Archives for posts with tag: eating

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It’s really funny how as I get older, certain cooking techniques just seem to come more naturally. I don’t know where I gleaned some of the information that I apply to my cooking; quite possibly from Food Network, mainly because it’s the channel I watch the most, by far.

Used to be I couldn’t make macaroni and cheese without a full-blown, step by step recipe. I recall using an Alton Brown recipe that required me to temper an egg into the cheese sauce. After all that trouble, the mac & cheese sucked.

Now I know how make a killer mac & cheese with one hand tied. Ditto with creamed spinach, and now, gravy.

I can remember the first time I had to make gravy. I had just moved to Arkansas to live with a home-town fellow who was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base. We were having a couple over for dinner, and I had no clue how to make gravy.

The wife, a good old southern gal, was kind enough to help me. The final product tasted fine, but was so thick, it didn’t really pour. You sort of had to plop dollops of it onto your plate.

As years passed I stuck to either the canned version,  or the stuff in the envelopes that you mix with water. In most cases it was just easier and a real time saver. I mean, it was just gravy after all.

I’m not sure what clicked in me a year or two ago. Perhaps it was from when my sister cooked Thanksgiving for us, and her gravy rocked. she had left a huge container of pan drippings in my freezer, and one evening I decided to use it to make gravy.

I think this is where all those years of watching “Chopped,” “Barefoot Contessa” and Triple D payed off. I sautéed some onions and celery, made a roux, whisked in the stock/drippings and seasoned to taste. A drop or two of Kitchen Bouquet and viola! I had a really good gravy.

For a while my daughter liked her roasted chicken served with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. But not any longer. She knows mom’s gravy is killer – one that makes a respectable pool in her mashed potatoes.

Thanks to Food Network, I guess I’m actually getting wiser as I get older…

 

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Last week I published a post giving my review of the new Wegman’s grocery store that opened in town. I mentioned how they carried Rao’s pasta sauce, which I never buy because it’s way too expensive. After reading that, my friend John told me in no uncertain terms that I had to try it…that it really is that good.

So I tried it. While at the store, I saw the Rao’s jars on the shelf, saw the sale sign below it ($6.99!) I figured it was meant to be. I decided to pair it with cheese ravioli as opposed to pasta, because cheese ravioli has always been a favorite of mine.

Let me tell you, my friend is no liar. This sauce was GOOD. I mean wipe your plate with a hunk of bread good. I’ve never been a big fan of sweet sauces…brands like Prego and Ragu gross me out. But Rao’s had a flavor that was right up my alley.

In short, my humble bowl of ravioli did not taste like I made it at home. It tasted like something I would have gotten at a restaurant. It was really that good.

Sigh.

How am I ever going to be able to pass a jar of Rao’s by after this? How can I ever grab a jar of Classico again, knowing there is something so much better, and 3 times as expensive, on the shelf to the left?

I guess Rao’s will have to be my special occasion sauce. My “I just got paid” sauce. My Christmas bonus sauce. My “I won the Powerball” sauce.

I’m just so glad I still have 3/4 of a jar left at home.

cracked-egg

Everybody on the planet has made scrambled eggs before…well except my daughter. I must have made them a thousand times, in several different ways. Beaten fine, beaten rough, adding milk, adding water.

I had a cousin in Czechoslovakia who would pour the beaten eggs in to a pot of hot oil…he spun them around with a fork and voila! Very oily scrambled eggs. I didn’t care for that method.

Yesterday, on Pinterest of all places, I was led to a blog post that promised the best scrambled eggs ever. I was curious to see the method behind these superior scrambles, so I watched the video. It was a Gordon Ramsay video…okay, I kind of dig him. I can’t stomach “Hell’s Kitchen” but I love “Master Chef.”

His method, without all the bells and whistles, was as follows:

Crack two eggs in a pot…not a skillet…a pot, along with a nob of butter. Yes, a nob – how cute. Put the heat on high, and with a spatula, stir the eggs over the heat. Then, take them off the heat, but continue to stir. Repeat this on the heat, off the heat cooking, while always stirring, until the eggs are done. Season only after the eggs are done.

Now, here is where I differed from his recipe. I didn’t add creme fraiche because I don’t have any. I also cooked mine a tad longer because I think wet, loose eggs are disgusting. And I didn’t add chives…again, didn’t have any.

Those things aside, I have to tell you…these were the best, most amazing scrambled eggs I ever had. They were actually creamy – almost how eggs are in a quiche. I can’t wait to make them for my family.

My husband should love this method, because it cuts down on dishes. Now I don’t have to use a bowl and a whisk to scramble the eggs before adding them to the pan.

If you’re interested, I’ve posted the video below. Happy scrambling!

Everyone can remember foods they loved as a kid, but can’t stomach the thought of eating now. Fluffernutter sandwiches come to mind, as do tuna fish and baloney. But there are some foods that I was never quite able to shake my love for.

GAOCB.jpgPickles: My mom nicknamed me Pickle Annie when I was a kid because I could tear through most of a jar of dill pickle spears in one sitting, along with drinking half the juice.  I don’t know what it is, but I adore pickles in almost every form except the bread and butter variety. I find a sweet pickle repulsive.

And I like any and all brands. There are times I am more partial to Claussen, and then other times, I need Vlasic or Mt. Olive varieties. But I don’t drink the juice anymore…my youngest daughter does that now!

HashCorned Beef Hash: One of my favorite breakfast choices of all time is Hash. But it’s terrible for you, so I mainly avoid it.

My first memories of hash is having it for dinner. My mom would cut both ends of the can off, push out the hash, cut it into slabs and fry it up. I guess back then two cans of hash was a way to feed a family of six cheaply. To this day I don’t know how she managed to keep the hash in individual patties, but she did.

If we are in a diner for breakfast and hash is on the menu, I will almost always order it. And I have to admit, every now and then I cannot resist reaching up for a can at the grocery store to make for Sunday breakfast. I’ll fry it to within an inch of it’s life and plop an over easy egg on top.

Doritos2000sDoritos: After school my sisters and I would demolish a bag of Doritos along with a two liter bottle of Diet Pepsi. We’d watch General Hospital and Match Game while licking orange dust off our fingers.

If I buy a bag of Doritos for a party or company, I find myself repeatedly reaching into the bowl. And if my kids have a bag open, I manage to find a reason to visit them so I can grab a handful.

I don’t know how Lay’s coined the slogan “you can’t eat just one” because that’s how I feel about Doritos.

spaghettios_sizedSpaghettios with Meatballs: Okay, this one is really embarrassing because there is no way to justify my liking of this food as an adult except for that it’s so utterly comforting for me.

When I was in Kindergarten, I would come home from my half day at school and eat a bowl of Spagettios with Meatballs and watch Underdog. But it had to be the kind with the meatballs because the plain kind had a sauce that was too sweet. For some reason the meatball version had a sauce that was zestier.

But I wouldn’t touch the kind with the little hotdog pieces ’cause that’s just gross.

If I’m in a real rush I will grab a can of Spaghettios with Meatballs for lunch at work…but I bury the can in the garbage and cringe if anyone actually sees me eating it.

28556Salami: We always had a package of Oscar Mayer hard salami in the fridge growing up, and that yellow package was my go-to food after a late night at the bar. I’d peel off 6 or 7 slices, slap them between two pieces of Wonder bread, and watch TV before going to bed.

I stopped buying the Oscar Mayer brand long ago, but I still love getting it cut at the deli counter. I remember one deli guy at the Grand Union supermarket by my house up in Jersey would slice it on the bias, so the slices were oblong rather than round. Mmmmmm – those were the days. I still enjoy a good salami sandwich from time to time…super thin, piled high and dry on rye. For some reason I don’t use any condiments on salami.

What are some foods that you never lost your taste for?

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My doctor at the free clinic suggested to me that I visit their nutritionist. I was hesitant, only because the last nutritionist I visited years ago was a real bitch.

She was the type who no matter how much weight you lost or no matter how improved your numbers were, it just wasn’t good enough. She never rewarded you with a “job well done!” It was always, “you need to do better” or “You’re not out of the woods.”

Not very motivating, to say the least.

Yesterday’s appointment was very different, but not in a good/improved way. It was just weird.

First off, she was fat, which I wasn’t expecting. I’m not saying that fat people can’t know the basics of healthy eating, but if they can’t practice what they preach, it makes you wonder.

She assumed a lot. I mean a lot. At one point she said, “well I know you don’t like fruit” to which I replied, “I actually like a lot of fruits.” I mean what was her thought process? Was it along the lines of, “gee, this broad’s a fat-ass so I’m guessing she doesn’t like fruit.”

She also assumed that when I made chicken soup from scratch that I used rotissere chicken and canned vegetables. WTF? Do I have “hillbilly” stenciled on my forehead?

She also seemed singularly unimpressed with the fact that I’ve walked over 750 miles so far this year. Usually the doctors are like, “wow, that’s impressive!” Maybe she just assumed I logged all the miles at the Chinese Buffet lines.

She also got annoyed with me. She asked what I weighed when I was 25. I told her I couldn’t remember…maybe 130? Not satisfied, she asked me what size my wedding dress was. Who the hell remembers that? Then she mentioned to her assistant that I might be in denial because EVERYONE knows what size their wedding dress was. Sorry honey, that was over 20 years ago…I just know I don’t fit in it now.

I also got lectured for not having been administered a gestational diabetes test when I was pregnant – exsqueezeme? That was 13 years ago!

What a nut!

And her eating advice? I found it to be suspect, to say the least. She wanted me to eat “diet” versions of everything….yogurt, bread…isn’t that stuff supposed to be worse for you? She actually suggested that eating Mrs. Paul’s breaded fish filets was a good choice for dinner. She also mentioned little to nothing about exercise.

The only advice I’m going to heed from her is to cut down my salt intake. The rest of it, I know how to do with one hand tied. I just have a hard time doing it for longer than a few months, especially when you stop seeing results.

I’m still trying to reach my goal of 1,000 miles walked by December 31st, 2015 – but now I’m adding dropping some more lbs into the mix.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry….”

for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

THE FOOD

If I can only have one food for my last dinner it would be White Castles. If I can have two foods, I’d set my table with White Castles and Hot Dog’s from Hiram’s. If I can have three foods, I’d add an extra large cheese pizza from Villa Nova.

So why all the junk food?

Simply because these are foods that never let me down. They are good no matter when I get them – each and every time. Have you ever gone to a restaurant, ordered and paid good money for your favorite dish, only to have it just be so-so? This is my last meal! I can’t risk it!

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White Castles: I was weaned on these puppies. Back when I was a wee lass, murder burgers were like 15¢ each – my dad could feed the whole family for a few bucks. Eating these things is primal – almost instictive for me. It’s a part of my DNA.

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Hiram’s Hot Dogs: Another favorite spot from my childhood – dogs that are deep fried – so they rip a little. The only way to eat them for me is with mustard and maybe a little kraut. Add an order of fries and a cold Schlitz on tap. God damn this post is making me hungry.

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Villa Nova Pizza: About 5 or so years ago, a New York Style Pizza joint opened up in a small strip mall near our house. My husband and I, both from northern Jersey, had quite a few times fallen victim to the Virginia version of New York Style Pizza…slightly better than Domino’s but not even close to anything we got up in the Tri-State area.

Then we tried Villa Nova and thought it as good as our old pizza place back in Jersey, Donna’s Pizza. That is saying a lot. Last year we went back up to Jersey and had a slice of Donna’s pizza. You know what?

Villa Nova’s is better. The pizza is super thin, and when you take a bite, the cheese, sauce and spices comingle in my mouth and make a spot in the back of my throat almost tingle.

Yeah, it’s that good.

THE FOLKS

Duh, I’d eat with my family. If it was the last day on earth and teleportation was magically possible, I’d have my WHOLE family there…..brother, sisters, neices and nephews, and Pop and Gabi.

Although if Gabi is there I guess I’d have to add her pork and dumplings to the dinner table.

THE CHATTER

My family? We’d reminisce until the end came. We all grew up in the same hometown – husbands and wives alike, so we all share most of the same memories and experiences. It’s really a great thing.

And my brother and sisters and I would have to sing “The Last Long Mile” on more time with Pop.

THE SETTING

Hands down, we’d have to be at my dad’s house in Florida. Of course we can’t get any of the aforementioned foods in Florida, but if we can all teleport, then I’m sure someone could grab the food.

We’d play volleyball in the pool, look at old slides and then watch one final sunset at Flagler Beach.

Yeah, it would be an okay way to go.

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Last week my girls and I went to lunch at this new place in town called Zinburger. It’s a wine & burger joint, and as we were tired of turning to fast food for lunch, we thought we’d give it a try. It was a little pricey—$10 for a burger that comes with nothing more than a few pickle chips. Any sides were extra, so I could see this bill quickly adding up to be a real wallet buster.

And it was. 1 burger, a bowl of chili, an order of fries and a milkshake came to $40.00 after the tip. I am not accustomed to paying $40.00 for lunch when all I got was a bowl of chili – but, it was good. The food was all super good. My daughter’s burger was one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, and my chili, although initially rather cold (and had to be sent back), was also very good. The milkshake? Little tiny sips of sin.

So while I worried over why I paid $40 for lunch for the rest of the afternoon, the soothing balm was that at least the food was really good, and somewhat worth the expense.

But I’m finding this to be the exception and not the rule.

Saturday while out shopping hubby decided he wanted to lunch at a local deli called Little John’s. While you can order a turkey on rye they are better known for their sandwich collaborations, my husband’s favorite being the Five Easy Pieces sandwich (ham & turkey breast with 1000 island, herb mayo, home made cole slaw, bacon and melted Muenster cheese on grilled pumpernickel).

I wasn’t too jazzed to go there. The last time I’d been they had really messed up my sandwich, and it literally left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was the bread badly burned, but the sandwich, in a to-go container, became very soggy. A sandwich that is simultaneously wet and burned is disgusting. After one bite I made my husband drive me back so I could return it. But I figured anyone could have one bad day, and they deserved a second chance.

We ordered….2 sandwiches and two soup & half sandwich combos, along with 2 drinks. I got a Reuben thinking that would be pretty hard to mess up. The gal rang us up and the total? $36.78…really? For sandwiches? 

As I glanced at the menu board I realized that each sandwich cost between $7 & $8. For close to the same price Little John’s charges for their very average sized sandwich, we could have gotten giant subs at Jersey Mike’s and had leftovers. When I realize stuff like that I go crazy. But, the money was spent, so we sat down to eat.

I picked up my Reuben and tried to take a bite. The sandwich was soggy. Again. After one bite it began to fall apart. The corned beef was covered in now melted 1000 island dressing, making the sandwich slimy and extremely unappetizing. At this point I would need to eat it with a knife and fork – there was no way to handle this mess of a sandwich.

SammichI glared at hubby, sheepishly enjoying his sandwich, and said, “strike two!” He asked if I wanted them to make me a new one, and I told him to just return it – I’d rather have my $7.95 back. I was mad. I hadn’t wanted to come here, and my sandwich…my expensive sandwich…was disgusting. I went to the ladies room while hubby dealt with the manager.

I heard him talking to the guy. He told him about my previous visit and how this was strike two, but also told the guy how much he loved their food. A little good cop/bad cop. I went back to my seat and stared at the empty table in front of me. At least the iced tea was good.

But that was about it. The girls’ chicken noodle soup was horrible. It had very little broth, which we consider to be the heart of any good soup, and the noodles were thick and mushy. Nobody finished their lunch except hubby.

SoupBut I will say one good thing about Little John’s. The manager cared. Right as we were clearing up and getting ready to leave, he handed me a freshly and very carefully made Reuben. On the house.

