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Published January 31, 2010, 12:00 AM

Swift: Winter brings out food hoarders

Even at age 9, I was curiously obsessed with food.

Even at age 9, I was curiously obsessed with food.

Take the “Little House on the Prairie” books, for instance.

It was so thrilling when Laura wrote about the family heading to Oleson’s Mercantile to stock up on cornmeal and molasses and salt pork for the long winter.

I had no idea what salt pork was, but it sounded delicious.

I also was tickled by the notion of a pre-supermarket world, where shopping was done four times a year, flour was purchased in a 50-pound sack and people ate hardtack even though it sounded like roofing material.

How far we’ve come. Now we can shop anytime we feel like it. We can buy our hardtack in low-sodium, organic and white-cheddar varieties. We are not limited to peppermint sticks doled out by a suspicious-looking Mrs. Oleson from a dusty jar. Rather, we can help ourselves to hundreds of different types of brightly wrapped confections.

But a week ago, as forecasters warned of an encroaching blizzard, I was transported back in time.

At the supermarket, I saw numerous examples of Weather-Related Hoarding Syndrome (WRHS).

WRHS is a fear that you will be stranded in your home for months with nothing to sustain you but a box of expired baking soda.

It is rooted in the belief that you will survive Blizzardgeddon as long as you have 37 boxes of elbow macaroni in the pantry.

It is what sparks you to buy things you would never eat – like deviled ham – because you fear the electricity could go out and you’ll still need nourishment. (Never mind that your can opener is electric.)

And so I watched grown women, obviously in the throes of WRHS, race through the aisles with overflowing carts and wild-looking eyes. I saw a man buy enough bottled water to rehydrate Plum Creek.

Before long, I, too, had joined the fray. I found myself running through the snack aisle and screaming: “But what if we run out of Cheez-Its? WHAT ABOUT THE CHEEZ-ITS?”

As I stuffed my cart with hamburger and crescent rolls and canned cheese, it hit me. The human desire to stockpile provisions has never left us. We are all Pa Ingalls at heart.

Now pass me a little canned cheese.

Methinks it would taste good on hardtack.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com