The food of champions
Never got around to would be the theme here, if you’re looking for one; too often I never get around to taking a lunch, eating at a proper time, or just eating properly period, as this morning’s sick-day breakfast would attest: the last 5 or 6 pieces of Aplets and Cotlets left over from my Seattle trip. America’s answer to Turkish delights: most certainly the breakfast of champions.
Not that it’s always been this bad, mind you. The irony is that when I could least afford to eat well, I probably nonetheless ate a great deal better than I often do these days. Back in the day, when I was still on my $50-a-week-or-less budget for food and transit, I got by on such slim means with a mostly vegetarian diet, careful meal planning and disciplined weekly grocery trips to the aforementioned TJ’s. Ah, the Sunday night jaunt down to Union Square for a quick shop after church ... It was usually fairly quiet then: nothing close to the literally out-the-door, down-the-sidewalk lines when the store first opened its Manhattan doors.
But more importantly, because of all that planning, my fridge was usually more practically stocked, if less amply so (you can’t really afford to stock a pantry on such an income). Something about the routine of making a daily lunch at home lent itself to remembering little details like the sprouts and avocado slices that transform a simple tuna fish sandwich into a tasty midday meal. Sometimes I even had enough money for a $2-3 potato chip bag that made for a little side crunch for each sandwich that week.
Nowadays, lunch is typically eaten at work, in haste, at all the wrong hours and with almost none of that gracious if inexpensive sense of order and completeness I once enjoyed. Mostly I just nibble random bits of pistachio meats, dried apricots, the occasional chocolate almond cluster, a package or two of string cheese and maybe a serving of yogurt. The only thing that keeps me from having to eat Starbucks breakfast sandwiches every day is that there’s thankfully yet another Trader Joe’s (that would be another theme, clearly) just 8 or so minutes’ walk from my office in North Beach.
All in all, it’s a funny trade-off. On desperate days, I can now afford to walk to the Thai restaurant down the street for a quick meal, without any of the careful budget calculations that once governed whether I could splurge on a $3 latte during a coffee-shop work session, or had to stick with a $1 cup of coffee to justify sitting there and using the free WiFi. I can also occasionally try the pricey special coffee beans Peet’s sometimes roasts in only a handful of batches (though, honestly, I have yet to find a better bean than the $8 bag of organic, fair-trade Peruvian coffee they sell at the Natural Grocery down the street).
None of that expanded purchasing power enables me to brew the lattes that used to be a favorite morning ritual, though; nowadays I usually get up as close to the time my carpool arrives as I can, not always brewing coffee before I leave. All in all, I think I sometimes miss the old days, scrimping or no.
If you’ve been missing the old days of “proper” blogging like I used to do, take heart: I’m now a contributing blogger for Radiant’s blog The Pulse (an art, lit and music blog). Until I confirm if I can simul-post entries or not, I’ll post links here each time there’s a new entry up there. The first one was Friday’s, “Soundtracks to Books, Life and Other Things.”
Don’t forget you can still get a pre-order discount on the book for one more week! Get yours from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.