Last night I neglected to mention that we enjoyed Lemon Drops (an adult beverage made with lemons and vodka) as a part of our Friday Night Date Night. All those (free) lemons we gleaned the other day came to good use, especially when a few friends dropped in. It was simple entertainment, and leads me to a conversation about food stamps and paternalism. But first, today’s menu.
Look at that potato frittata — although to be proper, I should call it a Spanish tortilla. No fancy pan needed. I baked it in the cast iron skillet, which adds extra iron to whatever you cook. This was so delicious that we have had it for breakfast and for lunch as well. If there is any left over after my daughters pass through the kitchen, we’ll eat it until it’s gone. Good stuff.
Snack: Smoothie made with milk, plain yogurt*, strawberries
Lunch: MORE potato frittata, mixed greens salad with tomatoes, iced tea
Snack: Peanuts and homemade popcorn (while watching baseball!), iced tea or coffee
Dinner: Corn chowder (potato cooking water, leftover corn cut from the cob, milk, herbs, cooked potatoes), bread
Here are the garden-fresh herbs I snipped to put in it. I put them in water so they would stay fresh and perky till it was time to bake. Floating there, you’ll see thyme (with flowers), sage, oregano and parsley.
It doesn’t take 40 acres and a mule, or even one acre, or a garden plot, to have fresh herbs. A kitchen windowsill is fine for herb gardening. Lucky for me, I have a number of small containers in the garden so the herbs are contained and won’t spread crazily out of control. Our back lawn is made up of crabgrass and mint that went wild. We’re not taking any chances that basil, lemon balm and oregano will take over the rest of the yard.
*In Praise of Plain Yogurt
Here’s my morning snack yesterday: plain yogurt with fresh fruit sliced in. I recommend buying a large tub of unflavored yogurt for a number of reasons.
1) Plain yogurt is very good for you, especially if you buy whole milk yogurt and not low or nonfat. When the factory takes out the fat, it changes and degrades the milk’s nutrients; plus, additives then make up the difference in texture. Better to eat an unadulterated pure food than a low-fat chemical mixture, in my not very humble opinion.
2) Plain yogurt doubles as sour cream on veggies, in salads, on potatoes, as dip, etc. Two foods in one = always a good value.
3) No added sugars, salt, etc., means this is a wholesome food that you can eat as it or adapt to suit your palate. Add a small spoonful of honey or a splash of juice if you like sweetness. Add sliced fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon, applesauce, or any other flavors you like; instant coffee with a dash of sugar, or pure vanilla with maple syrup can make plain yogurt into a dessert. When you’re on a budget, a food that is simple, good for you, not very expensive, and versatile is a winner.
4) Another reason to buy one large container is that several small containers can make a lot of wasted packaging. Rather than buy mini 6-packs of yogurt, buy a set of small plastic Tuppers or Gladware and dish our the yogurt yourself. You get to reuse the packaging and feel good about not causing more recycling or trash. 5) Yet another reason to buy a large tub of plain yogurt instead of pricier (per ounce) individual yogurts is that I get to support family dairies in my area. I usually buy Brown Cow (Antioch, CA) but I will also buy Clover or Strauss Family dairy products. Local dairies mean that your food hasn’t been shipped vast distances, and that the cows are more likely to be free-ranging, happier cows, not factory-drugged and miserable.
6) And last but not least, the large yogurt tub containers are reusable for preserving your extra fruit and veggies, soup, sauce, etc, in the freezer. They store whatever you need to store: toys, art supplies, nuts and bolts; I use them as scoops in pet food, in the garden for potting seedlings, and so on.
Wow. You thought I was just going to say “yogurt is good for you” and be done with it. Well, no charge for today’s lecture, and you’re welcome.
On Food Stamps and Alcohol
First things first. Food stamps don’t buy alcohol. The clerk won’t count your FS toward booze, cigarettes, porn, bullets, gasoline, new shoes, pet food, shampoo, or a hot date with Brad Pitt. Food stamps buy food only. And yet, here I am, shamelessly proclaiming how we indulged in adult beverages — yes, made with alcohol — on our JFSC budget. Horrors!
For the record, the alcohol is clearly not part of the food stamp budget. However, it does come out of our entire month’s cashflow — Mr. Husband stopped and bought a bottle of mid-level vodka with which we could enjoy Lemon Drops. He spent about $18 for a 1.75 liter bottle of Smirnoff Red label. He could have bought a much cheaper brand and it wouldn’t have made that much difference — with vodka, if not other alcohols, they all taste pretty much the same, cheap or pricey (I think we may have tried them all, so this is a semi-experienced palate’s judgement). No one questions my right to buy a bottle of booze. No one questions my husband, either. But god forbid we go down to the store and buy a week’s worth of groceries on food stamps, and then spend $10 more on cheap vodka to enjoy our Friday Night Date Night together.
Oh, I hear it now — the rumbles of discontentment, of rage, even — “That’s taxpayers’ money” and “How dare they spend on alcohol instead of milk for the children…” But I have to go with this opinion, my friends. We are all free to make choices. We all have the same right to buy crappy mac and cheese by the case or perhaps spend our food dollars on whole wheat pasta, some good cheese on sale, make it ourselves, and enjoy the benefits of a healthier diet. Good food should not be prohibited to those who are using public assistance; in face, healthier foods mean fewer doctors’ visits and fewer health issues like obesity and diabetes. And in following this logic, I’m going to argue that consenting adults, rich or poor, should be allowed a little pleasure and relaxation.
As long as there is not a drug and alcohol problem in the family (ANY family — wealthy or poor), then a bottle of wine, a 6-pack of beer or a fifth of gin is not going to ruin the family. In fact, having a beverage with spouse or friends may be one of the few pleasures a poor family can afford, since the price of cable is high, movies are expensive, renting movies costs money; restaurants and bars are cost-prohibitive, and so are many other adult date-night pleasures. If there are kids at home, adults have to get a babysitter to go out — more money that a poor family doesn’t have.
I say that a drink or two on a Friday or Saturday night at home is not going to destroy a family. But further, I believe that the same standards should be applied to all people. If it’s ok for a rich man to have a beverage at home with his wife or buddy, it should be ok for a poor man to do the same. Sometimes we just want to have a beer with a friend, or a glass of wine with our sweetheart, and I don’t think a poor family should be so brutally judged for what the wealthy, or middle class, do with abandon and without censure.
That $18 comes out of our monthly budget, but not our food budget. If we didn’t have the extra cash, we wouldn’t have bought the hooch. And as long as we did it responsibly, it’s no one else’s business. I think I said what I meant here. Maybe not — we’ll see…Comments? Sound off below.
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.
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>