I Had Food Security For a Decade or so Starting in the 1980s. (When I Was Married and Having Children — 2 Children.)
Now it’s 40 years later, and I’m experiencing food insecurity. Except I wouldn’t call it by that name — that name is an insult. I’d use words like starvation, weakness and confusion, vicious circles, and malnutrition.
The governments and corporations that cause food shortages and poor nutrition want a vague term like “food insecurity.” They got their vague term courtesy of the United Nations. They’re making it sound like the food is the culprit, deliberately causing widespread starvation. Which is partly true with the overprocessed foodlike substances that come from corporate laboratories. The huge food corporations are also responsible for exploitative and extractive agricultural practices, and really don’t want the public fully aware of the consequences.
The food laboratories and the United States with its exploitative nature have created dietary nightmares here in Panama and in Latin America generally. People here don’t know that some fats and oils are better than others. They tend to buy whichever is cheaper. Knowledge of nutrition is largely absent in this population. Historically that didn’t matter. We ate what was all around us. And now junk food is all around us, via smartphones.
The endemic obesity in Latin America comes from junk foods. It’s so easy, and people’s smartphones pave the way with free delivery. Hamburger and fries, fried chicken. Ice cream that tastes like ice cream but I don’t think it has any cream in it. It’s the American junk food diet.
I cook with lard and extra-virgin olive oil. I have to buy pork ribs and make my own lard, which is fine — I get some pork meat in the process. Mexicans and Chinese people understand the value of lard. In the grocery stores here you can find lard-looking substances, but I’d never buy them — they’re fake — they come from vats. There are margarines too that I wouldn’t buy. There may be real butter on the shelves, and we are surrounded by cows here. Cows and chickens. But it’s mostly junk on the shelves.
I buy whole chickens and make Panamanian sopa, with green and red peppers, cassava (yuca) roots, onions, etc — a whole pot full of chicken meat including the skin and fat and various spices and those vegetables. I serve it over rice and lentils and could live on it forever, or however long I have left in this world.
I have little money left over after I pay rent. But I can’t spend more than about $20 for groceries because I wouldn’t be able to carry them home — that’s how cheap basic foods are. If I manage to spend $30, I have to take a cab home. I can’t carry 20 kilograms even in my backpack.
I’m writing this right now because I have food (sopa) for today. Then I have 4 days with no food unless my neighbors help me out. On the 5th day I get my social security from the U.S, and there I go again! This time I’ll buy excess rice, legumes, tomato sauces — I’ll put 5 or 6 whole chickens in the freezer and hope we don’t have another hurricane or long-term power failure (which occurred recently — all my food in the fridge spoiled even though I re-cooked it once daily.) I ate it anyway because I had no choice. An unpleasant time . . .
I have a slender build. It was a post-covid benefit for me. I sometimes have a little belly fat when I wake up in the morning, but it’s gone after my usual walk to downtown and back, which is a couple of miles each way and I walk hard and fast.
I am fully aware that 4 days without food won’t harm me. But I can’t describe the anxiety I feel over that. As a lifelong survivalist and wilderness sojourner, I know that life depends on food and water and a safe place to sleep. When corrupt forces have control of the food supply they’ve got us by the balls. And 50 years ago they had already made it illegal to sleep wherever I happened to be.
The sleep prohibition is worldwide. How humanitarian is that?