On Living in a Food Desert

I sat in the window, watching as the grocery truck pulled up outside after an hour of counting boats sailing the Hudson. Watching as the driver unloaded my bags. Watching as a case of soda and plastic bag after plastic bag filled with goodness that I would soon be able to eat appeared on the sidewalk. I’m not ashamed to admit that I squealed a little watching from my third story picture window as the grocery man walked up the stairs to my front door. I’m also not ashamed that I totally jogged down to meet him.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, going hungry. But, I’m hungry.

When I lived in Wisconsin, it never occurred to me how exciting groceries could be. And then I moved to New York. One thing that I never expected was how bloody difficult it would be to find groceries—and to get them home. I’ve found a Whole Foods (and apparently there is a mythical Trader Joe’s in that vicinity), but they are several train stops and a bus ride away from my house. Much too far for groceries. Then there are the bodegas in my neighborhood; the ones where the shopkeepers only speak Spanish and only take cash. Most of the products in these places are in Spanish as well, which makes it doubly difficult to figure stuff out.

It’s impossible to get bread anywhere that I’ve found, at least, bread that’s not wheat. I can’t eat wheat bread—it dries out when I chew it, literally solidifying the desert illusion. My neighborhood is literally flooded with tiny restaurants. Miniature oasis’, filled with the most expensive water this side of the Hudson. But I can’t eat out all the time. I’m a graduate student. I’m poor; there is rent to be paid. Plus, the neighborhood gets scary at the night the farther away from the river I go. I refuse to leave the safety of the street lights. I could bring takeout food over the river from the city, but it’s cold by the time I get it home. And, again, expensive.

It is because of these things that I now call this city the food desert. A physical desert is a region so arid because of little rainfall that it supports little to no vegetation; a food desert is a region that is completely dry of whatever food it is I happen to want. Bread. Fresh meat. Normal juice. Necessities.

My Peapod order this week was a total cave in, out of sheer desperation. I used to laugh at physically capable people who had groceries delivered, but I totally understand it now. It’s so bad in this area that I couldn’t even get a loaf of decent bread. I spent at least a month living on Ramen noodles and mini-cheeseburgers, which while not terrible to taste, get a little boring after a while. I now have frozen chicken and various types of pasta, as well as bread, bagels, and soda. They came in a little green truck, rather than me having to go out and fix them. But I still don’t have what I really want. I also highly suspect these food related wants that exist nowhere in my personal desert are a way of trying to fill the holes of all the things I have left behind. But that’s another piece all together.

I would kill for a pork steak. Bacon. Or any meat, really. Quite possibly literally—which is hilarious, because I’m not really a huge meat eater. I think that, at this point, I would be willing to go out and slaughter the pig myself. I am used to a society where I can just go out and get what I need, and this place requires me to figure out bus maps, condense my purchases so they don’t have to buy their own seats, and transport stuff without it melting before I can eat it.

I am writing this from the middle of the food desert, 1000 miles from home. If anyone gets this message, please go out and spear me a pig. If I don’t answer when you drop it off due to either working or being inundated with grad school and NOT writing, the cat would be glad to assist you. Thanks in advance.

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One thought on “On Living in a Food Desert

  1. jasmineshei says:

    adjust to a metro city, especially NYC, is not easy. but, it will get easier.

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