Sunday, April 03, 2005

Day 3: Molasses'ing to Independence

Trying to reign in my Manhattan spending habits has not been easy. It has, however, had success and I do think I'm closer to living the life that doesn't need to be sustained by a desk-chain-salary.

Travel, clothes, dining out, going out and paying someone to remind me to breathe - I've curbed these addictions. Quite remarkably, actually, given the percentage of my income that they once ate up. Books...well, I'm far from The Strand. I'm far from my secret hide-out of used book shopping in the Flatiron. I'll admit, I splurge occassionally at Title Wave. But not every week. The book splurge habit, therefore, could technically be considered curbed....though I can admit to further improvement possible.

But cooking.

This is the splurge that I haven't yet curbed. This is the one that I'm really working on now.

My setback with this splurge is that I can pretty much still persuade myself to purchase any ingredient at any cost with a mere acquiescence to curiousity. When it comes to grocery shopping, I am an impulsive shopper with reckless budgetary rejections. No matter how expensive an ingredient is, trust me: I can justify it.

So what makes this $177 budget particularly hard is that it bludgeons my most instinctive reaction to new ingredients - I can't just buy them and uphold my commitment to exercising consumer power beneficially. If I want to keep buying foods from community-enhancing businesses, I have to keep myself to the most basic of ingredients.

The pizzaz must, by the very nature of the budget, come from the creativity and/or comfort.

That'w why I'm particularly excited about this upcoming Sugar High Friday Competition: Molasses.

The pantry staple being called upon to produce a special occassion. And it's already in my pantry.

I can't help but think that this Sugar High Friday is the perfect competition for one trying to develop an instinctual cooking repetoire for use in the long-term goal of living in a place where groceries get delivered by a plane-taxi every other week or so.


On another little front that can't possibly be interesting to anyone else, I've re-embraced the chicken soup budget. Chicken broth. Baby carrots (great for snacking and chopping). A head of broccolli. Frozen peas. Pasta (I found Italian at $1.99 a bag - not the best pasta I could find here, but approximately $8 cheaper than that best). Easy to make. Aromatic. Warm. Light. Cheap. Chop as you need. And, this is really just a side-benefit to the chicken soup budget, I'm hoping that the combination of my reliance on it during this $177 month and the daily invitation of the sun to take Puck on long walks, might just actually reverse some of the more cumbersome repercussions of having spent the winter bribing myself to wake up in the dark with breakfasts of bacon.


On a sourdough front, I had a successful attempt at my sourdough hotcakes this morning. FOR ONE: 1/2 cup starter (that I had fed the night before). 1 egg. And some sugar, salt, soda, and vanilla extract. I also added a glug of olive oil. Lightly buttered. Drizzled with spruce-tip syrup. There's still room for improvement, but in the comparison to the first batch attempted, there was lots of evidence of the improvements already made.


I'm down to $167.02 (bag of flour-$3.99; dozen brown cageless eggs - $2.99; a 16 ounce latte from New Sagaya during a morning jaunt with Puck before coming into the office - $3).


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