March 22

World Water Day

 

Chop. Chop. Chop.

With less food to eat, Alain though that preparation should be simpler.  Each night the family ate out of cans and pouches and tubes. No electricity, so aside from a rare outdoor fire, few things needed to be cooked.

No braising or broasting, no steaming or steeping. No pressure cooking or deep frying, no sauté or flambé.

Everything came pre-packaged. All the prep work involved a manual can opener and a spoon to scrape the contents onto a plate. The simple twist of a lid or tear of pouch, and vegetable or meat paste was squeezed out in rationed portions.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

When Alain had surgery a while back, a few years before the Contamination, he’d had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. The doctors feared he would choke on his food, or even on liquids, so they put him on a dysphagia diet — which meant all his solid foods were minced into drab scoops. They placed a powdered thickening agent in his water and broth, which made all liquids the consistency of pudding.

The nurses told him the thickening agent wouldn’t affect the taste of water, or of the iced tea he’d always liked to drink. They were wrong.  The food was terrible, but the liquids were even worse. He couldn’t wait for the hospital to take him off the dysphagia diet.  They kept him on it for two weeks.

At the time, he thought, the longest two weeks of his life.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

His brother opened the cans, while the younger children squeezed tubes and pinched globs out of foil packages. They always finished preparations before Alain, sat expectantly around the small wooden table, in the modest room the government supplied.

“Ready when you are,” Frannie said.

And his brother would always say, “It’s good enough.  Let’s eat.”

Chop. Chop. Chop.

Since the Contamination, a modified thickening agent was the only way to purify the water supply. The recommended strength turned the liquid into a thick, gag-inducing sludge.  A bowl of water became like a clot of clear noodles, dry and unpalatable. Chopping the water helped, but the pieces would quickly bond together again.

“Bring me a couple scoops of water,” young Ely said.

“I’ll take a slice or two as well,” his brother added.

Chop. Chop. Chop.