11 March 2011

Maple-Bacon Cupcakes and Laotian Laap

I know - I'm about to do the SNAP thing, so I post recipes I probably couldn't make on the program. But I've been ruminating about the situation in which I find myself today, which was part of the reason I waited until the weekend to start the SNAP challenge.

The second Friday of the month is the night my cooking club meets. There is a theme, which is supposed to be a vague suggestion of what to do, and everybody brings enough of something for people to try. January was "Comfort Food" and I made my Aunt Lee's moussaka, which is wonderful stuff. Unfortunately I left the remains at the hostess' house - I hope she liked it!

This month the theme is "The Long March." For a long time the hostess didn't post an essay about the theme, and since March is when maple syrup (and sugar, and candy) is made (hence the text colour today), I figured I would riff on that theme and make
these. Then the essay was posted, and it's all about the three-day walks for cancer and the March of Bataan and Trail of Tears, and the cupcakes seemed too frivolous to me. Luckily the new issue of Food & Wine magazine arrived, with an article on Laotian food, and the Laap seemed more in keeping with the theme.

I've been thinking about how I could participate in the cooking club if I were in SNAP and limited to $3 a day. I would probably do something with rice, and lentils, and vegetables. I couldn't run to the Asian market for lemongrass and cilantro and fresh limes. I probably couldn't afford the ground meat for the recipe, which was on sale this week. Even on sale, the quantity for our group (usually 20-30 persons attend these evenings) worked out to two or three pounds of meat. I also need endives or something like that for serving.

A big pot of rice (I got a two-pound bag for one dollar) with some lentils added, and maybe a couple eggs for a kind of fried rice effect, and a bag of frozen veggies that I've thawed and stirred in, would make something that costs under two dollars and would make a lot. Not fancy, but possible. So I could still participate in the cooking club even on a very restricted budget. For a different theme I could riff on baked french toast, or buy the 99 cents loaf of italian bread (a Friday sale at one grocery) and maybe make some hummus or a similar spread to put on slices. If I had the ability to acquire sugar and flour I could do a simple cooky. We're allowed condiments and spices, but a reasonable amount. I would guess that some of my more specialty items from Penzeys and the like would not be in the cupboard of someone on SNAP, although they might be if I had them before going into the system.

That's something to consider, and which I've had to face when between employments. Having a good pantry is helpful when you don't have much food money. It's one reason I buy extra when I see things on sale: extra cans of soup or beans, extra boxes of pasta, extra bags of beans or rice. Extra condiments such as hot sauce, or vinegar. Extra bags of sugar or flour. But if I'd been thinly employed for a long time, what would be left?

Last night, a group of us from work went to Barcelona, a tapas restaurant and wine bar, for supper. Even without dessert (we were pretty full after sampling most of the tapas menu plus paella plus a few main plates) the tab was about $50 per person. Because most of the people are here from out of town working on a huge deal, someone put it on his corporate card and they will sort out the expenses. Still, in one evening the per-person amount was twice what I will have to live on for a week. And SNAP funds can't be used in restaurants, or for most prepared foods.

For today, I will make the laap.

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