Food for Hard Times

by John Melngailis

(This essay was submitted as a letter to the Editor of the New York Times Sunday Magazine in September 2020.)

Having known lack of food, I was moved by the Sept. 6, 2020. issue “America at Hunger’s Edge.” In some of the pictures I see the usual over-processed food which badly nourishes the poor but handsomely rewards the producers.

I feel moved to tell the following about food for hard times:

My father was a student in Moscow during the first world war. Latvian University was moved there from Riga because war was raging on our soil. As an only child he did not have to serve. Students were given a ration of about half a kilo or slightly more of whole grain rye, peasant bread, per week. In the University cafeteria sometimes there was some runny soup,  often not. But at least he had the most fundamental food- the staff of life.

In Soviet Riga, rye bread was baked in two large factories. It was a state monopoly, just like electricity or gas. Rye bread was cheap and available to everyone, other food—not always. But again the most fundamental food was there.

Today we also are suffering hard times. During the first week of covid 19 quarantine in the US. Our rye bread on-line orders tripled. I guess even today people need the most fundamental food. 

I have to confess this is partly self serving. I market hearty peasant whole grain sourdough rye bread.