“Dig out some more rice while you’re down there,” I called, upending the last little bit out of the ready jar into a pot.
“There isn’t any more down here.” Danielle puffed, straightening up red-faced from the depths of the forward locker which she’d been organizing.
“No more at all?” This could be serious. Of all the supplies that come and go depending on season and location, rice was one we’ve never run out of. We always buy 25-pound sacks of Jasmine rice at Asian groceries, and usually go nowhere without an extra one comfortably stowed below. It’s about the cheapest long-keeping staple, the most delicious and easiest to cook. There was rice to buy here in St Anthony, but it would be that horrible long-grain, which takes twice as long to cook and tastes nowhere near as good.
But that was just the beginning. There was also no more quinoa down there, no more dried fruit, and only one bag of pasta. In the can locker, the last can of corned beef sat lonely where once dozens had snuggled, and the corn niblets were merely a memory. It was hard to believe that less than four months before Danielle had returned from BJ’s with such an unbelievable mountain of food we’d had to stow some of it in tubs under the table. It didn’t seem like we had run out of things so fast on other cruises, but it wasn’t hard to figure out why. The girls are growing fast, and their consumption is increasing exponentially. Also we’ve eaten out less on this cruise than ever before—mostly because there’s nowhere to do so. In Mexico and Central America, street food is so good and plentiful and cheap, it’s often cheaper to eat out than to buy fresh groceries. Not so in Newfoundland, where eating in is usually the only option, but at a heavy toll on our stockpiled supplies and propane usage.
Of course, we could pile in canned supplies and dry goods while in St Anthony, but everything is frightfully expensive (milk works out to ten dollars a gallon!), especially to us who are used to bulk retailers like BJs and Costco. Danielle, especially, can’t bring herself to pay more than $1.00 a pound for pasta, and $4.00 for a can of tomato sauce is unthinkable. It’s the same with fresh food—when it can be found, the prices seem completely upside down. Ever since leaving St Johns, broccoli has cost more per pound than pork chops. Of course, I could subsist entirely on pork chops, but I have the children to think about as well. The sad thing is, other than the four or so good (comparatively) grocery stores we’ve found in Newfoundland, it’s not a matter of price but of whether there is anything at all to buy. If all you can get is hot dogs, that’s what you’ll buy, regardless of the cost. Several times I’ve gone up and down every aisle of a tiny store without seeing a single thing I wanted to get, and had to remind myself that if I didn’t get something we’d have to use another precious can of chicken or tuna or beans.
Still, there’s little chance of starving. Potatoes are to be had cheaply almost anywhere, there are never not hot dogs, and sandwich bread is ubiquitous, even if it must be examined for mold before purchasing. What we’ve really had to trim due to economic concerns is the luxuries: chips, cookies, soda, and ice cream are almost-forgotten delights; just about all things dairy are out of reach: yogurt, milk, cream cheese, and butter (we’ve been using margarine instead for months now).
What we haven’t run short of, yet, are the two most important things, even more precious than Jasmine rice: peanut butter and chocolate. While other things may be running dangerously low—crackers and nuts and popcorn and olive oil and soy sauce, Danielle seems to have hidden depths of chocolate, and no sooner is one jumbo-sized bag of M&Ms gone, but she hauls out another. It’s the same with peanut butter. Though I haven’t seen where, she assures me we have half a year’s supply of it still. It’s comforting to think, as we head even further into the sparsely populated wilds of Quebec, that even though we might have to go weeks without a single vegetable, and arrive at our first grocery store happy to find anything, be it only a box of soda crackers, we’ll still have peanut butter to spread on them, and Hershey’s kisses to eat for dessert.