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Land of plenty

By April Austin / August 23, 2000



The food mart down the street recently closed, the latest casualty in a string of failed convenience stores in that location.

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The genial Indian couple who owned it did not give warning to the dozens of families who make emergency Hagen Dazs runs, or construction workers who buy lottery tickets.

This small change rearranges my life - or at least my routine. It's annoying to have to stop at a huge grocery store just to pick up a quart of milk.

Within days of the store's closing, I finished reading "Cold Mountain," the 1997 bestseller by Charles Frazier. One thing that stood out in this Civil War-era tale was the constant foraging for food, the life-or-death struggle to find shelter and warmth.

I couldn't help but compare 19th-century food consumption with that of the 21st century. Men so hungry they would cook a deer carcass that had lain on the ground for days. Women who tended crops and dug root cellars to keep vegetables through the winter. Today, we simply tear the cellophane from a head of California-grown broccoli, and pick up takeout chicken on the way home from work.

The effortless availability of food in the United States is staggering.

Of course, no one wants to live as folks did back in the 1800s, but Frazier's book did give me pause. The things we think are so important, so crucial to the convenient running of our days, are really aberrations in human history. At no time before has such bounty been within reach. And many of us take this plenty for granted.

We live in a time of great privilege - yes, and luxury, too.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society