With sincere appreciation and on-going gratitude to the powers that be, I enter the Camp Darby Commissary. As NATO affiliates, the good people in Livorno allow us to shop in the American grocery store, among other sanity-retaining perks. A serial e-missive posted several months after our arrival explains the deep sigh and lighthearted strolling I enjoy there. It’s not that I need a Safeway or Kroger to fill my kitchen. It’s just nice to browse things I recognize without needing to translate every label. There are only a few very specific items which I would really miss. You can guess good peanut butter (Darby even carries a nice organic brand) and anyone who has come to visit should be thankful that we do find fish sauce there (rather than in your suitcase). Of course, cheddar, tortilla chips, and refried beans are all too exotic for local stores, so Darby subsidizes our Mexican nights.
But for tea today, I nibble Fig Newmans. Our commissary is award-winning: it isn’t large and, as it should, focuses on middle-American families and soldiers, but the variety they manage is impressive. 1st with the organic crunchy peanut butter, then Amy’s Vegetarian Refried Beans, a nice selection of Morningstar Farms faux meat products (Hello, my name is Molly and I love corn dogs.), and even Newman’s Own Organics The Second Generation Fig Newmans. I do my best to show support for such products, but especially Newman’s Own. You see, I’ve met Nell Newman. The down-home, folksy image on the package isn’t entirely marketing. Sure, Pa is a Hollywood movie star who has given more to charity than most people see in their lifetimes. I don’t know where or how he lives, but Nell has a home in a small town in California where I used to live. She came into the store where I worked to look at some ecologically responsible clothing. As we were wrapping up the transaction, she commented on needing to get home. Her chickens had to be brought in for the night. Predators, you know. I was floored. Paul Newman’s daughter not only keeps chickens, but actually cares for them herself. We spoke briefly about an early coop which failed tragically, but she has it worked out now and once inside, her chickens are safe. Happy walkin’ around, bug-eatin’ chickens tucked in for the night: what a beautiful scene. Now, one more fig Newman and a bit of meditation, and I might be able to face the world again.