I was looking for a block of cheese in the refrigerator when I spotted it. In the back, right corner of the second shelf behind the cheese and a partial loaf of bread sat the tofu. It took my breath away. I just couldn’t believe it.
I remember buying the tofu around the second week of August. I was planning to drain it, press it, marinate it, and then bake it. I was going to serve it with vegetable fried rice. My mouth was literally watering. My weekly menu list read, “Teriyaki Tofu and Fried Rice.” Yes. But even in that moment in August I knew how time can get away from a person, so I checked the expiration date. It was good until the third week of September. I happily put it in my cart. We would definitely have Teriyaki Tofu and fried rice before then. No worries. No wasted food.
But sometimes between the making of a menu and the making of a meal, life happens. Plans get shunted aside by sprained ankles, emergency dental visits, soccer games, band practices, and a myriad of other small, yet seemingly, urgent tasks. Wonderful plans made for family meals give way to sandwiches on the fly and (gulp, sigh, shame)take-out food and frozen pizzas. And slowly the tofu migrates to the back of the refrigerator, its possibilities forgotten.
I was raised not to waste food. It was a sin and crime to have eyes bigger than your stomach. My mother secretly fed food that had gone bad to the dogs while my dad was at work. She knew if he found it, he would eat it regardless. My children have heard the lectures on not wasting food handed down from generations past in our family.
Now I am one of many people working hard to get ready for Frankfort’s 2011 CROP Hunger Walk. Who will all of this hard work and fund-raising help? Well, I have been reading about the importance of Meals on Wheels in the lives of around 200 senior citizens here in Frankfort. I have been reading about the challenges of Americans in the tornado damaged south and the hurricane ravished northeast trying to pull together a decent meal because their homes and communities are simply gone. And then there are the stories of famine out of Somalia and Kenya…
So I sit holding the tofu and think, “How could I let this happen?” I do not have my father’s iron stomach and blatant disregard for food safety. I know I will have to throw it out. I know I will have to give myself the gift of forgiveness. Things have been hopping since school started in ways expected and unexpected. It isn’t the first time one of my values has been moved to the back of the shelf by the business and urgency of raising children and just living life. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last.
And yet… somehow... there has to be a way to keep the important things in front at all times, even hectic ones. Somehow, I have to find a way to keep the tofu on the front shelf. It is what I was raised to do. It is what I am trying to raise my children to do. And it is the least I can do out of respect for those who will not eat tonight.