Slowing down

Day 3 of Do the Math

I thought this was going to be easier. After all, I come from a long line of frugal cooks. My paternal grandmother studied “home economics” in the 1920s, and was known to not only save small sandwich bags (the precursor to the ziploc, which she washed and hung on the line to dry), but pretty much everything else. Once, when she was looking after my brother and me while my parents were away, I  found a bowl of soggy milk-covered granola in the fridge that one of us had failed to finish—she was saving it for later. My own mother is also a master of making something out of nothing in the kitchen— I grew up on powdered skim milk and creative combinations of whatever was in the fridge served with her inimitable style.

Attempting to plug into this ancestry this week, I’ve been trying to get creative with what we were offered in the hamper, but as the days go by, it’s getting more and more difficult. Not only is our food running out, leaving us with little to get creative with, it’s incredibly monotonous (some more potatoes with your potatoes? More KD? I thought you’d never ask!).

It turns out, this isn’t easy at all.

And it isn’t about being creative or frugal. (I can’t imagine even my mother could find a way to make what we have left in our hamper interesting, tasting or, frankly, nourishing. It’s just bits and pieces, leftovers, scraps. An onion, a can of Spagghetios, a bag of those infernal apple chips.)

Lunch: "enriched macaroni product" with HFCS, enzyme-modified cheddar cheese, and MORE! Ready in 2 minutes!

This is about inadequate social assistance rates that leave thousands of our fellow citizens hungry and undernourished. This is about the lack of dignity accorded to the poor in our society. This is about shortsightedness: when someone is forced to rely consistently on the kind of food we’ve been eating this week they are likely to have health problems associated with their diet, and we all pay for that at some point (in lost productivity, in health care costs, in social disintegration).

I’m sick of the food and the little niggling headache and the stomache pains I seem to develop everyday around 3 p.m.

My husband, on the other hand, enjoyed a delicious lunch today at The Stop‘s drop-in program (something all Do the Math participants are encouraged to do):

Cheese and potato Kugel; lentils with broccoli and cauliflower; salad greens from The Stop's Green Barn greenhouse; Ace Bakery bun.

I don’t even resent him his greens (and cheese, glorious cheese!) because seeing this food just makes it more clear to me how vital programs like this drop-in lunch are for people struggling with poverty and living on social assistance. These meals at The Stop, made with love, skill and passion by trained chefs and a dedicated volunteer crew, are like a waving flag of health and dignity. They are not just delicious and healthful, they are a signal to people who use The Stop that they matter, that their health matters, that they are more than their poverty, more than their circumstances. It’s a lot of freight for a lunch to carry but according to Nick, today at least, it did its considerable job—and more.


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