Thursday, March 24, 2005

$177 a month: Walking a Mile

I'm happy to report that my rant is over. It must be the full moon that's approaching or the gale of particularly complex transaction that is already hit my desk. I like to think I'm not usually such a ranter, at least I'm not usually a ranter absent a bad day. But I do apologize for yesterday.

In more timely events, I woke up early this morning (though it was already daylight!), so I treated myself to breakfast at the White Spot. Few things are as fine as eggs on toast, in a good diner, with the accompaniments of a few fine personalities for casual banter and an Anchorage Daily News for its always interesting letters to the editor.

There was an opinion column in today's fine Anchorage Daily that particularly hit home. Or rather, it inspired me. Perhaps I'll just say "challenged" and then resist opportunities to go digging for other words. In describing a culinary challenge, it inspired me to try my hand at it.

The column was titled "Take a Walk in Someone Else's Shoes."

To sum it up, it described the aims of a program called "Walk-A-Mile" which asks state lawmakers and community leaders to live for one month on a food stamp budget that was based on the size of their own families. PARDON THE PLAGIARIZING FROM THE ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS: "The program had two basic premises: Personal experience is the best way to understand an issue, and mutual respect grows from personal relationships in which individuals have the opportunity to see life from another person's point of view -- by walking a mile in their shoes. The hope was to dispel stereotypes. Grossman found that when she asked the welfare recipients to give her the first thoughts that came to their minds when they heard the word "politician" they said things like, liars, cheaters, men, lazy, etc. When lawmakers were asked the same question regarding welfare recipients, many used the same descriptive terminology -- lazy, cheats, etc. However, lawmakers often said "women" instead of 'men.'"

Sitting there at the White Spot, I decided to give myself a walk. I mean, here I am paying absurd amounts of money on a regular basis to get ingredients that may be affordable elsewhere, but not here. I'm still shopping like a New Yorker. So my grocery list requires me to pick up a chunk of real parmigiano-reggiano, and not only do I have to sleuth for awhile to find it, but I have to buy it at $30 a pound. Fennel - I bought 3 bulbs for a pork loin, I paid $12 (and that doesn't include the $12 for the loin itself, or the $15 for the cheap bottle of wine it was braised in, or the costs of the leeks and apples that had to be shipped up before they got tossed in). Steak for $10 a slab. Tomatoes at $6 a pound. And I'm watching all the food blog "events," getting inspired and planning what to make, all my attention on finding my beloved ingredients rather than practicing my take on the available ingredients.

So now I'm going to embark on my own private event and see what nature of homemade meals I can freeze up for J. on a monthly budget of $177 a month. That's the maximum amount that one eligible person living in an urban area of Alaska can recieve. According to the Alaska website, the maximum benefit food stamp for a family of two is $377. But I don't think we'd qualify as a "family" given that there is at least one large body of water (not to mention many land miles) between us.

So, my new food budget is $177 a month.

I'm going to start April 1......I need some time to prepare and do a little research. And, just for the record, I'm making the executive decision not to include Puck's hoighty-toighty Fish & Potato food in that budget (though it won't be the first time that boy's costs exceed my own).

I think the hardest challenge will be balancing the desire to keep myself to the budget so that I have a standing to confirm my suspicion (and undoubtedly to pontificate) that it is an unkeepable budget, and also wanting to continue with my committment to paying whatever premium is necessary to support the family-owned small farms and enterprises.

If anyone else is interested in seeing if they can cook for a month under their state/country's budget, I'd really love to read about your efforts/frustrations/successes/etc.!


As for Cooking for Kodiak, I made and sent to J. a batch of hazelnut chocolate chip cookies to his office. It was a first attempt, and I used the recipe on the back of the bag of ghiardelli chocolate chips (which, now that I gave myself reign to talk costs, were cheaper here in Alaska than a bag of Nestle) for chocolate chip cookies. All I did was add big dollops of Oregon hazelnut butter to the dough...and a little extra sugar and vanilla. It was too sweet. My next plan is to add chocolate chips to a peanut butter cookie recipe (that has been, of course, adapted to hazelnut butter).

I mailed the package of cookies to the wrong address. Those who know me know I'm not very good at keeping good track on addresses and phone numbers.

Fortunately, the person who recieved them gave them to J. with a note asking that he ask me to start sending my cookie packages to the right address because the City of Kodiak (where I sent it) wasn't in the business of mail delivery.


Post a Comment

<< Home