I was going to pour myself a cup of coffee in a regular mug this morning, but decided to make it a treat — by using one of my nicest teacups and saucers. It feels like I’m having an elegant mini-vacation when I drink from so civilized a vessel. I can even crook my pinkie if I like.
I was feeling as if I needed a little boost because I’m doing the June Food Stamp Challenge, and I didn’t want to waste money on cream for my coffee. I had some left from a previous week, but it’s not in the JFSC budget. Even though this budget is not “real,” because I can go back to my own budget whenever I want, I know that someone on food stamps doesn’t have the luxury of that escape clause.
Life on food stamps, or a limited budget, believe you me, is very real. Relentlessly so.
So how to pep up the morning cup of coffee without the luxury of cream? A graceful teacup. Most of mine were gifts to me on special occasions of as legacy pieces from relatives. I have a beautiful English bone china teacup with red and yellow roses that I received from my grandmother as a high school graduation gift. I have another, delicately painted with violets and forget-me-nots as a gift from the bride, my daughter’s godmother, from decades ago when she first married and I was a lector in her wedding Mass. And I have a solid stoneware cup and saucer with purple and blue violas, bought at Harrods shop at Heathrow Airport in London when I was delayed getting home one trip, because Queen Elizabeth II was arriving and all traffic was shut down. Other cups and saucers in my collection have come from thrift stores, flea markets, junk shops and yard sales. All are beautifully made and treasured, no matter what they cost or where they were found.
Lesson for today, my children, is that your budget need not dictate your standard of living (just think of the many wealthy people whose tawdry behavior, attire and attitudes grace our televisions and tabloids). You can live as elegantly without money as you can with lots of it. The cup and saucer changed my morning beverage from slightly depressing to a treat. It’s the same cup of coffee, whether drunk with beggars or kings. Alone, with a mug, sorry that it lacks the cream. Or in solitude, with my delicate teacup, enjoying the perfect cup of morning java, in elegance and dignity.
Just a sip of coffee for thought.
Breakfast: Fresh strawberries, toast with butter and homemade plum jam (gift from my mom). Coffee.
Snack: Plain yogurt (pantry) with fresh fruit.
Lunch: Leftover eggplant parm and garlic bread, iced tea (homemade sun tea).
Snack: Hot tea. Celery and peanut butter (pantry).
Dinner: Chard and beet greens*, sauteed with garlic, oil (pantry). Potato** and egg frittata. Iced tea or water.
*More for your money
The beet greens were a bonus at the farmers’ market. I bought a bunch of beets for $1 and the greens were attached. Always save the greens — they are delicious sauteed, or steamed along with the beets. I chop them and add to soup or pasta sauce for extra vitamins (see link for nutritional info), same as I would use spinach or chard. I used half the chard in the eggplant Parmesan dish the other night, so combined the beet greens with the remaining chard for a vegetable side dish in tonight’s dinner. Light seasoning of chopped garlic, salt and pepper and a quick saute keeps the vitamins intact and the flavor is very fresh. (Chop the stems and saute those, or save them to use in place of/in addition to celery in soup or a salad.) And the bonus is that the greens were “free” with the purchase of beets — two veggies for the price of one. Use this same plan when you buy whole turnips, too.
Trivia: Swiss chard is a modified beet, with a small root and much larger leaves. Same family, same great nutrition. As Mr. Husband says, “You can’t beat beets.” Yes, he really says that, every time we have beets.
**One Potato, Two
Good stuff, potatoes. Cheap by the pound (got this 10. lb bag for $4). It’s easy to bake one in the microwave in just 5 minutes, but I am growing reluctant to use the microwave with each passing month. I prefer actual heat to zippy molecules. For tonight’s dinner, I boiled several potatoes (with the peel on) to layer with beaten eggs, salt and pepper and herbs from the garden (thyme, oregano, parsley, green onion).
I didn’t use all the boiled potatoes tonight, though. The rest can be made into potato salad, fried for breakfast, mashed and fried as potato pancakes, or added to soup, depending on our needs in the next few days. The potato water left from cooking is useful to add to baked goods (homemade bread with potato water, as the liquid has extra nutrition and good flavor). The water left from cooking potatoes or any vegetable (except cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or other strongly flavored veggies) makes an excellent base for soup. And the weekend is always a good time to make soup.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.