East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Poor Writer’s Dinner

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I was talking with a friend, today, about a book I always liked a lot – Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a classic collection of food writing and other wonders published in ’84 and compiling a selection of thirty-odd years of the writer’s articles on magazines and newspapers.

I was also celebrating the fact that yesterday, for the first time in over six weeks of lockdown, I was able to find eggs at the supermarket.

This led to talking about food, and the fact that I have learned to eat well on a very tight budget, and thiis led to the the idea of a challenge – can I prepare a good simple dinner for two people, spending less than 3.50 euro each, that is 7 euro in total?
Considering that a Margherita pizza is 4.50 and a pack of crisps at the local grocery is 2.50, what could I do?, I was asked.

Well, I said, I’ll show you what I can do…
And this is quite interesting, as my #StoryADayMay from a few days back asked me to compile a list, and give it a meaning. So, here’s to killing tow birds with a stone. This is the Poor Writer’s Dinner.

The Poor Writer’s Dinner

The rules are

  • I have an allowance of 7 euro
  • I can use seasoning and spices at no extra cost
Photo by Modernista Magazine on Pexels.com

So, what I have got is

  • a half Kg bag of dried cereals and pulses mix – 99 cents
  • a pack of sliced white bread – 39 cents
  • a pack of grated Parmesan cheese – 99 cents (it was a special offer)
  • a pack of ten eggs – 1 euro 69
  • a pack of cubed smoked bacon – 1 euro 39
  • two cups of lemon sherbet at 75 cents each

For a grand total of 6 euro and 95.
To this I am adding salt, pepper, rosemary, a drop of oil and one stock cube.

First Course – Rough & Ready Soup

This one’s quite good for a dark and stormy night like … tonight.
Drop a spoonful of oil in a pan, and gently fry the cubed bacon, adding a sprinkling of rosemary. Then add the dried cereals and pulses mix, stir for about a minute, then cover with water (about one litre) and add the stock cube.
A diced onion would also be fine, but we are over budget here.
Cook on a very slow fire for about one hour. Add water if needed. Add pepper and another drop of olive oil before serving.
Actually, a half Kg bag of cereal & pulses mix and 250 gr of bacon can serve three very hungry adults, but hey…

Second Course – The Student’s Frittata

This one’s a classic from my university days – and once again, it’s quite fine on a rough and cold night.
For two persons, toast four slices of bread while you crack and whip six eggs.
Add salt to the eggs. Add two/three spoonfuls of grated Parmesan (or more, according to taste) , add the cubed toasted bread.
Put some oil in a pan, and pour the mix in.
Turn twice.
It would be nice to serve with some salad, but we are on a tight budget.
On the other hand, we saved four eggs and a lot of bread – so a few salad leaves or a grated carrot would still be within our budget limits had we bought smaller packs of eggs and bread.

Dessert – Lemon Sherbet

Serve it directly in the plastic cups. This is especially good to wash away the oil from the fried eggs.

And here you have it – fast cooking, hearty food for a cold rainy night, on a freelance writers’ budget.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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