July 23, 2009

Rethinking Food

As I've mentioned before, money is especially tight these days, as I am staff, but part-time, so my hours hover around 20 instead of 40. Ouch. But I have a job, and that's what I hold highest in my mind. I've narrowed my allowable expenses down to the following: food and rent. Yep, that's pretty much it. But it also means I have to be very careful with what I buy for food. I can't afford to waste money on produce that gets tossed, or seafood that goes bad, or any other wasteful habit I may have exhibited in the past. It's also making me really reflect and learn to appreciate what I do have, and what I do eat.

I'm trying to stick to whole foods, avoiding processed or refined stuff. I was never that big on it anyway, but there have certainly been times where I've reached for a boxed something or other when I could just have easily made it myself. And now I am doing just that. Believe it or not, I'm saving a lot of money making my own food and buying only what I need at the moment. And while I've always been more of a cook at home than eat out person, now I have to be, and that is a bit confining at times. It sometimes makes me want to rebel just for the sake of rebelling...but that thought quickly passes when I see my bank balance.

I really chafed at this in the beginning. Actually, I panicked, even if it didn't always show on the outside. In a flash, it brought back unpleasant memories of a very cash-strapped childhood/adolescence, when there was money for food, but just barely, and for housing, but not always, and it just didn't look like it was ever going to get better. In my single-parent household, money was never abundant. The memory of that kind of insecurity never completely leaves, but I'm working to remove some of the emotional triggers outta my psyche! My mom made everything from scratch because it was cheaper. It was actually cheaper to make a batch of biscuits at home with eggs and tea than to go out, tip a server, etc. And my mother taught me that if you couldn't afford to leave a generous tip, you couldn't afford to go out. It wasn't until I was much older that I began to realize home cooking was often a lot tastier, too, and that our family actually had a lot of fun during many of those meals.

Back to the present: after a few days of panicking, blinking back tears, and harriedly trying to figure a way out, I reminded myself that I'm NOT back where my family used to be. While it may feel oddly reminiscent (which bill do I pay right now? Which ones get pushed back a little?) of earlier years, I know it will get better. I am embracing this time because it's here, because that's how I tend to run: find the positive side. So I'm taking pleasure in the food I have and the fact that I can feed myself and do it well.

Something as mundane and everyday as poached eggs and oatmeal can be sublime if you approach it right (that's Mitzi sniffing her approval). I've become obsessed with walnuts as of late. The fact that they're a great source of Omega-3 fats is just a bonus. I take my McCann's Irish Oatmeal and mix in some honey, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and a splash of half-and-half, and I have a truly delicious meal with a terrific range of textures. Pair it with some poached eggs on toast with freshly-cracked black pepper and you have one truly happy food blogger. The simple flavors somehow elevate as I appreciate and savor each bite. It might sound a bit corny, but it's absolutely where my head and heart are right now.

The few times I've gone out with friends (and thank you again to the many who have treated, or who have understood when we had to skew it towards the super-cheap) have been extra-special, so I make sure to appreciate the experience even more, and remind myself that someday I'll be back to being able to eat out more frequently and not feel so socially cut off from my circle o'friends. Sure, it's not where I hoped I'd be more than a year ago, when I found out my job (at a talk show) was coming to an end. It's not the glamourous, exciting side of NYC (a city with so many wonderful restaurants you could never hope to eat at them all, but oh what fun it is to try!) It's not where I want to be down the road. But it's where I am now, and anyone who knows me knows I'll make the best of it. And I thank you for your support and your encouragement...and your recipes. ;)

1 comment:

D said...

Walnut Oatmeal and poached eggs? That doesn't sound like a poor man's breakfast to me. We're now all just living day by day... the way we're supposed to anyway. I let calimari spoil in my fridge this week Lori. Thanks for pointing out that bad habit of mine.

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