Monday, March 29, 2010

Recipes overanalyzed

Let me be clear. I say this as someone who bases many meals on pasta and even a good number on legumes, but are these not the most depressing, dreary-sounding (Puritanical?) recipes ever published? Yes, we've all heard a thousand times that no one's so poor as to need to eat fast food, because OMG lentils. Haven't The Poor heard of lentils?

My point, however, is less about the patronizing genre of Dear Poors, They're Called Beans, You're Welcome, than it is about the smugger-still I-know-what-real-poor-people-are-like one-upmanship in the comments at the Well blog. Rather than faulting these particular recipes for making any reader with taste buds crave a plate of fries (is it just me?), commenters are outraged that "budget" recipes include ingredients other than beans. Who would have the audacity to include olive oil in a recipe meant to be inexpensive? Sure, olive oil, unless you're getting the fancy stuff or using it as a base for soup or a beverage or who knows, adds a few cents per meal. But gosh doesn't it sound snooty! Let's make the yuppie food writer behind the recipe feel bad about not knowing what it's like outside her arugula-filled bubble! Privilege! And not white beans, that known caviar equivalent! How dare anyone suggest that beans are an appropriate ingredient for a budget recipe!

Once we've established that peanut butter is in fact foie gras, I want to know, what's accomplished?


Seriously, though, I'm not sure what intervention is going to make Americans - yes, including yuppies, whose healthy eating is highly exaggerated - stop eating crap. I suspect that I could rewrite these recipes to make them somewhat more edible-sounding (hint: don't pile broccoli on top of pasta; add a whole lot of olive oil, cheese, garlic, and, blood pressure permitting, salt to absolutely everything; and don't even start with something called "cabbage and bean soup" if you want meals to be something you look forward to), and that other home cooks could do the same. But would this make any difference? Do I ever cook anything (baking not included) that wouldn't sound like cabbage and bean soup to someone used to takeout?

And I don't see where the NYT is going wrong, promoting meals designed more for broke, faux-broke, or just plain cheap yuppies than for those trying to make ends meet in Palin country. Because who's benefiting from these things if not people who are only now realizing that four advanced degrees in Obscure Studies interspersed with extended finding-oneself traveling leaves one highly knowledgeable about where to get cumin and less so about how to pay for non-bean-based meals? If the recipes could acknowledge this a bit more openly, and admit that they're for people who have heard of but can't afford or would rather not pay for the absolute priciest ingredients, that might be a first step. (There are few foods not improved by the addition of a bit of $12/lb. bucherondin, but goat cheese...) As the recipes stand, they hover in a bland no-man's-land between SWPL and that town Jamie Oliver recently invaded. Nothing too 'gourmet', because then the NYT's being elitist, but nothing with even the potential to sway anyone from chicken nuggets.

Cheap clothes too toxic, let's hit Barneys!

Oh no! We as a country are buying more clothes, yet paying less overall for them. We've already established the tragedy that is allowing those who are not super-wealthy to own more than one outfit, or to dress roughly according to the decade in which they live. Wouldn't it be so much better if the only clothes produced were made from vintage designer scarves ("'For one thing, it’s not mass-produced'"), and the rest of us were offered potato sacks in one-size-fits-all?

Apparently the chic-masses-scare-the-rich argument isn't enough, nor even is the landfill one, nor the think-of-the-little-hands-behind-that-dress one. Surely we are all going to get cancer from mysterious particles attached to our $5 t-shirts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Perhaps the staff at a certain coffee place decided that it was more annoying to dig up all those pennies than it was fun to make customers feel stingy for wanting even the tiniest bit of change. The iced coffee at this mini-chain is now, alert the presses, $2.50. If it hits $2.51, it's thermos time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Does the health care bill cover dentists?

Because my grad school health insurance does not. And it's been about a year since my last cleaning, so I've had some minor stirrings of concern about how I can avoid paying the $100 upfront cost of a cleaning, plus who knows how much for x-rays since my last ones are back in Virginia and filling any cavities that may have appeared. Here are the options:
1) The dental school: Apparently, dental students offer discounted "training cleanings" that very much resemble the experience of getting a discounted haircut from a stylist-in-training at a nice salon--it takes four hours, and then a professional has to jump in at the end and repair the damage. Also, no possibility of rectifying any cavities or other tooth distress.
2) The cheap "new patient special" at this place in Porter Square: Note the one-star review. Also the problem whereby money saved now means I can never go back again.
3) What's a few years without a cleaning anyway? I mean, nothing is aching or bleeding. So I should be ok, right?

Stay tuned for cheapness needs new glasses but doesn't have any insurance for that either.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Biggest small cheapness fail ever

I was so very impressed with myself that this nail polish I wanted that cost $8 in the store, but that was sold out just about everywhere, was $6.75, shipping included, on Ebay - new, even, apparently. I don't usually shop online, but made an exception. Because I don't usually shop online, I remembered to change my billing address, but somehow missed that Ebay had my old shipping address, in Brooklyn, in a building whose front door is, on a good day, locked. I emailed the seller (also in Brooklyn), but it was too late. I caved and ordered another, realizing that my time is worth quite little, but not so little that I'll spend an hour on the train and another half-hour on foot to attempt to break into my own old building to get $7 worth of nail polish that for all I know either isn't there yet or has already been taken. So, uh, free mint-green Essie for the lucky residents of 7th and Union, I suppose.