A note on timing: this story has the potential to become AU, but unless otherwise noted is set in canon, shortly after Naruto's return to Konoha with Jiraiya near the beginning of Part 2. For now, just consider this squeezed into the cracks between canon events. In my head, there are all sorts of spaces between missions unless specified. For example, the timeframe in which Naruto worked to improve rasengan, could've been months even though he didn't spend all of that time on that work! He's a soldier of Konoha, in addition to being Uzumaki Naruto, after all, and regular things have to get done.

000000000

If there was one fact of life understood by Uzumaki Naruto, it was food. His colleagues might've said, "Oh, you mean ramen, not food!" if asked. An unsurprising mistake since Naruto is to ramen and leadership ambition as Jiraiya is to voyeurism and stinginess and Tsunade to booze and gambling. Kakashi of course had a lock on tardiness and porn. Unlike his friends, Naruto knew that food belonged in a different category from his ideals.To him these were virtues such as courage, mischief, hard work, devotion to friends, selflessness, hard work, forgiveness, and optimism, with liberal doses of kicking ass where necessary. The things which kept him going were what made life worth living, but food was a thing which made life possible in the first place.

One thing that fueled Naruto's forgiveness and optimism was the understanding that people's circumstances contribute to their actions. While a firm believer in the supremacy of choice, his childhood taught him that choices became a lot easier if the circumstances were better. A wealthy man might be a thief, but that rich dude wouldn't be pressed to consider thievery while in the market because his mouth started to water at the scent of food.

Naruto knew that if a rampaging long-eared demon with more tails than qualms hadn't come along and mistaken Konoha for a buffet, the question of whether or not to blame a newborn for anything would never have come up. He was capable of recognizing that even though the people of Konoha had largely made the wrong choice—to blame or at least disregard him—they should never have been faced with that choice in the first place, and so were, in that respect, crummy people rather than horribly evil bastards. They're just people, and very few weren't crummy in one way or another, after all. What was responsible for Naruto's arrival at this mercifully detached perspective?

Naruto's understanding of food gets the credit. The demon-host--he calls himself a demon slumlord because that sounds more badass, and keeps his thumb firmly in Kyuubi's eye--didn't always have enough. Sandaime couldn't be entirely blamed for the hit-or-miss upbringing which led to this. He was after all an old and extremely busy man, and Naruto was not a squeaky wheel when it came to embarrassing problems. For training and equipment, he squealed like an informant in a gangster movie. But when it came to the Great Ramen Shortage That One March (Vol.1), Naruto clammed up like a loyal gangster in that same movie. "Hey, gramps, I…uhh…spent all my money early this week, so I've got nothing for food for the next four days," was something he should've said more than once, but didn't. As a boy, he hadn't completely slipped through the cracks, but sometimes his foot got stuck. Konoha's version of DCF being swamped and sometimes horribly incompetent—see Uchiha Massacre—coupled with an overworked Hokage, mixed with a dash of disregard and unfair prejudice meant that Naruto didn't always get the proper oversight and training in how to do things such as budget and cook and clean, those mundane tasks reserved for adulthood in a kinder world. He learned and learned well, but because the lessons were erratic, they took time to stick. Hatake Kakashi could speak to that.

Thus Naruto learned that desperate or awful circumstances put a whole slew of choices on the table that wouldn't even be considered otherwise. Konoha not being an intemperate region--not situated in the land of fire for nothing--freezing to death wasn't an issue. Not being Suna, nor was thirst. Owing either to his family background or his demon squatter, medical care wasn't needed. Shelter was secured without being ritzy: Sandaime wasn't that overworked. That left food, and although his contemporaries might've thought his comical lust for stuffing his face with ramen was simply another Konoha ninja idiom, like Kakashi's porn, it's really born of a need, like alcohol for Tsunade. Unlike his peers, with the exception of Fuzzy Eyebrows, Naruto's gut had known the gnawing emptiness of true hunger, the kind which threatens starvation if left unattended, not just an uncomfortable afternoon waiting for dinner. Perhaps that was one of the reasons both he and Fuzzy Eyebrows were so gung-ho: they were trying to get as far away from painful hunger as possible, and life had taught them both food got into your belly by work. The rest, the hunger for recognition and respect, was achieved through the same means, but food came first.

Among Naruto's many special gifts was the ability to turn disadvantage and suffering, past and present, into an edge and happiness. A few months after his return from a years-long training journey with Jiraiya, Naruto began to apply this blessing to his ambitions…

OOOO---

Author's Note: Howdy, Naruto fanfic readers! This is the first Naruto fanfic I've written, and I'm eager to hear what people think. This is just the prologue to what will be a multi-chaptered story. I don't promise epic length (in fact I would be shocked if it was), or even more than a few thousand words. I got an idea in my head: how does a so-called hidden village get food, anyway? Feeding such a large population requires a lot more farmland than we can see within the walls of Konoha, not to mention various manufactured goods which can't all be produced there. So I thought, "You know, a story reflecting the saying about armies and stomachs," could be interesting. I hope it is. From this point on, the focus of the story will tighten to chapters about Naruto's involvement with how the food gets out of the ground (or off of the bone) to the steaming bowl of rameny-goodness, or the juicy tenderness of barbecue delight. Or, I dunno, dango I guess…though I'd never tell her to her face, Mitarashi Anko's choice of foods is woefully inferior!

I have no idea what sort or number of reviews I'll get, but I do have a favor to ask of anyone who takes the time: I'm not interested in one-line praises (this assumes, of course, that this story is interesting enough to merit praise at all! A possibly unwarranted assumption), but from what I've seen on this website, they're very, very common. So please, if you're going to review, include at least ONE piece of criticism concerning what you think needs improvement, and maybe even a suggestion on how to do so!