The Most Fundamental Food

by John Melngailis

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

In Soviet-controlled 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 accessible.

Today we also are suffering hard times. During the first week of Covid-19 quarantine in the US, our online orders of rye bread tripled. I guess even today people need this most fundamental food. 

This was previously published in the Latvian-language newspaper Laiks (#17) under the title "Pārtika grūtos laikos."