Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rice rationing in Springfield?

This morning I was going to write about the sudden surge in rice prices as speculators take advantage of food insecurity (sort of like war profiteering, as far as I'm concerned) but I ran out of time. I'd also saved an article about the potential for rice rationing in the U.S. which I hadn't had time to read thoroughly.

On my way home from work I stopped at the Food Zone on Belmont Ave. for milk and dog food and sure enough! The twenty pound bags of rice were labeled "Limit 2 bags."

A Costco in California is limiting customers' purchases of rice to one bag each. Flour and cooking oil are also being rationed in some parts of the U.S.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that food shortages in the U.S. are imminent (although I could be wrong!) but we have certainly all felt the pinch of increasing prices. We're unlikely to be eating mud next month, as they are in Haiti right now. But what I am saying is that while we look for the larger solutions, we'd better be damn careful on a personal level. Look for food bargains. Don't waste what we buy. Appreciate what we have. And put a little bit aside just in case.

As a young hippy homesteading in Maine, I learned to identify many edible wild plants; I ate many of them-- with relish!-- and still remember most of their names and what they look like. Even though I don't expect to have to eat them for survival any time soon, that knowledge reassures me in some deep way.

Perennials! Got a big back yard or live near a vacant lot? Get half a dozen raspberry canes. In just a few years you'll have so many raspberries you'll have plenty to give away. Asparagus takes a little longer but is indescribably delicious. Remember grandmother's rhubarb patch? Strawberries spread on their own, too.

Of course a lot of people don't have yards-- 50% of Springfield's households are rental-- but just about everyone has the room and the light to grow a patio tomato. In the summer of 2008, we won't need that plant to survive. Yet maybe if we all could start remembering/discovering the taste of a tomato warmed by the sun, we would find ourselves gently guided toward greater control of our own destiny.

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