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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take your quarter to Discomart: my first lesson in frugal cooking

When I was a college student I had one dish in my repertoire:eggplant parmesan, a time-consuming messy affair. Like most of my fellow students, I moved off campus after one year. Housing was unbelievably cheap in those days (I paid about 40/month) and we had a budget of about $5/week for food. We ate terribly! None of us knew how to cook, so we relied on eggs and hamburger. There was one fellow my year, who now is a famous cook and author, particularly noted for barbeque; even then his cooking was acclaimed…sadly, I didn’t know him well and so was never invited to dinner.

I well remember my first lesson in frugal cooking. My roommate Jennifer was invited to Peter’s house for dinner. I was invited to tag along. I didn’t know Peter, but he was a charming man, who had come over from England. One of my previous roommates, Jane, was a music major and had mentioned that Peter was an incredible composer. For dinner, he served a delicious chicken stew. We asked how he made it and he said, “Take your quarter to Discomart”—so we did. Chicken backs and necks were (get this!) 9 cents a lb. We bought 25 cents worth. Added some water. Cooked. AND then, in our student poverty, we carefully picked off all the meat we could from the necks and backs. Then we added carrots and celery and voila: dinner!

What a wonderful lesson.

Needless to say in the age of google I had to check out the current lives of the participants in this story: Roommate Jennifer (now a bigwig in biotech firm?); Peter (now composer at MIT!). I would guess that neither remembers that frugal dinner.

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