Don’t Save the Best for Last

Don’t Save the Best for Last

Eat Your Good Stuff First

I come from what my mother used to call pioneer stock; a nice way of saying we were a notch up from poverty. Pioneer was code for frugally saving your few good possessions for some distant unspecified time and making do with less. I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes and shoes from more well-off cousins, and our family saved the good china for special occasions and holidays. Typically, we squirreled our good things away until they fall apart, at which point we fixed them and then used them.That kind of early training is hard to shake, and even now, I look down and see I am wearing a pair of black pants that are 23 years old (but still serviceable!). I’ve tried to throw them out, but we have a lot of history.
The concept of first-in, first-out may have been invented by my forebears, who saved the best for last even with food. Could we take a bite from a delicious red tomato hanging on the vine in our garden? Of course not. Our dinner salad would contain the tomatoes and lettuce that had been sitting there for a while and had, in the meantime, gone bad. So now, the freshly picked tomato and lettuce was next in line to go bad. Looking back, my whole childhood was caught in the cycle of eating food slightly past its prime.
When Glen and I moved onto a sailboat, that kind of thinking went overboard along with the rotten produce. Food is a huge morale factor on a boat, and meals the only punctuation of time, especially when crossing oceans. Preparing for long weeks at sea required provisioning (the term sailors use instead of stockpiling); overfilling produce in the cotton nets hanging from the galley ceiling. Dodging their swinging trajectory when the boat rocked and rolled made things interesting. When conditions quieted down I rotated the produce to ensure the stuff at the bottom didn’t get bruised and checked for rotting. How fruit flies can smell rotting bananas in the middle of the ocean is still a mystery, but I always took their presence personally. As I sign I had failed. And that happened a lot because in warm latitudes, something was always on the verge of going bad and had to be culled. At first it was hard to throw out the rotten piece of fruit of veggie, but shedding the poverty teachings of my childhood was essential to our morale and health while sailing around the world. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown I look upon our cabin in the woods as a kind of boat. Finding and replenishing stores of fresh produce is difficult in the small town where we live, and I manage our precious, limited resources like I did on the boat. It’s still a challenge and it never comes out perfectly. Some things bought in bulk, like a bag of onions or avocados may have been improperly stored and contain rotting produce when you buy it. Despite my best planning, there is only so much that two medium-sized adults can eat. These difficult times rekindle the scarcity thinking of my childhood. Though it went against my frugal nature, yesterday I threw out an onion that was rotten in the middle instead of trying to use the less squishy parts. Instead, I reached for our last fresh onion, appreciating the crisp sound it made as I chopped it up for chili Glen was making.
It might be awhile before we can source more fresh onions, but when we do, the ones we eat will fresh, healthy and tasty. No matter how hard, I will pick fresher vegetables to eat over ones on the verge of rotting. I’m going to do it. I’m worth it.
Now if I could only find someone who needs a great pair of well-used but serviceable size 8 pants.