Center) at the Child Rescue Centre (you do remember that this is a blog about my journey to Africa, right?).  After having been served some of the best pineapple I've ever eaten in my life, we asked her if we could have it again for dinner the next night.  She was apologetic on the following evening when pineapple was not on the table, explaining that it was "too dear" at the market that day.  Fudia doesn't buy food just because she (or we) wants a particular thing - she buys what is reasonably priced and she negotiates and balances nutritional needs with budget every time she goes to the market - which is every single day.  She may plan to cook chicken for dinner, but if it is too "dear" she will make do with cassava or fish.  She may plan to serve pineapple, but if they don't have any at the market, she will simply have to see what is. 

We live in a country where we take so much for granted.  If I want strawberries, I go across the street and buy them.  I don't pay much attention to the season, and often not even to the cost.  I bought a brisket today.  That's all they really had in the meat case.  I've never cooked a brisket before - I've never had to because they've always had things in the case I'm more familiar with cooking.  But I'm kind of excited by the challenge.  It makes me feel like maybe I'll appreciate how Fudia navigates the world a little bit more.

1 comment: