Happy to be back to the bare essentials
When my wife Marilyn departed for that Great Classroom in the Sky, my grocery list got civilized. Before she left I did the shopping for several months, but suddenly I no longer had to buy gourmet ingredients found in her confusing cook books.
Today I live simply on bare essentials recalled from my B.M. (Before Marriage) days — donuts, coffee, bologna, day-old bread, cookies, pinto beans, sardines, paper plates, plastic cups, beer, and Tums.
My switch from epicurean delights to simple fare saves tons of time. Formerly I took hours to shop. Today I need only 10 minutes. I’m currently working on an even shorter list, hoping to shave off a few nanoseconds before the Olympic Games.
I think this week I’ll swap paper plates and plastic cups for potato chips, and bologna and bread for Oreos. I might even try for the triathlon.
All of which takes me back to the good old days of my youth when I enjoyed camping with my buddies in the Colorado Rockies without parental concern. Fact was, my Depression-weary parents watched until I disappeared over the hills, and then they leaped in the air and clicked their heels.
The guys I camped with in those days had scant needs — a couple of moth-eaten Army blankets, a frying pan, a jack knife, and some grub. We didn’t carry heavy luggage because of our height, and our sparse food supply was what we scrounged from home.
One time I existed on ginger snaps for an entire week. It didn’t stunt my growth, but to this day if I can catch an odor of gingerbread, I get off my feed.
A spin-off of our camping fervor was a notion that we should bank food in hidden caches all over the mountains. (Sweeping arm gesture here.)
We pictured some future calamity where we might be trapped by blizzards, bears, or Nazis and would need immediate food on hand. We prepared for the future by burying nail barrels hither and yon filled with food.
So we became serious about hiding food all over the mountains. Sometimes we even skipped meals in order to have enough food to cache.
One time we really were caught in a blizzard, but couldn’t find any of our food caches in the deep snow. We decided our survival depended on stealing some chickens from a nearby farm.
Of course the farmer caught us and said, “Drop them birds, boys. Don’t want to wing one when I blast you.”
After he let us go, he tattled to my father with a snicker and Dad rubbed his face and moaned, “My son, a chicken thief.” I think that’s when he began to drink too much.
Back at our snowy camp we finally found one of our caches of food, which we’d buried a year before. At the same time we stumbled across the science of microbes, bacteria, and ptomaine poisoning.
“What’s that odor?” a voice cried out.
“I think something died in there of an overdose of lunch meat.”
“I’m not hungry anyway.”
“Yeah, the pain in your stomach is probably just appendicitis.”
We never ate any food from that cache. Instead, we trudged home through deep snow, just in time for supper. Right then we took up a new group slogan: “Cached food is fun unless you have to eat it.”
When we were a couple of years older, we discovered dehydrated foods, back packs, and Spam at the local Army surplus store along with heavy sleeping bags, heavier tents, and even heavier ammunition boxes, none of which we could do without and all of which made us bow-legged as we hiked over the mountains.
These items were like new, because GIs revered them and wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole out of solemn respect.
“We should bury this junk. I’m getting interested in girls anyway,” somebody said.
“As long as we don’t have to lug it back home,” chimed in another.
We never returned to retrieve our last cache. I suppose anthropologists will someday uncover it and proclaim a religious experience. But I’ll bet they’ll puzzle over the combined odor of ginger snaps and Spam.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.