Living high on the hog while scraping the bottom of the barrel

When you receive an unexpected bill while planning a foodie pilgrimage, what is there to do? You have to pay the bill. You can’t really cook well when the ceiling leak is dripping on the stove, and if those termites keep going, the refrigerator will end up in the basement. On the other hand, there’s that big trip coming up — four star restaurants lined up one after the other. There’s no skimping on that. So what to do? Cut back of course.

Now, where does one cut back? Most financial experts say that you shouldn’t let anything interfere with your retirement planning. That’s fine with me. I’d hate to stop buying my lottery tickets. Most of the other bills are pretty important too. Car — too far to walk to work. House — too hot to sleep outside. Utilities — too hot to sleep inside. So what if the foodies cut back on food? Can we survive two weeks on just what we have in the pantry, the refrigerator, and the freezer? Can we live without going to the grocery store or to the great new farmers market downtown?

Luckily we just made a quick trip to the grocery store so the first dinner was easy — paninis. At Schnucks we bought ham, swiss, and really nice olive oil and rosemary bread from La Brea Bakery. There were only slightly scary first-effort homemade pickles, too. What really made the meal (and qualified it for our pantry cleaning) was a pre-Katrina jar of olive relish from Central Grocery in New Orleans. Bordeaux has vintages. Bordeaux ages well in a cool dark place. Olive relish? Well, this jar hasn’t aged at all fortunately. When we removed the seal and opened the jar, the aroma was an immediate transport back to New Orleans.

After our good first effort, the next step was inventory. Just what’s hiding in the dark recesses of our food storage? Our vegetable basket still has a few tomatoes and some garlic from the market. The pantry has parsley garlic linguini and olive oil. Tomorrow will be pasta pomodoro, nice, simple, delicious.

Next was a tour of the freezer. Right away there are homemade tamales made by a Honduran woman living in Southaven. All they need is a gentle steaming and maybe a bit of cheddar and diced onions. Another layer down in the freezer reveals a pork loin. Combined with the masa in the pantry, maybe we could make our own tamales. On second thought, maybe I should just grill the pork and make corn tortillas instead. When one is experimenting with the alchemy of randomness, the experiment should probably be kept as simple as possible. Besides, there’s no lard in the pantry.

Digging down more layers in the freezer, so many layers as to go from archaeology to paleontology, we found a turducken. This one goes so far back that it is from the time before Turduckenus terribilis went extinct and Cajuns had to start deboning and stuffing three different birds to make a substitute. The turducken, it’s history and our experience with this prehistoric example, will have to wait for another entry, assuming we survive.

Squirrels in crisis
Perfect timing for perfect catfish at Taylor Grocery and Restaurant

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