Taste Buds, Integrity, and Relative Wealth

Roughly seven years ago, Target Stores‘ house brand, Archer Farms, apparently stopped selling a vindaloo meal kit (everything but the meat). It was about that time my wife and I came upon one of their vindaloo meal kits in a “marked down, must go” bin. I think it was $1 or less per box [EDIT: a post I made at the time said $1.98]. Contrary to the instructions on the box, we used lamb instead of pork  when we prepared the meal, because we have always enjoyed lamb vindaloo. We were surprised when the kit produced an excellent meal; very, very spicy and wonderfully flavorful.  Based on that experience, we went back to Target and bought all the remaining boxes of marked-down vindaloo kits. We’ve been slowly making our way through them since. I don’t recall just how many boxes we bought, but I’d guess we picked up a dozen; probably many more [EDIT: No, my post at the time said 6]. To say I like lamb vindaloo would be a gross understatement. I hunger for lamb vindaloo the way a hormone-crazed teenager craves his first…adult experience.

I prepared the last of those marked-down Archer Farms box meals last night. Printed on the box are these words: “Best by October 8, 2014.” So, six-plus years after the “expiration.” Big deal. I banked on the stuff being quite edible and not poisonous. We’ll see. Check with me later today. So far, so good. I can say emphatically that the meal tasted absolutely wonderful. I last had lamb vindaloo just over a month ago, but that meal was prepared from scratch, not from a box. I’m almost ashamed to say last night’s dinner was at least as good. Or maybe I was just ravenously hungry for Indian food.

The lamb I used was a slice of lamb-leg, boneless, purchased on October 19, 2019. That lamb was one of three remaining packages purchased and wrapped in freezer wrap on that date, four days before the “use or freeze by” date.

The meat remaining in my refrigerator and freezer may be among the last meat in the house for quite some time. Of course, what’s there now will last quite a while; there’s plenty of it. But after it’s gone, I intend to alter my eating habits, geared toward a mostly plant-based diet. Whether that change lasts forever is yet to be seen. But I like the idea, despite my lust for flesh. My reason for considering it has little to do with the questionable morality of butchering animals; it rests primarily with the health benefits of a plant-based diet. But I do feel more than a little guilt for consuming animal flesh when it’s not necessary.

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It’s very easy to tell someone “I’m available for you anytime, 24/7. Whatever you need, I’ll be there.” Fortunately, I rarely have found myself in a position of really needing someone to “be there.” But it’s disheartening, in one sense, to know that the promise made is sometimes more reliable from people who are not especially close, emotionally, than one made by a friend.  On the other hand, it’s gratifying to hear of a promise made by a casual acquaintance turning into an unbreakable bond. The validity of such promises depends entirely on the value a person places on them when making them. It is a matter of integrity. I hope when I offer such a promise it is always absolutely dependable, reliable, and unbreakable.

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As I sat trapped by snow in my house yesterday, it occurred to me that my imprisonment offers evidence of my dependence on luxury. A car. A weather-sealed house. Safe and reliable running water. Dependable electricity. Good lighting. Sources of warmth, from a heat pump to layers of clothing to help me retain my body heat. A refrigerator and pantry filled with food. These are luxuries. They give me comfort, but comfort does not require luxury. If I were not spoiled, like the majority of people in first-world countries today, I could live in comfort with much less. And I might not feel like a caged animal, pacing hardwood floors and peering out large picture windows. I might, instead, trek through the snow in search of something to eat to bring back to my warm tent. I might carefully compare how my feet feel as I shuffle through the snow to the way they feel as I warm them in front of burning scraps of wood that take the place of a hearth. My luxury is further magnified by the fact that I do not have to leave to go to work. But even those who have to leave to go to work live in luxury compared to the person I just described, by proxy. Comfort and luxury, like all aspects of life, exist on a pair of spectra. I think it can pay, at least occasionally, to try to imagine living at the “wrong” end of those spectra. Thinking about it triggers thoughts of what little things I might be able to do to help move at least a few people further along toward comfort and even luxury.

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About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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