Nathan and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes preparation, time and support… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in, there are cravings and fatigue. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.
It’s the end of the challenge. Before me, I have a new week and menu to consider. There are groceries to be bought, dregs of this week to be engrafted into a new set of rules. Or are they?
Crossing this line isn’t the kind of whoop-whoop celebration that many challenges bring about. True, I will appreciate sinking my teeth into the crisped edges of an everything bagel and lick the toasted garlic and cream cheese from my lips with recognition of spending half a day’s allowance on a breakfast treat with two meals to go. I will continue to seek out ways to make the most of the food I do have, like making chicken stock after shucking the bones of all the meat. I’m young still. There is hopefully time yet for me to continue learning.
Poverty is nothing new to me.
I’m friends with people who could fall into the category of the working poor. I’m friends with people who used to live under the Bay Bridge and also play a wicked game of chess. I’m friends with women in India who live in a slum and sing as they hang out their laundry. I’m friends with people who never have to worry where their next meal is going to come from or the one after that. And I like them all without question.
So perhaps as we begin entering this holiday season, it’s good to ask the question, “who is my neighbor and how can I love them as I love myself?”
My friend Stacey worked and scrimped, making extreme choices for a year, all to pay off a credit card. She set a very real and very hard timeline for herself. We, her friends, respected and supported her as she lived on little and kept chipping away at her debt that she might find freedom. This act of perseverance was fraught with struggle along the way, but Stacey also learned some valuable life lessons that would see her through richer times as well as the lean times and eventually after she was married, allowed her the opportunity to stay home with their baby and live off of her husband’s small salary. I’m sure this is the case for many living on small means, but she had become a budgeting queen.
Among the various lessons learned during her payback period, she taught me the art of finding free or very cheap ways to be with a person. The goal she showed me isn’t the “doing”, it’s the “being”. During this period, she would call and ask to meet up for a cup of coffee. For $1.50 we would catch up and at the end feel satisfied with the time spent. I’ve called up my friend Kenny to go for a walk instead of going to the cinema.
Time spent with someone who loves you is what counts, not what you can do or give to them.
So my take-aways are simple:
- we ate better than we have in a long while because of the planning and preparing that went into making our meals.
- we found ourselves hungry and frustrated at times.
- I felt left out of social situations.
- I found my eyes opened to see all the work and time necessary to eat well on a hunger challenge.
- I felt exposed, knowing I do not live on food stamps, so this challenge is a rudimentary way to try and understand.
- I heard you say you learned something new:
And that made me smile- that made this worth it.
Black “Refried” Beans
Why go refried when you can go less fat? The caramelized onions and garlic give a deep, complex flavor and the tomato contributes to these silky beans. Serve on tostadas or alongside with brown rice. Heck, refried beans are fantastic on nachos or in burritos as well as for the base of a bean dip.
TIME: 5-7 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, halved
¼ yellow onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 roma tomato, diced
2 cans black beans, drained
3 tablespoons water
Saute the garlic and onion in a medium saucepan over medium heat until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and tomatoes, stirring frequently and cooking until the tomatoes loosen and slump, about 4 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and stir for a few minutes until slightly bubbling. Add the tomato-laced beans into a blender with 3 tablespoons water. Puree until smooth.