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Interlude: Food Insecurity and My Anxiety Disorder

For some reason I talk more about food on Twitter than I do here. I used to post pictures of things I’d cooked on Instagram, but it made me uncomfortable after a while. Food insecurity is a huge issue for a lot of people, and I don’t expect that the current crisis is going to make things any better. It seems insensitive to boast about how well I eat, or just that I do have food to eat, when other people are suffering.

While I can’t say that I grew up hungry, the meals I ate as a child weren’t good. Everything came out of a box, a can, or the freezer. A lot of soggy, gray vegetables, fried meat pucks, and instant mashed potatoes. Swanson turkey TV dinners for Thanksgiving. Boxed cake mixes and Wonder Bread. The reason I started teaching myself to cook as a teenager is because the quality of the food I grew up with was awful.

It’s served me well over time. I have known people who live on cereal, sandwiches, and fast food. They not only don’t know how to cook, they don’t know how to grocery shop. It gets expensive. The meals I make aren’t extravagant, but I get a lot more for a lot less.

My Anxiety

Before we moved to Finland, Katie and I lived in New Mexico. Katie was an elementary school teacher in the state ranked 49th for child poverty. That doesn’t mean low. It means it’s next-to-the-worst. They are the worst when it comes to child hunger. Katie got to see that every day. I worked with homeless people, often serving them the only meal they’d get that day. New Mexico has the highest rate of homelessness in the United States. It should be clear why I have issues about food insecurity, and why it trips my anxiety disorders.

Breakfast

Today, for example, we had breakfast burritos with our morning coffee. I sliced two small potatoes and parboiled them. While that was happening I chopped half a medium onion and put it in a skillet with a tablespoon of canola oil. Once they were clear I drained the potatoes and added them to the pan. Got out two tortillas and shredded some cheese. When the potatoes were browned I cracked in a couple of eggs, gave the whole thing a stir, and took the pan off the heat. As soon as the eggs were done I spooned the mixture into the tortillas, hit it with some hot sauce, and wrapped it up.

Lunch and Dinner

For lunch I’m making slaw dogs. I already made a huge batch of slaw by heating up 4 parts water, 1 part vinegar. and less than 1 part sugar in a pot until the sugar dissolves. Pour that in a bowl with shredded cabbage and grated carrot, add a little mayo and mustard, and mix well. Move it into sealed containers and pop it in the fridge. Pop hot dogs onto a baking sheet and stick ’em in the oven until they get crispy. Dogs and slaw can go in a bun, on bread, or get wrapped in a tortilla. Dessert is banana bread muffins a baked a couple of days ago.

Other lunches this week have included spaghetti, pork fried rice (how to feed two people with one thinly-sliced pork chop), and curried riced with chicken and spinach (how to get two meals for two people out of one chicken leg & thigh). Frozen vegetables are my friend. I’m thinking about making lo mein tomorrow, basically stir frying cabbage, carrot, and cooked spaghetti noodles with ginger and soy sauce.

Lunch is always our big meal, with dinner being a lot lighter. Tonight is going to be fresh-baked bread, cheese, salami, and grapes. Dessert will be a little chocolate with coffee or tea. Simple.

Food Insecurity

As long as we have food in the house, I feel relatively safe. It keeps my anxiety down. This is why I have a freezer full of pork chops, ground beef, and chicken all bagged into single-meal packets. It’s why the rest of the freezer is frozen peas, green beans, spinach, and various types of mixed veggies. I guarantee that I have about 5 kilos each of flour, jasmine rice, basmati rice, spaghetti, and elbow macaroni.

It think I’ve got 2 kilos of dried red beans, and a kilo of red lentils. A very large can of powdered milk is on one shelf, next to two boxes of shelf-stable milk. There are six cartons of eggs in the pantry, along with more cartons of tomato sauce than I care to count, three bottles of cooking oil, and I think nine or ten packages of coffee. I only have two extra 12-packs of toilet paper.

I’m scared to go outside. Not because of the coronavirus, but because there are people in the world taking stupid risks. As long as it seems safe to go grocery shopping once a week, we will. If I feel like we need to dig in, completely, we can. Food insecurity is one less thing for my anxiety disorder to feed upon.

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