Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Kraft Dinner Days

There is no great magic to surviving these days, unless you count our tickle trunk filled with excuses and unfulfilled promises.
But we do have our weapons.
Depression warriors did not have the advantage of cardboard-like fast food like Kraft Dinner or transfat laden Ramen Noodles that can be bought for thirty cents a serving, food that could survive a nuclear winter when we could not.
The kids who live downstairs have learned to subsist on KD, gelatinous pizza and edible oil products as they circumnavigate an uncertain world where all the good jobs are taken and a career must be cobbled from slinging lattes for entitled public servants.
We in the upstairs have to do better in our poverty. We must remain healthy lest the health care system deliver one last humiliating blow, taking our last dimes and quarters for high blood pressure and cholesterol medications. And so we seek to emulate our ancestors, learning that the humble carrots, onions and celery can be our best culinary companions.
Broke we are, there is no question. In our household -- the upstairs and the downstairs -- the perfect storm is waiting to consume us; when the car finally breaks down, when the last standing family dog falls ill, when the unemployment insurance runs out, when a lowly job is lost.
We have become the middle class reality: one step away from the glass slipper, one step away from the cowdung that is poverty. What's laughable is it isn't because we're massively in debt. We have credit card bills, sure, and utility payments that would make our grandparents blanche.
No, it's just day to day living that seems to be getting us down.
Time was, in the summers, a family could go to the farmer's market and get fresh off the vine tomatoes, corn and cucumbers. Today, that kind of trip requires a gold Mastercard. We were at the  market the other day, inspecting stalls filled, by hopeful farmers, with pricey heirloom tomatoes and orange beets, exotic meats and artisan breads. Most of it is outside our budget, within the grasp only of the well-off folk meandering through the aisles wearing Tilley hats and $200 Mephisto sandals.
We got some honey, some purple beans that turned green when you cooked them and some puny corn sold by a young woman with sad eyes. These are not good days for farmers, either, as they watch their crops turn to dust and pick pruny produce that even the insects haven't been able to survive to eat.
There's something wrong in the state of our nation when we, the middle class, can't even afford to buy from our own farmers. Something wrong with a rich country like ours which promises no great future for the children that we, optimistically, brought into this world.
We only have ourselves to blame. We believed our good jobs would last forever. We believed a university education was a promise. We believed that our resources were renewable.
The mystical joke appears to be on us.
When I was my son's age, I was brimming with optimism and hope for the future. I did not expect to live on Kraft Dinner or Ramen Noodles. Nor could I imagine my children living that kind of existence.
Where did we go wrong?
When did confidence lead to chaos?
I'm writing this on a few hours sleep. Last night I lay awake trying to figure how to rob Peter to give Paul enough sheckles to keep him at bay. This morning, I will steal myself to call the usual suspects, to explain to them that by next week, all will be well again.
Until the next time.

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