Sunday, April 20, 2008
making ends meat
Late the other night around dinner time, I found myself staring into an empty refridgerator. The past few nights had been Yogurt & Granola Nights, and the night before that was Yet Another Salad. I was determined not to scramble an egg or nibble my way through the pantry; I was itching to cook and to taste something worthwhile. I couldn't buy more groceries for the week, and I also couldn't afford to get takeout. Living in New York City on my notoriously low publishing salary requires me to budget rather frugally. I have no choice but to adhere to it in order to continue surviving here in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world. The problem is, I already spend the majority of my money on food (next to rent, of course), and even though I wasn't going hungry, I was absolutely starving.
I was running out of time and patience as I confronted my new reality staring back at me from the chilly refrigerator: my palate has outstretched my wallet.
New York is the culinary capital of America. The culture here is extremely gastrocentric: restaurants are at the top of the city's places to be seen, and social life revolves around the table (or the bar, since we all love dining at the bar now). Everyone is obsessed with food, and the town is brimming with hungry twentysomethings who define themselves as "foodies", though some of them don't even cook. Food is extremely accessible in the city since every restaurant delivers, from the local greasy Chinese joints to the nation's top gourmet restaurants. As a New Yorker, you can even get your groceries delivered, but if you prefer, you can go down to your neighborhood's and finger through crates of produce. Whatever your food fancy, you can find it in this city -- but you just have to be able to afford it.
So what happens when you're on a low budget but you've got high taste? I grew up in a family of cooks and eaters, so it would be impossible for me to neglect the importance of food. My favorite pastime is cooking, and my favorite urban activity is strolling through the maze of the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. But as of late, I've been out of time and out of money to make my food taste good. So now, more than ever, I am dusting off firing up the stove and my calculator to make sure that I go neither hungry nor broke.
making ends meat is my endeavor to show you (and in part, to prove to myself) that with a bit of creativity you can eat gourmet meals any day of the week without spending the fortune you don't have.