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First World Reflections

Spiritual Smart Aleck

I was carrying a big sloppy bowl of compost out to the heap in the back yard this morning when I noticed that now that we eat a mostly vegetarian menu, the compost looks a lot like the food. It was one of those sobering moments when I paused to consider that what I throw out as waste here would in some places be considered a meal.

I have heard of people in other parts of the world who eat only every other day so they can pay for their schooling, or simply because they can only afford to eat every other day.

Which got me thinking about all the foods we eat or drink that are in some stage of decay. How do you suppose people got started looking at things that were rotting, tasting them, and saying, okay, I’m going to call that food? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that rotting things became classified as food because people were hungry.

It is not rotting anymore, but fermented, or aged, or cured. Thus we have sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, alcohol, and all the decaying milk products. Yum.

It came to my attention recently that there is a push to enlighten people on the beneficial effects of fermented foods. Yeah, okay, fine. I am old now, and cranky. All right, crankier. I have seen many food fads come and go. “You must eat this.” “You must not eat that.”

I have heard of the evils of trans-fats, nitrites, nitrates, sugar, soft drinks, diet soft drinks, dairy, meat, processed meat, processed anything, yeast, gluten, too many/not enough calories or carbs or fats, not enough water, and so on. If a human being has eaten or drunk it, some other human being has figured out why no one should eat or drink it.

These food rules and prohibitions seem like a first world problem to me. We have so much food we can turn up our first world noses at things we are told we should not ingest. Pretty nice for us, huh?

Presently I am stony broke, but I am stony broke on Vashon Island. I have a home. I have a car. The car has gas in the tank.

I have food in the cupboard. I throw rotting food into the compost. I go to the food bank up on the hill once a week and pick up a couple of bags of groceries. The people at the food bank are really nice.

I have clean safe water to drink, and I don’t have to walk anywhere with a bucket or barrel to get the water and carry it home. It comes right into my house in pipes, and I can have water any time, some of it hot, by turning on a faucet. Wow.
Granted, sometimes the water service is interrupted, and sometimes we get told not to drink the water without boiling it, and sometimes the hot water heater needs to be replaced. What a pain.

It’s first world pain, people. If a pipe breaks here and you lose your water, there are people working frantically day and night to fix the problem and get the water back on. Or maybe you are the one who has to do the frantic work on your little water system, so not so far from the third world, eh?

I have a dog and a cat. I keep animals for affection and companionship rather than for food.
While I do worry about money, it’s more gentle being poor in this time and place than it would be in a lot of other times and places. Plus, lots of things have happened in my lifetime which were worse than running out of money, which gives me some perspective.

When I was young I was often broke, and had to learn how to survive without a lot of money. I’m re-learning some of those old skills, and continuing some behaviors that have worked for me all the way along, like sitting on the kitchen porch, watching the birds, and listening to the breeze in the tall trees. The cat’s in my lap, kneading and drooling. The dog is out there lying in one of the year’s last warm patches of sunshine. She is feeling all the bliss of a short-haired dog in a cool climate.

We’re all feeling pretty good at home.

There is life after broke here in the first world. It’s good to remember that.

Self-serving commercial: because I am broke, I am looking for work as an editor again. I do line editing, proof reading, a little ghost writing and book fixing (turns out I write good sex – who knew?), and I listen to writers and respect and support their feelings. If you or someone you know needs any of that, send me an email at: and we can discuss services and prices. Thanks.