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  • Writer's pictureKaren L


Just today, my sister said to her husband, "it's war, we have to eat the granola." An inside joke to be sure, my sister refers to past events which are no laughing matter. In addition to "war," we refer to "Shanghai," to describe practices refugees resorted to in wartime China.

Our mother was a stateless person in Shanghai throughout World War II, a relatively safe haven for German and Austrian Jews. During the war, my mother and her compatriots subsisted on a starvation diet of soy milk, bread, beans, potatoes, turnips, chicory coffee and whatever else could be wangled. Not only was there a food shortage but also rampant inflation. Sound familiar? A bit, maybe.

We see shortages in the markets and inflation due to the pandemic, though insignificant compared to wartime in China. Nonetheless, one ought to consume available products and cease wasting food. A well-known phenomenom, Americans discard comestible and spoiled provender daily. Refuse from edibles hastens the deterioration of the planet, as dump sites overflow.

The daughters of immigrants, my sister, Connie, and I belong to the "clean plate club." As children, we gobbled what our mother served, for the most part. She calculated and cooked the precise amount of food she considered appropriate for our family. We laugh now when we share the experience of a good meal--"I ate every bite." Waiters often remark, "I guess you liked the food," said in good-natured jest. To avoid overeating, we request carry-out containers. We bring the leftovers home, including rice.

I complain about the empty shelves, but then I remember the past and present reality. Afghanistan suffers from a food crisis. Some Americans go to bed hungry. If we cannot find plain flavored water, at our favorite store, buy seltzer; if no romaine lettuce, substitute spinach; if no Honeycrisp apples, try Kiku; no black shoe polish, live with it and so on. If supermarkets and pharmacies in the United States sold half their inventory, people from elsewhere would still gawk at the selection.

I feel ashamed about my throw-away mentality. I try to squander less; but, I am a product of the consumer society. Recycle, reuse, donate, repair--my mottos--discouraged by businesses. Local governments work diligently to reverse the trend; but for now, do what you can--eat what you find in your pantry, refrigerator and market.

© 2022Karen Levi

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