Hunt and Gather

Pass me a spear and a basket…

Life depended on the instinct to find the next meal. Occasionally, this instinct short circuited and apocalyptic preppers were born. One ambitious squirrel stored 150 pounds of black walnuts in the engine block and body of a Chevy.

            An average squirrel ate a quarter pound of food per day. Taking into account the weight of the hulls, the industrious squirrel set himself up for more than a year; less if he crossed the road.

            My dad is the human version of that squirrel. Unfortunately, for squirrels, Dad sometimes vied for the same food.

            Dad noticed an abundance of black walnuts in the corner of the yard at his granddaughter’s outdoor wedding. Not unlike the squirrel, Dad’s first instinct was to gather nuts. Since his prosthetic leg prevented him from dropping to the ground, Dad went with his go to plan, ask a kid to do it.

            As soon as the ceremony ended and the bride walked over to her grandparents, Dad said, “Do you think you can gather those black walnuts for me?”

            Now that the groom was part of the family, he was also asked to scoop up nuts. Before Dad solicited all the guests for a hand full of black walnuts, we distracted him with a glass of wine. There was no way we’d have room in the car for seven buckets of nuts and the luggage on the trip home.

            Dad was satisfied with the promise of nuts at a future date when the wedding attire was folded and a honeymoon observed. A short honeymoon, one needed to beat the squirrels to the nuts. Sorry squirrels, you’d lose in a battle of nut gathering with Dad.

            Dad’s approach to food gathering didn’t seem to be passed on in DNA. When my daughter said, “I don’t have food in the house,” she meant it. If Dad said, “There’s nothing to eat,” he meant the food supply was down to seven months. He needed to go out and hunt for a cow.

            Dad’s freezer could hold a cow and possibly an elk, a sheep, an antelope, and an acre of produce. My daughter’s survival depended upon an app on her phone, free delivery, and visits that coincided with our mealtime. My sister, whose cooking philosophy is, ‘the food is done when there’s smoke coming from the oven,’ also relied on free delivery.

            My approach to food, when newly married, was dictated by my Bubba’s hand-me-down refrigerator. The freezer held two ice cube trays or a block of ice cream. The oven in our apartment didn’t function. The range top had only one burner that worked. Think gas stove version of the one pot meal. I hunted and gathered on payday because food storage was minimal and dollar menus weren’t invented yet.

             Striking a balance between too little and too much seemed to be a problem throughout time. Famine or feast depended on the ability to take down a mammoth, the potato harvest, and the invention of the deep freezer.

            Today’s food supply depended on how many people quit their jobs because they were tired of working for peanuts while a few fat cats feasted like prepper squirrels. According to the nightly news, gas prices, plastic bag production, and all manner of first world nonsense held up supplies too.

            Childhood meals shaped Dad’s gathering instincts. Breakfast was coffee and jelly bread. Lunch was jelly bread and coffee. Enough and true hunger pangs are concepts that are hard to grasp in our era of twenty-nine varieties of bread.

            The supply chain issues weren’t changing me into a psycho, prepper squirrel. Satisfaction could be had with a loaf of sourdough or crackers if those were the only choices available.

             Dad lived through both scarcity and abundance. As kids, we were taught to share. If the situation looked too bleak, I knew where I could beg a bucket of black walnuts.

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