Monday, September 13, 2010

Hunger Challenge Day 1: Impressionable minds cannot survive on art alone

As we embarked on the first day of our commitment to eat for the allotted food bank supplement individuals receive ($4/day), our first thought was...uh oh. It's scary to wake up in the morning and suddenly realize that what you're going to eat has a number attached to it. That cup of cereal costs roughly $0.17 and the milk you're splashing on it? Tack another couple of cents onto the tab. In our everyday lives, this isn't something we consider. We think of food in terms of nourishment, enjoyment and beauty. However, when you're operating against concerns of money, the last thing that food looks like is enjoyment.

We began the Sunday with a serving each of Trader Joe's shredded wheat and some soy milk (as opposed to the delicious turnovers Eric usually snags from the bakery down the street.) We then moved on to a lunch of corned beef and hash, with a small salad of cucumbers in an inspired Asian themed dressing. Our first thought after sitting down to lunch? Ack! No toast!!?! Since our menu is Asian inspired, we hadn't accounted for any bread products. Eating lunch suddenly shifted from what we had (delicious hash) to what we didn't have (toast). A seemingly meaningless addition, at least nutritionally, toast had suddenly come to represent all of the little things we were giving up - no Ketchup, no Mustard (didn't budget for those either) and a smaller than usual salad, because we had to reserve our cucumbers for lunch during the week.

With heavy hearts, we decided to go and do our weekly shopping at MOM (Manilla Oriental Market) down the street. We were saddened that a lot of the sales we were counting on were no longer going on, and that the produce all seemed to have increased in size on a nearly mutant scale! My heart rate was probably at a questionable level when we approached the counter to check out. Would we have enough money? I had honestly forgotten that the amount in our bank account currently so grossly out weighed the amount of money set aside as food stamp assistance. I thought - what will the clerk do if I ask to take something out of a bag? What will she think of us? And what would I take out?? Everything had been calculated to the ounce and teaspoon, nothing was superfluous. Luckily, what we had in our cart was $2.21 under our budget. Unfortunately, that meant we'd have to get lucky and smart when we were cooking. Nothing could go to waste, or we wouldn't be able to get the items we would need later in the week.

We went home and were cheered by making up 30 delicious dumplings (recipe and hilarious photos to come soon!) We steamed up half of those dumplings for soup that night, and it felt good to have everything come together. The earthy quality of Eric's vegan broth (recipe to come) and the lightness of the fresh dumplings were perfectly paired.

All in all, the first day of the challenge was a success. However, we were reminded of two very important things - you can't eat ideas (sometimes things will be more expensive than you can possibly predict) and staying on a strict budget means a lot of planning and a little bit of fear. I have to be honest and add that I'm really looking forward to some toast and turnovers next week, and I can't imagine having to give up so much on the long term scale.

Stay tuned for Day 2!


Amy E. C. said...

I love Mom's, too, limitations and all. :)

Still waiting for your dumpling recipe!