They say there are two types of people: those that wake up thinking about what they’ll eat that day, and everyone else.
I think there’s no doubt I fall into the former.
I mark celebrations of life with food–birthdays, holidays, get-togethers with friends. I experience culture through food. It reminds me of where I came from, and is tied deeply to memories. It is the perspective through which I see the world. It’s not just sustenance for me. I suspect many of you feel the same way.
It’s been a particularly difficult past few weeks.
June started out under a dark cloud with an all-too-real possibility of a state government shut down. I don’t talk a lot about my professional life on this blog on purpose, but the Hubs and I are both state employees. Having an interruption in our paychecks and insurance coverage was stressful enough to deal with. But in my professional life, many of the reperucussions of a shut-down reverberated through the agency I work for. I was worried for the retirees who get by on very little. And other state employees who were just getting by. Would people miss mortgage payments? Skip getting a necessary prescription filled? Not to mention the headache that would come after the shut down on the legal front. More than one day during those couple weeks I holed up in my office and played out the doomsday scenarios in my head. It was awful. But alas, the state avoided a shut down with a couple weeks to spare.
On the heels of the resolution of a possible shut down, a third of the Hubs’s coworkers got lay-off notices a couple weeks ago. I am heartbroken. We are friends with many of his coworkers and their families. I bought Girl Scout Cookies from their daughters, we went to their weddings, I share recipes with their wives, and we watch football games at each others’ houses. I worry what will happen to their kids. I of all people know what it’s like to be laid off from a job you enjoy. However, this particular job is part of who they are. God knows none of them are doing it to get rich. I don’t know of a group who give more than these guys and get so little in return. Sometimes these things work out for the best. But it’s a lot of stress and worry about where you’ll be in a year–or in two months. There’s a lot of unknown.
And they say when it rains it pours. Literally in this case. In case you’ve missed the (all too brief) news coverage, West Virginia experienced a “thousand year” flood last weekend.
Some people lost their lives. Twenty-five-ish at the last count. Some are still missing, and may never be recovered. Thousands lost their homes. Total loss. Their homes were washed off foundations down the creek, pulled apart in the rushing and rising waters, contents strewn up the holler. Thousands more were lucky enough to have their homes left in tact, but with several inches of mud left behind. The clean-up will take months.
The community I grew up in sustained probably the worst damage in Clay County, which was one of the hardest hit areas. I’m not sure which had it the worst–White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County or Clendenin in northern Kanawha County. Not that it’s a contest. The Elk River from Procious to Clendenin pretty much left nothing but destruction behind. And all the little creeks and tributaries that flow into it were just as bad, if not worse. At any rate, luckily my mom lives on a hill, and her house escaped damage, but many of her neighbors weren’t so lucky. My in-laws live right on the creek, and miraculously, the water didn’t breach the creek banks along their property.
I made some trout for dinner last week that I had in the freezer. As I was cooking, I was thinking about all this bad news. The trout was actually caught by one of the guys getting laid off. He doesn’t like to eat them, but loves to fish, so he gave us all he caught back in the spring. He didn’t just give us the fish whole and uncleaned, which would have been easy, and what I probably would have done. He cleaned them, scaled them and fileted them for us. Because that’s the kind of person he is. A lot of those guys are those kind of people.
The trout was delicious; sauted in some butter and white wine, by the way.
I realized that it wasn’t just the trout that we enjoyed for dinner, but what it represented. Good people doing good things for their friends and neighbors.
Last week, in all the devastation from the flood, food, water and supplies poured into the damaged areas in waves. It was overwhelming to those who were organizing the donations at times–the sheer volume of help that came in. After the initial supplies started pouring in, the next wave were folks who were showing up with shovels and boots and gloves offering their backs to help in the clean-up. It’s not an easy or pleasant task by any stretch. Last week, local restaurants set up at the flood supply distribution centers feeding hot meals to folks who have lost everything and have been living off non-perishable packaged food for the past week. Everybody knows that many locally-owned restaurants are just getting by on a shoestring. It’s not like they have a lot of profit margin to work with in donating their time (many closed for the day or greatly scaled back their operations) and their stock to come and cook free hot meals for people who need them. I know that Dem 2 Brothers pulled their smoker up to Clendenin and fed ribs and chicken to those who showed up to get cleaning supplies. And Sam’s Uptown was at Clendenin and in Clay grilling for folks. These are just two of the many examples of local restaurants that stepped up. I saw on social media that some places even donated “to go” boxes so the folks who came to get a hot meal could take one to a neighbor that hadn’t been able to get out. For a few minutes, I’m sure those recipients were able to just sit down and rest and enjoy some really delicious good food (trust me, Dem 2 Brothers is no joke when it comes to BBQ).
It’s things like this that help all of us live with the bad news. Knowing that this state is full of good people and good food. Whether it’s free BBQ or sausages that someone is making for flood victims, or trout (or asparagus or locally pastured raised beef–shout out to the Castos and Jared) from a coworker who knows that your wife will cook anything from a stream or the woods. The recovery process will be a long one for the flood victims, and I only hope that the guys I know that work with the Hubs find great places to land and it all works out in the end.