By A.C. Cargill
The abundance of teas and foods available online and in the brick-and-mortar stores makes me thankful. Especially since I have seen first-hand places where that was not the case.
A little over a decade ago, I visited Prague, Czechoslovakia, which had only a year or two earlier broken away from the Soviet Union (USSR). What I saw — in a European country, which I had envisioned as being pretty much like us — was quite a surprise.
Having been born in the U.S., I am very used to our lifestyle. As a child (one of five), I would be dragged off (figuratively speaking) to the grocery store with my mother on Saturday morning for her weekly shopping trip, an act of child cruelty since that meant I missed the cartoon shows. Once there, the routine was always the same:
Step 1: Get two shopping carts.
Step 2: Hope that two carts are enough.
Step 3: Start sneaking the sugar-filled breakfast cereals into one of the carts.
Step 4: Put the cereals back on the shelves when they are discovered.
The grocery store shelves were brimming with an unbelievable variety of products. (Over the years, the variety has expanded.) Though “mum” always brought a list, there always seemed to be an extra item or two that we just “had to have.” By the time we were heading to the check-out, those two carts were overflowing (sometimes literally, so I was kept busy picking up stray cans of beans or packages of crackers that had fallen off).
Today, hubby and I usually go “marketing” together. We barely need one cart and resist all kinds of temptations burgeoning from the shelves and other display areas. Dairy cases and freezer compartments carry just about everything imaginable, from dozens of kinds of cheeses, to a rainbow of yogurt flavors, to several types of milk (depending on fat content), etc. Getting through the bakery section is especially tricky, with the wonderful smells of fresh-baked pies and the sight of cheesecakes, focaccias, yeast rolls, muffins, and tons of cookies greeting us. And what we can’t find in the stores, such as fine teas and foods from Britain and elsewhere, we find online. What an age we live in!
But this was not the case in Prague. The tour group (a small “oompah” band and a few tag-alongs like me) was on its way by bus from the hotel to a local performance hall. While stopped for a traffic light, I noticed a line of people outside a small store and asked the tour coordinator, a local, about it. He said they were lined up at a grocers, waiting for it to open. I could see in through the windows and observed that the shelves held scarce quantities. The tour coordinator said this was normal and that when all of the items had sold, the store would close for the day, awaiting its next shipment of products. Sure enough, after the performance (and a tasty lunch) we passed the store again, now dark and closed, with the shelves bare.
In the ensuing years, I am sure the Czechs have greatly improved their grocery supply situation (devastated by the previous system they were under), but that image still stays in my mind. It keeps me from taking our abundance for granted and makes me thankful when I go to the local store or shop online. Every slice of pie I eat and cup of tea I drink is a sign of this.
At this time of year, I am especially thankful and hope that, come what will, the abundance will continue. My thanks to all the hard-working people who grow the crops, raise the herds, milk the cows, etc. My thanks also to all those who process these things and bring the resulting products to market.
To all of you, I lift my teacup. Cheers!
Don’t forget to check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill.