The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: Milo

Can I have some more gruel, please?

You know you’re falling on hard times when you start rationing even cabbage, and cutting out a 1/16 part of it for lunch.

Grocery shopping has become challenge as I start to cut out on things that were once deemed nice to have, but are now crossed out out of necessity. I have always been a frugal shopper, but lately I have had to extend how long groceries last in my fridge, thereby reducing the frequency with which I have to go grocery shopping. I now have to try to make two weeks’ worth of groceries last three.

I have resisted the temptation to live on a diet of processed food, even though they are probably cheaper. It’s depressing enough that I don’t have a lot of money, I shouldn’t have to suffer the idea of eating sub-par frozen dinners and the such. Besides, eating unhealthily might eventually lead to health complications that might end up costing me more. A friend who is similarly unemployed tells me that on certain sale days, frozen dinners can cost as little as $1 each, but having never grown up in a culture of microwaving meals as a norm, that idea did not sit well with me.

On average, I manage to rack up about $25 on Asian groceries and about $35 for Western groceries each trip. This $60 usually sufficiently provides me two meals every day, for about two weeks, making it a cost of $4.30 a meal a day, which isn’t bad at all. This $60 now has to last me three weeks.

The following chronicles how my diet has changed in this time of rationing.

Carbohydrates

noodles

The above are two of the cheapest noodles available in the Asian and Western supermarkets I go to.  The Chinese egg noodles on the left cost about 80 cents (the supermarket doesn’t tax!) and the capellini pasta costs about 88 cents before tax. While it seems like the pasta costs only a paltry eight cents more, too little to make a difference, the number of servings I can prepare before I finish each box is hugely different. These noodles are all the carbs that I buy.

I wonder why I always end up using finishing the box of pasta faster than the Asian noodles. I usually finish using the box of pasta after 4-5 meals, whereas the Asian noodles lasts me about 5-6 meals. This is odd because by weight, the pasta is a full pound while the Asian noodles are about 14 ounces. Maybe because the Asian noodles are in cakes and makes it easier to divvy up (one is usually enough, two if you’re really hungry) whereas I usually just eyeball how much pasta to use.

I have also stopped buying bread or pitas or tortillas.

Meats/Proteins

prot

I used to have protein from meat at least one meal a day, or once every two days if I felt like having less meat in my diet. Now, my source of protein comes primarily from eggs, and occasionally I’d be able to have some pork, perhaps twice a week. The one-pound round of pork butt which I made char siew out of in a previous post has been made to last me two to three weeks, by strategically cutting off what I need and freezing the rest.

I have also been substituting meat with tofu, because a pound of it is about a dollar.

Vegetables

veg

This is the above-mentioned 1/16 of a head of cabbage, which I have been painstakingly rationing, since they’re one of the hardiest vegetables to keep in the fridge. Even though a pound of carrots is $1 each, I also have a bag of frozen carrots and peas. However, I reserve the fresh carrots for making stew, and use the frozen ones in pasta and rice dishes. I have stopped buying bell peppers and fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary and thyme.

I love mushrooms, but they’re impossible to keep for extended periods without turning mushy.

Luxuries

snack

Chocolate has been struck off of the list. Today, my friend was kind enough to give me a slab because it was too bitter for her. Thanks goodness I love bitter chocolate.

However, I have been snacking on spoonfuls of peanut butter instead; peanut butter that I bought a long time ago but ran out of bread on which to spread.

I have also been drinking copious amounts of Milo because it tastes so chocolatey.

Flavorants

flav

I used to have flavour bouillons and stock pastes, but ever since I ran out, I’ve been relying on using shallots, onions, garlic and scallions as a replacement. These vegetables are rich in umami, and when burnt in a pot or pan, release a lot of flavour. Buying scallions from Chinatown has been a steal for me, since in Chinatown they’re usually two or three bunches for $1 (approximately 5-6 stalks per bunch!) whereas it might be as expensive as $1 a bunch in Western supermarkets. It’s also $1 for a rope of garlic and a dollar-something for a bag of shallots. Scallions last only about three weeks before they yellow, but onions, shallots and garlic stay good for a really long time, about a month or so.

Lessons from a coffee mug on a rainy evening

miloThis evening, as I was sending out more job applications, I decided to make myself a cup of hot cocoa (technically, I made Milo, which is chocolate malt). After a while, I looked at my mug, and I realised that I could see the reflection of the ceiling lights off of the rim of the mug. I decided to look closer and then I noticed the edge of foam that looked like it was climbing out the side of the mug. Other things I noticed were that where spoon touched the liquid, the area around it was slightly darkened, and that the shadow of the top of the mug formed a neat crescent that bisected the cocoa.

I’ve never stared so hard at a mug of cocoa before, and I reckoned if I could see all these individual layers of detail, I must be able to illustrate them out.

I spent a long time trying to replicate each feature accurately: its colour, its location, its details. But after a while, staring so hard at these features, I started to forget that they were actually part of a mug of cocoa. In my excitement at being able to see fine detail, I forgot what the whole thing was.

Have I been similar in my job search? Although I’m trained in journalism and my speciality is international news, focusing only on getting positions that will land you where you were trained to do might have you forget that what you really want to do is write. Maybe applying for business writing isn’t a bad thing. Maybe writing about technology isn’t an end-all (But heavens forbid you write for the New York Post). What you need to be doing is to be moving, because you (I mean me, this is me speaking in second-person again) are currently being stagnant, and that needs to change.

Like what you teach people in unicycling, “Always keep moving. If you stop, you fall.” I should learn to take my own advice more often.

Persisting in fine-graining my search yielded the above snazzy illustration of my mug, but the hot cocoa turned cold, and became slightly less satisfying on this rainy, rainy evening.