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Want to see a foodie flail? Send her to the desert

Submitted by on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 No Comment

My wildest fantasies of late involve a chicken. No, not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I dream of rows of roasters, often on sale for as little as 39 cents a pound. Voluptuous creatures with plump legs and ample breasts. All mine for the taking.

Instead, I wake up and remember I have to shop at the commissary on post. There will be no roaster for me, unless I’m incredibly lucky.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a foodie who regularly stocks eight varities of flour . Go ahead and laugh. Dad does, too. I expected to have trouble finding a lot of products we regularly bought in our past life – brands that I’ve learned over the years are free of allergens that can make half our household sick.

But I didn’t expect to have problems finding chicken.

Such is life when you live 40 miles from the nearest grocery store and are forced to rely on the on-post commissary for much of your food supply. It’s not a pretty picture.

Part of the problem is Fort Irwin’s status as the National Training Center, which means company after company of troops from other posts are sent here on a temporary basis. The local folklore, at least, blames them for shelves that are at times near-gutted.

I tried for two weeks to buy a broom at the post exchange – no luck. One morning, the entire “fresh” frozen chicken case was empty – there goes that chicken fixation again. Not so much as a wing was left. I’ve been able to buy a whole roaster only once since moving here.

You can’t blame the rotation troops for the consistently poor quality produce, though – that happens whether they’re here or not.

Lettuce is about the only thing that’s reliably not awful. I’ll give the commissary a pass on  peaches, because for some reason most of them I’ve bought for months have been terrible. But we bought strawberries Saturday and had to eat them that night before they went bad. The grapes had turned by Sunday.

Hello … We’re in California. Grapes are in season. What the heck?

I’m not the only one unhappy about this. A recent poll in the post newspaper showed the commissary has only a 41 percent approval rating. I’m surprised it was that high. Guess everyone’s not as fixated on chicken.

Part of the problem is, Fort Irwin is a relatively small post with a big mission and lots of people coming through. The commissary probably is about the right size for the permanent population, but it’s way too small considering the rotation troops. And considering that the nearest grocery store is 40 miles away.

We adjust by stocking up when we’re out of town – we’re going to start toting coolers for produce. I order a lot of specialty items – many of my precious flours and Big Guy baking supplies – online. I’m also getting ready to replant my herbs.

Meanwhile, if you come for a visit, forget the traditional bottle of wine hostess gift. Just bring me a chicken.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All right reserved.

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