On Saturday, I went out to brunch. My bill was $30.
On Sunday, I bought groceries for the week. My bill was $30.
New York budgeting continues to be an adventure. I spend nearly 70% of my income on rent, which is just plain foolish—I could (and maybe should) live in a shittier apartment, but my living situation is what it is, so I cut corners where I can. I live ten blocks from work, so I skip the unlimited subway card and hoof it around the city during daylight hours. I forego a monthly gym fee for a flat rate at the public rec center. I brew my French press coffee at home every morning. I turn tricks under the Brooklyn Bridge when things get tight.
My splurges are mainly food-related, and those are significant. I cooked almost every night at first, but the hobby is relatively new to me (my mom still likes to laugh about the fact that I asked her how to boil an egg two years ago) (which is about what she did when I asked her how to boil an egg two years ago), and the New York restaurant scene is an enticing rabbit hole. Exhaustion and curiosity have weakened my resolve. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a sugar daddy under the bridge, and dining out is ravaging my already threadbare wallet.
I ate far beyond my means for most of July, and you know what? It wasn’t worth it. I spent so much mental energy trying to stretch my budget that the hassle colored the experience. I not only wasted a ton of time plotting strategic grocery lists, but also ended up eating minor variations on oatmeal and scrambled eggs for most of my meals. Really now? I don’t empirically dislike either of those things, but every day? Sometimes multiple times a day? How joyless. How disrespectful of my own sensory needs. How…boring.
If I may be reductive for a moment, I believe that satisfaction is a function of what we think about versus how we spend our time. If I spend hours drooling over Andrew Carmellini’s latest venture while shoveling down the same bland oats, that’s going to kind of suck for me. Even if slashing everyday costs means I get to eat out four times a week instead of two, that leaves a whopping seventeen meals unaccounted for, which hardly seems a reasonable tradeoff. I have to contain an interest in a world that just isn’t my reality.
Financial concerns aside, I have to remember that cooking changed everything for me. Cooking sold me on health. Cooking taught me that wellness is more than Fiber One and indulgence is more than Little Debbie. Cooking is a way that I practice Self-Love (Action), which forms the baseline for Self-Love (Emotion). Expense account or not, cooking is not expendable for me on any level.
While there will always be room in my New York life for okra bloody Marys and goat cheese bread pudding, there must also be room for Sunday nights at the stove prepping weekday lunches. If I’m going to bypass Seamless delivery and not feel pissed about, it’s sure as heck not going to be for celery sticks and yogurt. If that means I get to eat out two times a week instead of four, so be it. I will savor the bejeezus out of those two meals, but I will make the other nineteen of them worthwhile.
For the record, this soup blew 90% of restaurant meals I’ve eaten in New York City out of the water. How do you like them radishes.
Soup Off the Cob
This tastes like a tamale in a bowl. While the prep is labor-intensive, the final product keeps/freezes/reheats well (making that hour well worth it) and the timing is unfussy (meaning that as long as you follow a rough order, you can chop as you go). A word to the wise: YouTube is a gold mine of slicing and dicing tutorials, something I would have done well to remember when it was raining corn in my kitchen last night. At least my countertops match my sense of humor. Very minimally adapted from Eats Well With Others.
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 (15 oz.) can white hominy
1 (14 oz.) can lite coconut milk
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 ears corn off the cob
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions about five minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and spices. Push all that around for a minute or two, then add one cup of water, sweet potatoes, radishes, and pepper. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
2. Combine hominy, coconut milk, and the rest of the water in a blender or food processor. Add to vegetable mixture along with tomatoes and corn. Bring to boil, then immediately reduce to simmer.
3. Stir in lime juice and cilantro. Serve with sliced avocado. Serve inside an avocado. Eat some avocado toast. Whatever. I don’t know your life.
She ain’t much to look at, but she’s got it where it counts.
See you under the bridge, baby.