Thursday, January 19, 2006

Crepes in the morning, Caribou before bed - Feasting Like a Tundra Queen

I continue to be broke. I could lament. I could worry. I could complain. I could get a job. Or, I could delve into the project of finding the entertainments of being broke. Not one to turn down entertainment, I’ve selected this last route. And let’s face it, my pantry was stocked for such pursuits.

I should confess that there is probably a family legacy or legend that I just might be trying to live out myself. If one were to settle down for a long chat with my mother (and, do trust me, chats with mum are rarely curt) about short finances and big hungers, my mother would revel in the opportunity to regale you with the culinary sprees and festivities of the 1970’s when my parents found much entertainment in being able to entertain crowds of buddies with the few pennies they had. College budgets that featured oysters, for example, though no one actually had any money. Widely popular dinner parties centered on the proceeds of late-Autumn and social gleanings of the fertile fields of the Willamette Valley. “Potlucks” in the sense that friends would drop off their contributions in the form of raw ingredients, and return in the evenings for the sculptured feasts that Mom would have elegantly heaped on candle-lit tables. There will be poignant examples. Mom, for example, may open up to you and talk about how she painfully struggled to come to grips with the loss of her first baby…how she made great strides in doing so by using her baby’s unusable baby formula to make a feast of pumpkin custards. Even today, she will undoubtedly tell you, Mom takes much pride and happiness in the impromptu visits of long-time friends with hefty chunks of game meat. She rarely has to buy her own meat, and her social calendar is filled with her own impromptu visits when she drops off a dinner platter featuring the gifted game at the home of the giftor.

Apples don’t fall far from the tree.

I am stretching my pennies by resorting to the grocery store for only a few daily-necessary ingredients: water, milk, butter, eggs. The rest is coming from our friends and neighbors, our pantry and our freezer. The bread – I’m kneading it here at home, and doing my cartwheels of glee as the perfume of baking bread warms up our home on those especially cold days. (As a little side note/question: it must mean that I’m becoming more and more Alaskan with each day, as temperatures above 7 degrees seem to me “especially warm.” The humour of the fact that our house is heated to 70 degrees, yet there is frost on the INSIDE of all the windows, probably extends beyond geographical boundaries.) Meat – we’re dining like kings on homemade elk sausage, moose ragu served up as a homemade lasagna baked in a large cast-iron skillet (in proportions big enough to guarantee that thicks slabs of it will be delivered to neighbors and friends the next morning), ground caribou prepared as Albondigas a’ la Rooney (i.e. mixed with parmigiano, fresh herbs, and pine nuts to form meatballs, which are then braised in tomatoes stewed with Guinness and red wine). Our weekend brunches: eggs and toast, with the elk breakfast sausages we made together and the homemade bread. The snacks that I pack up for J. when he goes snow-go’s up and down, and over and all about, or for when he goes out to one of the villages where he camps out in a school gymnasium (there being no hotels or motels) – homemade bierocks stuffed with stewed meat and vegetables. In fact, I make a point of making sure that J. always has enough stash of homemade goodies to feed 4 people stuffed into the “hotdogger.” And I send J. off to work with a little brown bag of sugared crepes, a little note to say that his girlfriend and dogs are thinking fond thoughts of him as we devise a creative dinner.

Sure – I should probably get a job sometime. I’ve so magically, and with such ease!, gone from work-focused corporate attorney to domestic overdose. And I will. I have to. But in the meantime, we feast likes king and queen of the tundra – and I’ve only spent $20 in the past 2 weeks!