A bit of cooking

One of the things that went to the wayside, a lot, while I was working was my cooking.  See, I’d get off work at 6, and the commute was just shy of 45 minutes.  (25 miles, half interstate.  Yes, almost exactly half.)  Add three nights a week where instead of coming home I’d meet my wife and daughter at the exit where she’d get in the car and we’d head on up to karate class – 7 to 8 officially, 8:15 or 8:30 not unkown – and what with changing out of sweaty clothes at the end of class and the 20 minute drive, it was not uncommon to get home not too much before 9 pm.

So, for at least a week, maybe a month (yes, I’m being optimistic), I’m free to cook.  Of course, I have to pinch pennies.  So, let’s look at some “poor man’s cooking” that I plan to do.

Rice and Beans.  Oh, lordy, there are numerous combinations on this.  And even with the surge in the price of rice, this is a cheap base meal.  If REALLY pinching pennies, you go with this alone.  Thing is, there are variations in multiple cultures that amount to, “and mix in some meat or veggies and some spices.”  And the stuff you add goes a long, long way.

Fried Rice, just as beans and rice, is another place where a few additions go a long, long way.  For the proteins that you’d be missing, add high-protein meats, in small dice.  yes, that’s why pork fried rice is a good choice, if you like pork.  Or chicken.

Sandwiches are another stretcher.  Look, if you really go looking you can get surprisingly good meat in lunchmeat form at extremely low prices.  It’s presliced, which denies you the chance for, well, bulk.  And it’s already cooked, which imposes other limits.  But if you accept those limits…  Reubens are CHEAP.  So are Rachels (replace corned beef with smoked turkey, or so I learned).

You can also julienne some lunchmeat of choice and toss in a wok along with some julienned onions and bell peppers – and/or other veggies if that’s your taste – and season to taste.  Put it in a sub or kaiser roll, maybe with a little cheese if you have it.  What, I just described the basis of the philly roll?  snicker, yep.

Or… then there’s the monte carlo.  Basically grilled ham, turkey and cheese on french toast.  Yep – put ham, cheese, turkey on white bread, dip in basic egg and milk batter, and cook on a non-stick skillet till egg is set and cheese is melted.  Errr, flip when the egg’s set on one side.  yes, it’s good. It’s even better (in my opinion) when set on the plate with one of several sauces drizzled over the top – fork time, of course.  what sauce?  Well, if you’re feeling really cheap, make a small bechemel – sorry, make a butter/flour roux, stir in milk.  Add a bit of parmesan to flavor it, and drizzle that over the top.  Or just use maple syrup.  Both work.

I’ll be coming back to this thread at irregular intervals, but… an upside, I get to COOK.

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3 thoughts on “A bit of cooking

  1. Sorry to see you lost your job, Kirk; the world needs more librarians, not fewer.

    Surprised you don’t mention offal here – everywhere I’ve ever lived, liver & often heart are the cheapest protein available. Pan fried liver with potato salad and a good bitter green salad is a meal fit for a king – if you get the liver right (ever so slightly pinkish in the middle; about 2-3 minutes on each side & practice). Use the pan juices with vinegar, oil and just a splash of mustard for the dressing. Good in a sandwich too.

    Poverty eating isn’t painful, exactly, if you have the time to cook, but the worst part is the shopping: eying up the out of season, out of your price range produce, and having to move on.

    Incidentally, I’m about half way through The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. You may already have read it (came out a few years ago) but if you haven’t I highly recommend it: thorough examination of the complex lunacy of (primarily) American agribusiness. Most illuminating; even though it was written before the oil price spike, reading between the lines gave me a much better insight into the sudden jump in food prices.

    Anyway. Good luck with the job hunting; plenty of time to ponder the great issues of the day in the meantime.

    (Dap’s RL avatar, btw, if you’d forgotten)

  2. Yes, internal organs are usually cheap. And I happen to like them. My daughter likes some. My wife… no.

    Still, dirty rice (or whatever the variant is of whatever culture you’re sourcing) is a common ‘commoner’s food’ for a reason.

    And yes, I thought that book interesting. A bit dense, some biases that push interpreting “possible” as “definite”, but still generally good.

  3. I like dense, myself; the ritual aspects of eating struck me as interesting.

    Anyway, I finished it; felt the first third better than the second 2; a lesson there, I’m sure. While the oil peak is almost certainly going to put a stop to the corn machine, the organic farm model is not entirely convincing. There’s a quote, somewhere in the interviews with the organic farmers he visits, stating that they have no interest in feeding the cities – the cities that, like it or not, contain most of the developed world’s population, and, increasingly, the less developed part. The irony of people stating they were making 100 mile round trips in their cars to secure fresh organic produce was left unremarked, also.

    The hunter/gatherer section was interesting, but at current population levels utterly unsustainable – gratifying though it is for people with the know-how.

    Ech, another glaringly obvious, currently intractable problem. Either of the candidates discussed food security much?

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