Always the same, always satisfying
The upside of all our budgetary belt tightening is that it has literally meant belt tightening. Joe was on the verge of becoming diabetic. He was seriously overweight and his doctor told him firmly that if he didn’t change something he would have diabetes, and all the other serious ailments associated with overweight.
Having an active young border collie for a pet was a good beginning to a new regimen because it has meant that both of us have also had to be more active. When Trace was given to us, we were told that he needed to run five miles a day. And I believe that if he could, he would run twice that distance—every day. We are fortunate to have a wonderfully extensive park nearby with a very large off-leash area that leads to a beach on Lake Washington that is dedicated to dogs.
This means that we have an interesting walk as we enjoy the variety and the antics of all the dogs and their owners or handlers. And of course, Trace gets his necessary workout as he chases the ball endlessly and finally gets a long swim in the lake. He stays clean and he stays fit. Most of all, he’s happy and so are we. And we get the exercise we need.
But in addition to exercise, our whole lifestyle has had to change with this word of caution from the doctor. There was a time, not so long ago, when Joe felt he couldn’t get to sleep unless he had a bowl of cereal before he went to bed. He made covert trips to Baskin-Robbins, or surreptitiously had a biscotti or a sweet roll with his coffee when he went for a break with his friend. Like every dieter, he couldn’t tell me of his lapses because to do so would be admitting to a lack of will power. As for me, I was also concerned about what these treats were doing to our budget.
The first to go were the boxes of cereal. At one time, my pantry looked like Jerry Seinfeld’s cupboard, with myriad boxes lined up for an extensive choice of nighttime comfort food. As for the treats, they could no longer be part of our budget. When we have to count the cost of everything, a treat becomes a special luxury not often indulged. These days, our needs and desires are as simple as our means.
With simplicity comes heightened appreciation. We choose carefully and thoughtfully, realizing that every action has its price. I think about the trips I make during the week, checking the mileage, and try to combine errands when I can. We’re more careful about turning lights on or off, or letting the water run unnecessarily. This new consciousness has as much to do with minimizing our carbon footprint as it has to do with saving money. I recycle plastic bags because I feel awful about throwing them away as I visualize the landfill. I reuse and recycle because that’s the way I was brought up.
Kim, my daughter, lives this way because that is the way she was brought up as well. She learned to knit and sew because it was fun, but she also recognizes the value in such skills. As an artist, she expresses herself in mixed media—which she describes as coming from found objects. She mends, rather than throwing away. She makes from scratch because it is not only cheaper, but she knows all the ingredients. These skills are learned partly from necessity, but also for the value of living more simply, more responsibly.
With our interconnectedness and the tools of knowledge at our fingertips, what we don’t know we can find out. If we need help, a Google search will yield an answer. I used to have a little handbook of the Birds of North America. It was a handy little book, but I never had it where I needed it. As I looked out my window the other day, I spotted a little bird I had never seen before, trotting along the top of the fence. I was at my computer so I Googled Birds of Washington and click, there they all were, including the Spotted Towhee, the little bird on our fence.
If I want to buy local meat, I can find it from a Google search. If I want to avoid the big Agribusiness operations in making buying choices, I can also see the brand names I want to avoid. Buying organic produce is still more costly, but I can have an organic garden that only costs the price of seed, a few tomato starts and organic compost. The bounty from this garden will mean that I don’t buy any produce at all until near Thanksgiving—if then if our hoop house does its job of extending the growing season.
The meal both of us look forward to more than any other is also the same every morning. I no longer even remember what we had for breakfast before this ritualized standard we now have every day.
In winter, we have the sunshine of a Texas ruby red grapefruit—a lapse, I know, from carbon footprint consciousness. But, oh my! It is so very good! I love eggs in any form, though scrambled eggs are not my favorite. So I end up making two breakfasts, but the whole process only takes ten minutes. Joe has one scrambled egg and two breakfast turkey sausages, with a piece of toast from one of the baguettes I made, with a little light margarine and a small spoonful of the marmalade.
And this is where we part ways. My father always had the same lunch, which he always ate alone. I think he must have needed this time for reflection and as a pause to break the day in two. Over time, I have adapted his ritual lunch to have it become my way of starting the day.
In a small sauté pan, I drizzle a scant teaspoon of olive oil. With the heat on medium, I add a chopped slice of onion and half of a chopped tomato.
I sprinkle this with a dash of herbs de Provence,
crack an egg in the center, turn the heat to low simmer, sprinkle on a few shakes of sea salt and cracked pepper and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. I cover the pan and take it off the burner in two minutes. Meantime, Joe’s links are browning, and the toast is happening.
In the last thirty seconds, his scrambled egg gets cooked and we have our breakfast.
That and a steaming cup of coffee begin my day on a high note.
I can sop up the runny egg and tomato with my toast and I feel as if I might be in Paris. And Joe says, “Yum. That was so good. My favorite meal of the day.”