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“Hey, Mrs. Nat. How you doin’?”

She rolled her cart south down Aisle One, while I rolled north –
both
of us rolling along at Pickle’s Groce Mart*, Hardyville,
Middle-of-Nowhere,
USA. First thing I noticed was that she had the kid-seat of her cart
heaped
with seed packets.

“Awful big veggie garden this year,” I commented.

She picked up a handful of packets and fanned them, showing
triplicates
of Scarlet Nantes carrots, beefsteak tomatoes and leaf lettuce. “Some
for
this year, some for next, some maybe to share.”

“But they don’t germinate as well if you save ‘em until next year.”

“Well, that’s generally true. But I’m gonna wrap extras in tinfoil
and
put ‘em inside a nice, dark, dry coffee can. They’ll be fine. In an
emergency, you know. Never can tell when an emergency might come along.
We’ve got some non-hybrid seeds
ordered, so we can save our own seed out of our garden, which you
can’t
do with these hybrids. But it takes months to get the other, all of a
sudden. And these … well, they’re here and they’re cheap, just in
case.”

“Good thinkin’, Mrs. Nat,” I said. “Well, see you later.”

She trundled south and I trundled north, past the fresh veggies,
colorful in their bins. I gave some thought to that emergency she
mentioned.

If you recall (or if you don’t) this Sunday Hardyvillians celebrate
HREF="http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_cwolfe/19990107_xccwo_holidays_k

.shtml">For the Ones You Love Day, during which we prepare for
emergencies — anything from downed power lines to … well, okay, that
Y2K
business again.

I know, I know. You’re sick of hearing about it. Either you’ve
already
got your three tons of dried lentils and you’re hunkered and ready, or
you
just plain don’t believe Civilization will experience its first
Regularly
Scheduled Collapse. Really, though, even the most rosy optimist needs a
few
emergency supplies on hand, just in case.

Either way, some basic food items, chosen throughout the year at your

local Groce Mart, can help. If you’re well prepared, they can buy you
time
to adjust to your storage foods. (Believe me, you don’t want to
be
figuring out how to concoct Freeze-Dried Mushroom and Carrot Delight in
the
middle of a catastrophe.) If you’re not into serious preparedness, some
familiar, easy foods will get you through a rough week or two — be it
Y2K
or the Blizzard of Ought-ought.

These preps sound almost too simple — and they are. But simple
things
often fall below our mental radar. Lately, too, some people have begun
showing signs of panic. Ordinary, bite-sized tasks keep the brain
productive. So…

As I passed the fresh fruits and cornered into Aisle Two. It occurred
to
me that produce is one of the first things to go, if supplies get cut.
We
don’t normally eat canned fruits at our house, but some aren’t bad. Best
of
all, they belong to an important category of emergency goods: stuff you
can
eat with no preparation. All you need is a can opener.

As I was pulling down pineapple and pears, here came Mrs. Nate, going

north and pausing to load Brussels sprouts and peas.

“Well, hello again, Mrs.,” I said. “Fancy meeting you here. But you
know, I think I’d starve before I’d eat a canned Brussels sprout.”

“Then don’t buy ‘em,” she shrugged. “Even for an emergency. Just buy
what you’re sure you can use.”

“Yep.”

Aisle Three. North for me to the refried beans. In a short-term
emergency — power out, water off, lots of things to worry about besides

what’s for dinner — prepared beans are one of the best possible things

protein, fiber, good taste, no cooking required. All you need is a can
opener. They’re also cheap — a big plus on my budget. Peanut butter
will
do, too, if you’ve got something to put it on.

South came Mrs. Nat, aiming for the soups. She grabbed the
add-no-water
kinds like Campbell’s Chunky, Healthy Request and Home Cookin’. They’re
best when heated, of course. But in an emergency they don’t have to be.
Don’t need anything but a can opener, when it comes right down to it.

Aisle Four. South to the mac and cheese. Okay, macaroni requires
water
and heat. Milk and butter, too. But it’s the next thing up the food
chain
from items you just open and eat. And cheap? Four for a dollar on sale

and that makes four small meals for two people. Can’t beat it. Don’t
even
need a can opener. Just make sure you have a stove to use if the power
goes
out.

Speaking of milk, here came Mrs. Nat again, navigating north and
bending
down for a box of the powdered kind.

“Just in case,” she nodded, also spilling a hoard of Ramen noodles
into
her cart. These, too, fall into that wonderful category requiring
nothing
but heat, water and pennies. As a perspicacious stranger also observed,
“The shelf life of Ramen noodles is determined primarily by the life of
the
shelf.”

Aisle Five. As I forged northward, I grabbed our favorite luxury,
pudding snack packs. And there came Mrs. Nat, sailing southward, headed
for
the chocolates.

“Keep you cheerful when it’s cold and miserable,” Mrs. said.

“Comfort foods,” I added. “Man does not live by dried lentils alone.”

Southward. Aisle Six. As I hovered over the granola, a voice behind
me
recommended, “Oatmeal. Stores about forever. And sticks to the ribs.”

“Cheap, too,” I agreed. “But you have to cook it.”

Northward in Aisle Seven for bleach, soap and rubber gloves. Three
dollars spent here could save your life. A little further down, I was
busily heaping my cart with toilet paper and paper plates when Mrs.
waddled
up across the aisle to mull the best flavors of canned cat food for
Fluffy.

“We feed our critters bagged stuff,” I said, hefting a ton of dog
food
and thumping it onto the lower deck of the cart.

“But this is real meat. Fluff likes it. Anyway, we could even eat it
ourselves, if we had to. All we’d need is a can opener.”

“You done?” I asked, eyeing her full cart and the end wall of the
Groce
Mart.

“Not quite. I’ve got to hit the drug store, still. Get cold
medicines,
aspirin and the like. But I have a feeling there’s something I forgot
here.”

“Me, too. I’ve still got to go to the water machine over there and
fill
up some empty milk cartons. But that’s not it. Something else.”

We couldn’t think of it, though. So I went to stand in line while
Mrs.
Nat went back for another pass. Pretty good, I thought. Quick,
convenient,
cheap, edible meals to get you though a couple of weeks of rough times.
And
you can do it all during regular shops, and on your regular budget. If
only
I could think of the Very Important Thing I was forgetting. …

Just then, Mrs. rounded the end of Aisle Six, waving a silvery object

over her head. “An extra can opener!” she called. “Just in case!”

Oh yeah. That.

—–

*Formerly Pickle’s Grocery Mart. But the “ry” fell off the sign in
’73.

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