Rich food, poor food

By Jodi Greenbaum

By Salon Staff
September 15, 2000 11:22PM (UTC)
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After just surviving a similar plight as Jodi Greenbaum's mother, I applaud the recognition that poverty still exists. In a world where the economy is booming, there are still neighbors who do not wear a face of poverty but who indeed wear the struggling heart. I was also blessed with friends and acquaintances that reached out the hand of life, whether it was an ear to hear or a contribution to my rent or telling me to keep the bag of food that our charity group was giving to the local church. I am happy to say I know some very good and generous people in this world who do not make value judgments based upon what you have, but upon who you are.

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Prior to my struggle, I was an organic eater -- no red meat and very little chicken or fish. The ground beef and white flour and sugar recipes reminded me of how quickly my eating habits changed to include whatever food I could put on the table. The ground beef can be substituted with ground turkey if you catch it on a half-price sale.

Thank you for your memoirs, Jodi. How sweet to be reminded of a true and authentic value system.

-- Peggy Lessard

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I'm glad to know I'm not the only one whose love of good food and cooking was born out of poverty. My grandmother was a Depression-era ranch cook in Wyoming. As a result, my urban childhood was fed by her homemade pies, cakes and breads, and topped with crabapple jelly made from crabapples my brother and I gathered from the trees that grew just down the block. My first year out of school, my wife and I lived mostly on what I could make as a grill cook, which wasn't much. I made my own bread and learned dozens of recipes for dried beans and rice. Even though we once bought two weeks of groceries with $4.15, we ate well and were happy.

There must be enough of us out there that we could easily fill a book with recipes for meals that cost less than $2. Of course, those who would benefit the most from the recipes wouldn't have the extra cash to buy the cookbook, but there's a way around it. Bind two versions of the book, the expensive version with beautiful pictures, a cloth binding and glossy paper, targeted at the voluntary simplicity crowd, and a cheap paperback version to be sold (or even better, given away) at food pantries and food stamp offices across the country. The profits from the first can fund the second. How about it? Any publishers interested in a worthwhile project?

-- Michael Terry

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My daughters thought that spaghetti with warm milk and a dab of margarine poured over was a treat. Now that they are grown women, they still do. If you are poor, take the time to cook. Stay away from anything that is pre-done. Make vegetable soup -- veggies are so cheap. Use bouillon. Cook a chicken, use the broth, make dumplings. Learn how. Make cornbread. I am 70 years old now, and don't have to watch my pennies any more -- but I could still feed a family of four for under $20 a week if I had to.

-- Lucille Farmer

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"Why are there no recipes for what to cook when you have nothing at all?"

See "How to Cook a Wolf" (the one that's at the door) by M.F.K. Fisher.

-- Cliff Barney

I can relate only too well to Jodi Greenbaum's article on feeding one's family when one has nothing. I lived for a few years with my two oldest children during the '70s on a part-time job as a waitress. I spent what money I had on an apartment in a decent neighborhood and the babysitter who took care of the kids. I learned the skill of "Dumpster diving" and discovered that our very affluent society would rather throw away usable food than give it to a soup kitchen. I became the scavenger for several people in my same circumstances. We learned that by sharing what no one else wanted, we could get by and could take care of our children.

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Today I am in a whole different world. I have attended and graduated from college, worked in the high-tech industry and bought a home. I have raised five children. I hope that none of them take their lives for granted, but I figure most of them do. They never had to suffer through their experience with poverty. They were provided for even though to the outside world, we had little or nothing coming in. The clothes that I made my kids out of other people's castoffs looked new. The casseroles I made out of rice and beans and cheese that came from "commodity day" handouts were garnished with chives that I picked in the park and fresh tomatoes that a neighbor offered me for canning hers. We were poor. But I don't think my kids ever noticed.

-- Deborah Greymoon


Salon Staff

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