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I grew up as an only child, only niece, only grandchild. I didn’t have to share anything with anybody. Fast forward a couple of decades and I was the mother of three. I shared everything with everybody — including bathroom time. As in, all three kids watched me pee — no secrets, everything shared. And now, in my ‘Golden Years’, living in what amounts to a flat share, I’m still sharing stuff — including food.

Gill didn’t know what to make of it this past holiday season. As the interloper in our new family situation, she needed a road map to figure out what belonged to whom and how fiercely they would defend their stuff if challenged. L’il Sis and Crazy D filled the cupboards with all their food made of hippies and fairy dust. Most of it was safe from Gill since it was tantamount to poison for her. Death by Crohn’s. But we discovered there is a middle ground of food — such as potato chips, corn chips, chocolate, cheese. If one intrudes on someone else’s stash, they are greeted with the Stink Eye or Death Stare.

My initial attempts to avoid food mixups didn’t work well. Take my personal chocolate stash, for example. It normally lives in a drawer beside the stove. I thought it was  sacrosanct. But one day I entered the kitchen quietly(no, I was NOT doing stealth surveillance) to find Crazy D breaking off a square of chocolate goodness for himself. He had the grace to appear chastened, but I knew my chocolate would never be safe again. So I took it upstairs and sequestered it away in a plastic bucket with a secure lid and buried it amongst the Christmas stocking gifts. It was safe for a while — until The Pig (L’il Sis’ beagle) came sniffing around. There’s a reason airports use beagles to sniff out bombs and drugs. When I saw her pawing the bucket, on the brink of busting in, I spirited my stash away to another hiding spot…on top of a tall cupboard near my computer. Handier anyway, since I often crave chocolate when the writing isn’t going well. I estimate I have two days until The Pig learns to move my chair to the cupboard, climb up the shelves and attack her prey. (Don’t doubt the possibility. Only today L’il Sis found a  video taken with a nanny cam of a beagle doing just that.)

Next I designated certain areas in the fridge for each person. But as more and more food was added, the edges tended to bleed into one another, no longer leaving room for a DMZ. Once burned, twice shy. So not wanting to experience such unpleasantness again, I have devised a system of labeling that might just work for us. I believe I may want to patent the idea. For Crazy D’s cartons or packages, I identify them with something typical of him. For instance, a length of electric chord wrapped around the object. Or a stinky gym sock. Or, if there is a bit of extra room in the fridge (and there is after cleanup day when we all throw out the rotting food that has escaped our notice through the week), I might squirrel away several of his items in a small duffel bag. We’d be sure to recognize it as his since we regularly trip over the bags in the mudroom and front hall. For L’il Sis, I could attach a pile of green bird feathers (her old parrot is going bald so there would be no animal cruelty involved). I’d considered tacking The Pig’s fur to L’il Sis’ stuff but I’m keeping it in reserve for The Pig’s own buckets of homemade soup. Don’t ask. Now that I think of it, this system probably owes a nod to the Garanimals for kids I used for my three when they were young. They couldn’t match or co-ordinate clothes, so the manufacturers did it for them.

I’ll let you know how my new system works. If it doesn’t, forget global food wars. They’ll be starting here in my very own kitchen and I’ll be the refugee looking for food.