Enough Food to Feed an Army

by J.D. Roth

When Kris and I moved from our house in Canby, we swore we’d stop hoarding food. In Canby we were both notorious hoarders. My pantry shelf was filled with dozens of cans of beans: chili beans, baked beans, bean with bacon soup. Kris’ pantry shelf was filled with various tomato products: tomato soup, ravioli, corn beef hash. Our chest freezer was full of breads and berries, some of which we’d frozen a decade ago. (No joke.)

We didn’t move most of the food, and we vowed that at the new house we wouldn’t hoard as much. Ha! Maybe it’s a disease.

I’m not sure where Kris got her hoarding habits (though I did once have some twenty-year-old cocoa at her grandmother’s house), but I know where I got mine. I grew up Mormon. As Mormons, we obeyed the dictum to lay by a one-year supply of food in case of emergency. We were big on emergency preparedness. Out in the shop we had an entire storage room devoted to emergency rations: freeze-dried fruits, large drums filled with wheat, vast quantities of powdered milk. We had what seemed like hundreds of bags and cans from Deseret Industries.

Now that I am older, I have an innate drive to hoard food. Even in the new house, my pantry shelf is again filled with all manner of beans. We have more space, though, so I’ve begun to hoard other things, such as breakfast cereals. For some reason, whenever I find a breakfast cereal I like, especially if it can be purchased cheaply, I stock up. I have several boxes of Trader Joe’s Essentials, of Kellogg’s raisin bran, of generic spoon-sized shredded wheat. I also have large stockpiles of premium chocolate and of scotch whiskey. (These last two probably oughtn’t be considered food.)

Kris has moved my cache of Asian food down to the basement. During my Asian phase about five years ago, I bought all manner of sauce and powder and condiment. I made maybe two meals from all of this stuff and then forgot about it.

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to use some of my Asian food. I dug out two cans of curry sauce and started to prepare a deluxe curry feast. I bought some chicken. I chopped some vegetables. However, when I opened the curry sauce, I discovered it had turned into curry bricks. With much coaxing, I managed to convert the solid to a liquid once more, but I was shocked — shocked! — at the oil slick that floated on the surface of the stuff. I checked the nutrition information. Each can of the curry sauce contained over 2000 calories. My saucepan contained about 4500 calories of curry sauce, and I hadn’t even added the meat and vegetables yet. I’m willing to indulge in a lot of high-calorie meals, but this was too much even for me. And, as you might have guessed, ultimately the sauce had spoiled anyway; I’m sure it wasn’t poisoned yet, but it had begun to turn. I threw it all away and prepared my chicken and vegetables in a more traditional fashion.

Now it seems that Kris and I may be beginning to hoard in mass quantities. We recently joined some of her co-workers to purchase a cow. She brought home about seventy-five pounds of beef the other night, and I spent ten minutes loading ground beef and steaks and ground beef and roasts and ground beef into the chest freezer. (To make room, I had to throw away three bags of rotten bananas that Kris was hoarding — they were making the freezer smell like bananas. “I was going to use those for muffins,” she said, “but I guess I can just buy new bananas.”)

We keep more food than many families of four. When will we eat it all?

When I got home from work yesterday, John Little was outside in his yard. “Hey!” he said. “Do you like salmon?”

“Hell yes!” I said. We’d just had a fantastic salmon dinner at Jeremy and Jennifer‘s house the night before. John scurried into his house and returned with a bag filled with frozen filets.

“This is from my last Alaska trip,” he said. “I haven’t gotten around to eating it and I don’t want it to go to waste.” John is a retired schoolteacher. He spends his winters in New Zealand, and he spends his summers in Alaska on his fishing boat.

I thanked him for the fish, then took it to the garage where I crammed it into the freezer with the cow. Later, I called Jenn for her salmon recipe. Kris and I are going to eat well in 2006, and we won’t even have to buy groceries. We can live off our hoarded reserves.

Updated: 14 December 2005

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