Because I am one of those people, who worked very hard all her young life in America, but now finds that working the 9-5 is simply not possible anymore, I find myself in the ranks of the disabled. Which means that until some Republican sways Congress to obliterate Social Security, I have earned the right to have my hard-earned coin back, when I really do need it. And because piano players don’t generally make a lot of cash, my monthly allotment is, well, let’s just say blessed, appreciated and barely adequate. And believe me, if I told you the things we do without around here, you might think I was writing from some far off undeveloped country, not the US.
Something I learned about myself in the past few years: I have been very wasteful. Nowadays, I use every inch of that veg, one way or another, even to the point where the roommate bottled up some rendered bacon-fat and placed it in the fridge, for hard-times. (When the cupboard is really bare, we can “flavor” the dogs’ food with a little lard, and they are compelled to eat the primarily dry kibble without the usual added embellishment or extras.)
Every month now for about 8 months, roommate Jim has been suffering through/engaged in some sort of financial meltdown. We might be roommates for over 13 years now, but I am not his wife, and he does not discuss or include me in any of his financial dealings. But it doesn’t take a genius to see his monolithic television is absent from the scene. And one tends to notice when the roommate comes asking you for tools, when you just gave him a really cool “Fat Max” Tool Box for his birthday. It’s all highly irregular!
So when dear old Jim turns up broke around every 9th of the month, you start to realize there could be other people eating lard-flavored entree’s before it’s all over with. Let me just say here… my dearest friend Bushra has totally educated me about only consuming that which is halal. In the nation of Islam, true followers will only eat an animal that has been both humanely and spiritually killed (is that possible?) and it is called halal. Also the meat is clean, and the animal was well-taken care of. Not unlike the native American Indians whom we chose to largely ignore and persecute, if not completely destroy their very way of life, All Their Sacred Animals… and Muslims do not eat pork.
I also understand that consuming the flesh of terrified animals, abused and neglected intelligent creatures, is another factor contributing to the rampant disease prevalent in America today. I am living as a huge hypocrite lately, even having bacon in my fridge, much less consuming it. About three years ago, I was a vegetarian, and no meat or milk from an animal would dare cross the threshold of my kitchen. I would just blame it all on Jim. But today, we can blame it all on Larry!
A very clear indication that we’ve reached that middle of the month omg we’re dead broke again place is when the beans come out of the pantry. I admit, I have a pre-conceived collective conditioning that “beans” means poor, and there’s nothing else to eat. So to combat that false idea, I doctor them up with all kinds of good things, when I can. And over the years, I’ve become quite the accomplished pinto bean chef. Before I found out that people were discovering arsenic in the common bags of rice given to the food banks, i.e., the cheaper brands available at the grocery, I was a certified rice lover/addict. If I made up a good-sized pot of rice to go along with those beans, I’d be okay. But somehow finding out that indeed I may have unknowingly and unwillingly consumed arsenic over a period of years, has left me loathe to even think of a bag of rice. Whether it’s completely stupid or not, I just never thought to rinse the rice before cooking it. Who knew? I can guaran-damn-tee you I do now!!!!
But Jim likes cornbread. Who doesn’t, right? I love the stuff. Jim has never asked for rice with his beans and actually much prefers to just have cornbread. But over the years, my recipes for cornbread evolved from Bubba’s super-delicious cast-iron version (which most definitely contained a couple of tbsp.’s of bacon grease) to a semi-whole wheat version made with applesauce (it’s delicious) with little bits of jalapeno mixed in. The evolution of cornbread. Wow.
So in common fashion, today Jim was in the kitchen, heating up the leftover bean concoction I last served him, (a little bit of rinsed rice was added to this batch right at the last), but he was quite distressed at the lack of cornbread. As I was quietly in my room, trying to lay low, and amuse myself, I could hear him next door in the kitchen, talking to me as if I was in there, about what “we” should do about this cornbread problem, or the lack thereof… (ok, you knew I was gonna say that last bit!)
I quickly dispatched the problem by spelling out a simple way to duplicate his precious store-bought mixes, since my pantry had plenty of staples to get the job done. We even had one lone egg left and a little shake left in the bottom of the milk carton. Alarms went off briefly as Jim discovered that there was also no sugar. How much sugar does someone need to put in a cornbread recipe anyway, I asked myself… (another health evolution – no white sugar in this house!)
I went back to the pantry for him, and showed him the container of confectioner’s sugar, which had a bit left in the bottom, (this poison is in my house because one time Jim insisted on having “icing” on cakes, if we were going to make them). In order to stem the tide of this particular culinary meltdown, I told him he could add a little bit of that sugar instead, as it really was exactly the same stuff, just “powdered.” He looked bewildered, and yet somehow enlightened! Good grief!
To make this terribly long story short(er), later on, I drifted into the kitchen to check out his cornbread, and ended up finishing what beans he couldn’t finish, and as he droned on and on about how dry this cornbread must be, since he broke our timer days ago, and inadvertently left his cornbread creation in the oven too long… I examined it, tasted it again, and noticed something, well… “good”? Different than my evolved recipe no doubt, but what was this tastey bit I detected on the crusty edge of the cornbread?
OMG, I thought to myself, as he began to rapidly spill his guts like some long over-due confession. He had taken some of the dogs’ flavor substance, the dreaded non-halal bacon fat from the fridge, and added some (eeeeekkk) to the cornbread. That deviant son of a biscuit! Now he had me eating lard! What next? Is this the way of all poverty-stricken people? Apparently, it was now “our” way.
Suddenly, he began to giggle and actually began to look quite proud of himself. He said, ” Hey, don’t blame me, Blame Larry.” Damn Jim’s stupid “finger-punching” smart phone and all his fancy “Apps.” And damn you Larry! Grow up and get healthy! Don’t put out-dated Paula Deen-esk recipes on an App where some unsuspecting amateur cornbread maker might try to use it! His beautiful and ultra-healthy roommate might accidently and unwittingly take a bite! Has it all come down to this? Damn you, Larry!