Pan is bread but pan de dátil and pan de higo are not bread at all, but saucer-size disks of date or fig, with walnuts or almonds thrown in, a wonderfully dense, chewy, and delicious Christmas treat here in Spain. I first ate pan de higo one April in Valencia, so I know it’s available at other times of the year, but I never see either fruit goodie on the grocery shelves in Gijón except at Christmas, alongside the turrones and other delectable Christmas sweets. Both varieties have a long shelf life, so this year I stocked up. Something so scrumptious will be hard to keep, but it will also be hard to use up.
Stockpiling can be a burden, especially when united with a sense of economy that says hold in reserve whatever you can for as long as you can. You have the supplies but you’re set against using them. It’s strange—buying books and treasuring them rather than reading them, splurging on clothing too beautiful to wear, and piling pantry shelves with goodies to reserve until past the use-by date, and still holding on: always accumulating and for one reason or another managing not to use what you’ve stockpiled. Where did these absurd habits come from?
Stocking up is a family habit I share with my father. So is exaggerated economy. My father manages to tear a Kleenex neatly in two, one half to use, the other to fold up for another occasion. And yet his bathroom shelf is piled high with Kleenex boxes because they go on sale much more often than they get used up at my folks’ house, and my dad buys them whenever they do. I search out fun ESL games and activities on the internet much faster than I use them in class, but I download them anyway. It’s a problem, this wanting to be prepared. The ultimate fantasy is cutting consumption entirely while increasing supply endlessly. A closetful of clothes that couldn’t possibly wear out! Books with no chance to get dog-eared! Every purchase to last indefinitely! It’s crazy. I nibble on a corner of my date wedge, not sure if it’s worse if my supply doesn’t last till next Christmas or if it does. At the same time, a funny little thought runs through my head: if I stocked up on something less delicious, it would last much longer. Or would it? Maybe I’ll just buy Kleenex. Maybe I’ll master the quarter tissue.
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