Do you remember the post where I confessed that I hadn’t paid the correct amount for half a dozen eggs from my local convenience store? Instead of paying the full price for the free range organic eggs I took to the counter, I said nothing when the shop assistant charged me the lesser amount the shop was asking for the cage eggs. At the time, I was waiting for my scholarship payments to start. The last of my money was going towards the purchase of the eggs, so the $2.00 difference I saved was a small, but welcome, reprieve. That extra $2.00 felt like a lucky break exactly when I needed it; the universe was providing, and all that.
Yesterday, I found myself in an almost identical situation to that which I experienced 2 months ago. This time my lack of money, only a few days after receiving my scholarship payment, was attributable to several factors. First, I’ve been paying off couple of outstanding debts—one is a student loan from the University, the other is a demand from the tax department. You cannot argue with these people. Second, I completely forgot that I had to buy more contact lenses, so I hadn’t budgeted for them. $150 later... You get the picture. Finally, in anticipation of saving for white goods, so I can move out of my current flat, where the rent has gone up again, I have probably been a little over-generous in the amount of money I agreed to have direct debited from my bank every fortnight into a savings maximiser account.
On Sunday, I put myself to work in the kitchen, with orders to figure out how I was going to mete out my remaining money into enough meals to last a week and a half. At this point I wondered about all those carbohydrate-free diets that are recommended these days. How credible are carb-free diets in those cultures who build their meals around a foundation of rice or pasta? I remember watching a documentary once where Coca-Cola stated its aim was to supersede tea as the most popular beverage in China. Even the ‘yoof’ who liked Coke laughed at that one! Surely the reaction to the suggestion to limit the consumption of rice or noodles is similar to Coca-Cola’s agenda? The only way I knew I was going to get through to my next scholarship payment was by eating rice: brown rice in salad, arborio in risotto, and basmati to fry up with chopped omelette, spring onions and peas. For variety, I knew I would be eating left over eggplant sauce stirred through penne rigati, and for a special treat I would be making the charmingly named ‘whore’s pasta’ consisting of tinned tuna, anchovies, olives, fresh basil and some slightly-worse-for-being-left-on-the-bench egg tomatoes. The old peasant and vegetarian cultures of the world would provide me with some nutritionally rich and balanced meals using inexpensive ingredients. CSIRO and Sam Neill be damned!
Still on Sunday: I made some cumin and carrot soup, using my last potato. I made enough megadarra (lentils and rice with onions) for five meals, using the last of my brown lentils and onions. I made brown sugar meringues, finally using the four egg whites that have been in the freezer forever. Instead of the usual raspberry oat bran muffins, I made cranberry oat bran muffins, using the last of my frozen cranberries and eggs. I’d had to be particularly creative with the muffins since I didn’t have enough apple sauce, which is the main source of liquid in the muffins. I was inspired to create my very own Cran-Apple Sauce—a strange North American concoction if ever there was one—by throwing the cranberries into a food processor with the apple sauce and a few tablespoons of water. Voila! Cran-Apple Sauce. More than enough to make the required cup of puree.
Since my cooking activity had left my kitchen slightly barer, on Monday after school I stopped into a fruit shop. In my basket I placed three potatoes, two Spanish onions, some dried apricots (a vegetarian ‘hero’ food), four oranges (to assist the absorption of iron and zinc) and a dozen free-range eggs from Tenterfield (Time is a traveller, Tenterfield saddler...). I put my goods on the counter and had a similar conversation with the shop assistant about grocery bags that I had 2 months ago. This time I hadn’t brought my own bag to the shop, so I had to take a plastic one. The assistant offered me a second, separate bag for the eggs, but I said no, they’re fine just sitting on top.
Clearly it’s the ‘bag conversation’ that’s the clincher in distracting the shop assistant from the task at hand, that is, making an honest woman of me by charging the correct amount, charging me at all, for the eggs. This shop assistant told me the total price, and I thought, ‘That’s cheap. Hmmm. Maybe I’m being so careful, I’m being overly generous in rounding up when I’m doing the calculations in my head as I shop, that I’ve completely overestimated the total. I’ve never excelled at maths. Excellent’. Then, when I was sitting on the bus on the way home, I chewed on an apricot and looked at the docket and noticed I hadn’t been charged for the eggs at all.
‘Hmmm. They were supposed to be $4.00’.
‘Hmmm. Now, I can have a coffee at the University tomorrow’.