All this talk of only shopping for essentials has got me thinking. After all, what is essential?
The shelves in the supermarket suggest that my needs are quite different from others. I don’t think I can remember the last time I ate dried pasta and I probably don’t open more than two tins in a month. But flour is essential for me to be able to follow my usual lifestyle, and so are milk, eggs and cheese.
I don’t really care if the flour is wheat, oat or rye. (The next time I make bread, I’m going to find out whether buckwheat will also be an acceptable substitute.) But, although I eat toast every day for my breakfast, if there were no flour and no bread in the store, I’d manage with crackers, or porridge or other cereal.
Almost any kind of cheese will do, though probably not Feta and I prefer Brie and Camembert to Emmental or Edam. But if there were no cheese at all, I would cope for quite a while without. If I can’t get whole milk, I’ll drink semi-skimmed or UHT or simply give up coffee and drink hot water, which doesn’t need any additive.
Bread, eggs, milk and cheese are about as basic as you can get, but even when I have none of any of them in the house I could, technically, go on living a very normal life for several days. So if I am only supposed to go out to shop for essentials, do I have to wait until there is nothing at all in the cupboard?
Is any specific foodstuff actually essential?
I’ve lived abroad long enough to know that you can’t always buy the things you take for granted in your own country and you simply have to deal with it. Yes, we need to eat, but it’s only habit and culture that says my day should start with toast and not with stew, rice pudding or fish fingers and ketchup.
But, as we all know, you can’t always get what you want.
the small things: I want to wake up tucked
against your shoulder, feel muscles, sinews
tense against my skin while lips mumble
the blurred borders of night and day,
of you and me.
I want hot Sunday coffee, crisp white
sheets bunched to protect from burns,
and granary doorsteps that crumb
your chest as greased fingers slick
the cryptic crossword.
I want daisies on the lawn in clumps
of seven to fit my footstep, a universe
of dandelion globes and the chance
a simple breath can make it
any time I like.
On the station concourse, deadweight
luggage cannot anchor me. The second hand
ticks petals from a clock that thinks
in black and white of missed and caught,
of then and now.
There are raindrops on my face and I want
the small things.