I’m reading two books in tandem right now. One is On a Dollar a Day, about a couple attempting to limit their food costs to one dollar per person per day. The second is The Man Who Ate the World, by Jay Rayner, food critic and frequent judge on Top Chef. At one point he relates that he once spent $660 on a black truffle, wrapped in foie gras, then ensconced in pastry and baked until golden, along with a single glass of wine. $660!!!! I might have fallen just a little in love with him right then. Or would have, had he shared the truffle with me.
So I read a little of one book, and then a little of the other…and more than just a fun, ironic little juxtaposition, this is a deeply satisfying read. Both sides of my personality are being satiated. The Monk, which I’ve talked about before, and the voyeuristic chowhound. I can’t really claim to be a foodie, because that damn Monk won’t let me spend $10 on 10 figs, never mind $660 on a truffle. So I read cookbooks and food journals and memoirs by sarcastic, rock star chefs…. even my mysteries figure caterers and bakers as main characters (recipes included!) Is it any wonder I ended up owning a cookie shop?
This might be an unhealthy amount of time to be obsessing about food. If I could focus my attention long enough to track what I spend my days absent-mindedly dreaming about, it would probably break down like this;
1) the kids. Stuff they’ve broken recently, stuff they’re currently breaking while I’m at work, their schedules and things I’m worried might one day happen to them because of the slovenly, inadequate parenting foisted upon them, things I’m worried might one day happen to them because of their stubborn refusal to listen to said inadequate parents…etc.
2) food. What’s for lunch? What’s for dinner? Are we out of peanut butter? Who’s the cutest celebrity chef? (Curtis Stone. No. Rocco Dispirito. No! Curtis Stone.) I bet I could make that thing they’re making on Food Network, Hey! Has my Food Network magazine arrived yet? Yes? Oooooo, an interview with Curtis Stone!!!!…. etc..
3) everything else.
Included in that “everything else” is the penny-pinching part of me that can’t read a book like On a Dollar a Day and not pull out the calculator. Wow. That’s crazy talk, right? Yeah, ha. Totally crazy. What you can’t see, is the insane little gleam in my eye. What you can’t hear, is the little voice in my head that is saying, “Hmmm…. Interesting. I wonder how little you can feed a family of seven on.”
I’ve done it before, you know. I quit working when my kids were younger and went on a whole voluntary simplicity, tightwad bender. My hubby called me his survivalist wife, ’cause I was super close to making my own soap in the backyard. I collected colored paper handouts from my kids school and fashioned birthday party streamers from them. I was hard-core frugal. But I never made it to a single dollar per person a day for groceries. And yes, I know, I’ve read most of the book now, and I would never do that to my kids. The whole point is that most of the world lives on that single dollar’s worth of food and that it just isn’t enough.
“But what about TWO dollars?” the voice is whispering, and that’s when I know myself well enough to switch back to Jay Rayner’s book and mentally roll around in descriptions of dinners in Las Vegas, New York and Paris. Because truth is, I don’t really have a middle ground. What I have is more of an average. I might decide to conquer french cooking and then, the next month, surprise! We’re eating vegan! Not because I’ve decided to philosophically support veganism, more because I think it might be fun. Or painful and therefore character-building and good for me. In any case, it evens out the excesses of the previous month, so on average, I’m totally normal and middle of the road.
Oh, shut up, you.
Next month is “hobo month”– just another one of the good ideas I’ve stolen from my sister over the years. For one month any expenditures outside of food, medicine and honest to god necessities are strictly forbidden. No long term commitments, not so much a life-style change as a chance to hit the “pause” button on our spending. A perfect time for that little voice and me to figure out exactly how teeny-tiny our grocery budget can get. The Monk will be deliriously happy…
…up until July. Then -LOOK OUT!- Truffles for EVERYONE!