The word you're looking for is "hungry".

There have been remarkably few times in my life when a source of food was hard to find (though GOOD sources have been elusive plenty of times). Locating the type of cuisine I'm in the mood for may be tricky (without an internet connection or concierge with one), and it may be a longer walk than I'd like or a pricier taxi ride than I can afford, but food has pretty much always been around.

The other day, I had skipped breakfast (as I often do) and zoomed right past lunch (which I do occasionally) and by the time dinner considerations were due, most places were closed and I wasn't really in the mood to cook. I hadn't eaten (other than coffee) in 24 hours and I remember yelling in my car, "I am starving!" Fortunately, such utterances these days appear to be nothing more than a heated conversation on a bluetooth headset.

"Starving". I considered that word more carefully. "Starving"? Well, no, I wasn't "starving." I neglected food that was readily available, and simply placed other priorities above it (which is odd when you think about it.) That word is (or should be) reserved for those who cannot get to food, or the food cannot get to them.

A book about concentration camps noted how survivors, upon returning home, cherished food so much more because they had either done without it entirely, or subsisted on meager (or downright unpleasant) substitutes for food. Sawdust, sand, insects (not bad, actually), paper, clothing; anything to fill the void.

When I finally sat down that night to a large bowl of pasta, it tasted that much better because I was truly hungry and had done without food for a day.

There are those unusual circumstances whereby, even in this country, food is no longer readily available. I had a neighbor once who lived in Florida during Hurricane Andrew, and he told me stories of how rational, thinking human beings become - quite literally - a very different animal when there is no food. What you had, you kept, rationed wisely, and protected with weapons if necessary. The stories he told pale in comparison to Katrina.

And then we have a rugby team crash in the Andes. Once the food was gone, and they began to die off, they resorted to eating each other (and not in a fun way). When interviewed, the question was asked, "How do you explain eating another human being." You could almost hear him nodding as the question was asked (I'm quite sure it had been asked before.) His answer was surprising in its brevity and clarity - "If you do not think you are capable of eating another human being, you have never been truly hungry."

In my morbid way of thinking, I can't help but wonder what would have happened to a vegetarian among these unfortunate folks. I wonder if that selective switch would get overridden by a lower part of their brains, and they would eat on instinct.

Best not to thrive on such sick and twisted thoughts; the downing of a plane and humans forced to eat each other, nor the base-instincts of vegetarians "when push comes to shove". It's more productive to reel in horror that millions of people live on that brink, beyond hungry and famished, beyond hours or days since a last meal, every day. Do what you can, give what you can, but cherish every meal - good or bad - that you have access to.

Comments

R-Co said…
I used to work with a guy who would blurt out "freezing, starving, dying!" whenever he heard someone use one of those words casually. He was commenting on how us humans love extremes. We are never just cold, we're "freezing"; we're never just hungry, we're "starving"; and we're never just uncomfortable, we're "dying".

The other day my wife found out that the son of a friend of hers had just died, in his early 20s, of a brain tumor. That night she was cooking fish she had bought that day, tasted it, and realized that it was bad. Furious, she called the supermarket fish department to complain. She hung up the phone and burst into tears. In mid-phone call she realized she was upset about a ruined dinner when her friend had lost his son.

I believe the word you're looking for is "perspective."

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