Miguel was at a farmer’s market. Green onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, many kinds of cabbage, green onions, parsley, onions, fruits and apples, red apples everywhere. Miguel saw more things than he knew the names of; it looked like an alien island to him, and he didn’t feel like an explorer that day. The only thing he could gather from this all was that he didn’t have enough money in his pockets to prepare himself a proper meal with these vegetables and fruits; they were so expensive. Except for the national staple, potatoes, apples, cabbage, onions, carrots and occasional fruits and vegetables, the rest was exorbitantly expensive. He was thinking of the vitamin pills he’d got at a pharmacy for 50 cents each. Those magic pills had every single nutrient that gold seekers try to dig out of farmer’s markets, and even more. He was consuming more vitamins and minerals than he knew the use of. All the range of vitamin B, plus some other letter; he wondered why they hadn’t arranged them in alphabetic order at least, so as to know which one he was missing. He’d started taking vitamins since his mother had told him that the lack of them might be the reason of his sleepiness. Miguel was reluctant at first, and had read dietary articles and the properties of all the food he’d ever eaten. He saw that he should spend the day eating to fulfill the standard dietary requirements. He saw for the first time the seriousness of the grand dilemma of panda bears, who sometimes choose eating rather than copulating. Unfortunately, his instinct of procreation was stronger than his need of self-preservation, so he’d chosen the shortcut of ingesting a supplement every day. He also bought yellow cheese and meat, for he couldn’t dispense with that; cheese because it had calcium, which no supplement could make up for, and meat because it was easy to cook and had enough iron and proteins to not worry about fainting in the middle of the street. He still avoided consuming flour or simple carbohydrates, like rice, corn and kasha. He replaced them by potatoes, which were cheaper and had some minerals, though in very small quantities. Maybe that was the future of society: flavored vitamin enhanced mashed potatoes for everyone. At least people wouldn’t be worried about caries or other teeth problems anymore. He also bought chicken, because it was the cheapest meat available and it had more protein than beef or pork. However, he got easily fed up with chicken, and he needed to go back to pork, for beef was too expensive, which could be taken in smaller doses than chicken to compensate for the difference of price, which at the same time ensured that he’d never be fed up with it.
The days went by in this fashion and, with an apple a day to keep the doctor away, Miguel just needed a blender so as to make nice milkshakes out of these cheap fruits. That would solve his daily disorientation as to what to prepare for breakfast, for who in his right mind could reject a nice mug of milkshake for breakfast?
It was not his fault that chocolate bars were cheaper than oranges; he liked them both, but he also knew their relative prices, and he wouldn’t buy oranges if he saw they were expensive. He’d given up on his second favorite fruit, except when they were in season; his favorite fruit had always been seasonal, so he didn’t see the difference: he bought grapes when they were cheap, and he didn’t miss them the rest of the year. Eating had become an amusement for him, as he already ingested almost the full daily intake of vitamins and minerals at breakfast. He was slim, though, so he tried to eat simply to gain some body mass. But he was a bohemian also, which meant that he’d fast the whole morning if he wasn’t hungry enough to go make himself a breakfast. Besides, when he had intellectual work to do, he couldn’t be bothered with petty things like preparing food; he just grabbed whatever he had at hand. He’d read about surrogate food in some science fiction books, but he’d actually seen it in many products he’d consumed since childhood. Back in his country, he’d always drunk bottled and powder milk indifferently. He actually liked the advantage of powdered milk, in that he could add more spoonfuls to condense it. He didn’t know that this was surrogate milk, a product that had lost all its proprieties just to recover them artificially. It was just like making orange juice from orange essence with added vitamin C; he’d also drunk those kinds of products. Where did the science fiction start for him? He didn’t know anymore. He just knew that people who need to send messages to the stratosphere to have them bounce back to a friend’s personal device so as to arrange a meeting or just say hi are on the verge of, if not beyond, science fiction.
– from Second Chances