A Tomato Sandwich for the End-Times
It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final backup. - “Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” CropTrust.org
When the world ends as the prophets of science, scripture, and pop-culture have foretold, you should hope to find yourself on Svalbard—north of the Norwegian mainland, a frozen island where the world is white enough to seem new. Under the blue-frost crust, you will find an embryonic Eden on ice—a cavernous vault of metal and stone where all our seeds are kept. By our I mean us. All of us. All the seeds. Over 150,000 varieties of wheat alone—some high in protein, others tolerant to heat—each species and subspecies at subzero temperatures so that when the end-times come (Call it Ragnarök; you’re in Norway, after all), you might still have your bread. And, in this apocalypse- ready icebox, every tomato you know and dozens more you don’t: determinate and indeterminate, grapes and cherries, Cherokee Purples, the aptly named Arctic Rose—enough heirlooms for every family tree lost to flame. To prove you were meant for this era, you’ll have to make your sandwich yourself: sharpen a bone-handle knife on a spit-wetted stone, then slice your bread and tomato of choice. Without eggs and oil, you’ll have to hold the mayo, but the vine-ripened fruit will be sweet enough as you eat alone on a snow mound for one—hope softening against the roof of your mouth.
Peeling Bark for Bread
The bark of trees can be made into bread. The Sami people of northern Scandinavia— who have thrived in ice for thousands of years by herding reindeer and pulling fish from the frozen sea, but who were nearly wiped out in the early 20th century through illegalization of their language and forced sterilization of their women—would carve away a birch’s inner skin and dry the flesh next to the fire before grinding into flour, mixed with wheat or rye, for baking dark brown rounds. I learned this when I was ten from some made-for-tv documentary, the name of which I cannot now recall, and was certain then that I could produce the same result with my mother’s adolescent dogwood. This was a Gulf Coast Pink—North Carolina native, though not as common as white— so I knew it would yield a superior taste. I retrieved Dad’s flat-nose shovel from the shed, pressed blade against bark at the level of my hips, and flayed off a sheet to the level of my knees, the fresh wound as pale and damp as oiled dough. I would never know, though, would never grind smoked bark or knead double-handfuls into oven-ready mounds. Mom insisted, in grief and rage, her dogwood would die—so young then, so deeply cut and exposed as it was. But within a year, splintered edges smoothed to lips—open and silent— which, with each green season, have drawn inward until all that now remains is the suggestion of a kiss or something unsaid. And when bloom-time comes, folia rises bright—as full as leavened loaves under sun.