The Food Memory
It was the summer of my tenth year when I realized that being hungry more often than not, wasn't the normal course of life for other people. My family and I were living in Pensacola Florida, in a tiny rundown shack of a house. It had peeling paint and no air conditioning, there were no screens on the windows, and the two entry doors were so warped with age and decay they wouldn't shut completely. The Florida heat and humidity made life more miserable in the summer. We were constantly fighting off flies and mosquitoes. During thunderstorms if we shut the windows and doors it would become suffocatingly hot, the heat made it feel like we were trying to breathe underwater. If we left the windows open the rain would come pouring in soaking the floor. Winter was no better for us. The house had no heat. My mother left the oven door open and my sisters and I would crowd around the open door for a tiny bit of warmth.
My mom stayed home with us, and my dad worked 60 hour weeks in construction. My parents were always behind with the bills and rent. There were a couple of times that we lived without electricity. Occasionally a relative would take pity on my parents and give them money. This always embarrassed my father: I was becoming more and more aware that food was always in short supply at our house.
My sisters and I often ate cold hot dogs from the fridge and uncooked ramen noodles. Our Mom would fry cans of Spam for supper and she reused any grease that was left over. Most of our meals came with a nice helping of sugar on top of it. My mom figured that if it had sugar on it we would eat it. Sugar was added to orange juice, rice ,cereal any canned vegetable we were lucky enough to get. I can still hear the crunch of sugar between my teeth as I chewed my food.
Fresh fruits or vegetables were not an option for us growing up. Nearly everything we ate was canned or processed in some way. The only meat we ever ate were hot dogs, Spam or ground...