Back a few years ago when I was still living and working in the Missouri Ozarks, I remember heading to the grocery store every time the weather reports indicated snow - especially for the first snow warning of the year. Me and everyone else in town felt the need to stock up just in case - never mind that most of us had plenty of groceries already. I was always after ingredients to make chili, a hot and spicy comfort food whose steamy aromas fought off the bitterness of winter in a way that few other foods could. And, not surprisingly, many of the other shoppers were also buying hamburger, tomato paste, onions, kidney beans, and that wonderful Williams Chili Seasoning.
It was what we did to welcome in winter.
Last night the winds howled across Okinawa from dusk until daybreak, and today the temperature had dipped down into the fifties - admittedly not cold by Ozarks standards, but temperatures that low on a small island put many people in mind of winter. I was out most of the morning running errands, and by early afternoon I was ready to buy just a few groceries and head back to my apartment. I wanted to go home and put some comfort food in the oven - and baked chicken thighs sounded like just the ticket.
But the season was changing, and every other American on Okinawa seemed to have basically the same urge as me - to clean out a few shelves at the commissary and go home and cook.
The commissary at Camp Foster was packed. I knew it was going to be an ordeal when I stepped inside and discovered that there were no carts. I took one of those small shopping baskets and headed off to war. I only needed a few items, and the little basket would be more than adequate.
Or so I thought.
Eventually my burden got so heavy that I had to go loiter around the check-out stands until I could finagle a real shopping cart. The urge to stockpile overwhelmed me. I think it started when I tried to get to the canned chili - that sounded so good! But when I had to get in line behind some young marines who were literally throwing the cans of chili into their carts, I knew that the battle for survival was on!
A quest for chicken thighs, milk, and maybe a box of cookies eventually totaled eighty-five dollars - but I can now make it through this dangerous cool spell with the knowledge that I won't starve to death! (And all of the fresh chicken thighs were gone, so I had to buy frozen ones. This afternoon's comfort food turned out to be Double Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper - and it was delicious!)