And it was good. $7.95 good? No, but I appreciated the effort.

Will I go back? No way. Little John’s has proven to me that they don’t take the time to make a quality sandwich. They throw it together and hope you won’t notice. I expect crap like that from McDonalds…when you get a 79¢ lop-sided burger with mustard oozing out the side you think…well, it’s only a 79¢ burger. But to pay close to $8 for a sandwich that can’t withstand the first bite?

Eff that shit.

 

 

table n onion

I realized this past weekend that certain folks out there don’t understand how things work in this world.

For instance, if you are looking for a parking spot at the grocery store, and you see someone backing out of their space, you stop your car and put on your blinker. This signifies to the entire world that you have claimed that spot once it has opened up. Anyone who takes that spot from you is a d-bag.

Plain and simple.

Something of a similar nature happened to us at King’s Dominion on Saturday. I almost always pack a lunch when we go there – a burger with fries is over $15 in the park, and it’s not even very good. I also park right next to the small pavilion where they have 6 picnic tables, so it’s easy for us to get the stuff from the car to the table.

Yeah, I got this lunch thing down.

So, after a morning of coasters and carousels, we were all ready to head to the car and chow down on our sandwiches. The last time we were there we could not get a table, and we had to eat out of the back of our car – but it was only three of us then. This time we had friends along, and we really needed a table.

I walked around the pavilion and surveyed what stages of luncheon-ness the groups occupying the tables were at. Having spotted folks who had eaten their sandwiches and were now just picking at chips, I asked if they were going to be leaving soon. They said yes, that they were just about to clean up their stuff. I said great, and put my water and my bag down on the table. I told the kids to stand by and stand watch.

I walked to the car to get our cooler and noticed a teenage girl looking daggers at me. Oh well, teens are known for being bitchy. When I turned to head back to the table, there was a man sitting there.

Hmmm.

He was cutting an onion on a paper plate using a Johnny-on-the-go pocket knife. I approached him and said, “excuse me, but I had my stuff here.”

He glanced at me and said, “Yes, well we’ve been waiting over there a long time for a table to open up, and this one is ours. But thank you!”

Seriously? What is this, a line at the bank where you wait for the next available cashier? That’s not how it works, bub – not in the world of parking spots and picnic tables.

See, I had secured that table – secured it by engaging in coversation with the previous occupants – sealing the deal if you will. All this dork did was sit and wait. That doesn’t cut it in my book.

And I didn’t like the way he had spoken to me. He had told me his side and dismissed me – like, nothing further needs to be said, so piss off. The only thing that kept me from sitting down and refusing to move was the fact that the table right next to us opened up. Otherwise, I would have dug my heels in.

But I was still pissed and so were my kids. I mean, who muscles in and steals a table from two 12-year old girls? I mumbled “douchebag” and walked away to set up our lunch.

He sat there cutting his onion, and taking out bags of cold cuts from his cooler. His dumpy wife and snarky kids came over and sat down. Oh, and the bitchy teen? One of his. No wonder she gave me the cold stare – I’d “stolen” their table.

So while we ate, we picked them apart. We laughed at how idiotic it was to sit and cut an onion at a picnic table – why not cut it at home and put it in a ziploc or some tupperware? Or better yet, skip the onion. Who wants volcano breath while you’re waiting in line to ride the volcano?

My youngest daughter was really mad. I told her it really didn’t matter because we’d gotten a table anyway with no further waiting, but she was still sore that she’d been bullied out of her spot by a middle aged man in too-high shorts and knee socks. She’s just like her dad…

Had hubby been there, there would have been no turning the other cheek. No all’s well that ends well. There would have been shouting and name calling, and stares, and shaking of heads.

So during lunch I schooled the kids on the proper etiquette for commandeering a table, whether at the mall or in the King’s Dominion parking lot lunch pavilion – and I told them loud enough for him to hear.  I also told them not to let grown men push you around when you are in the right.

Oh, and the most important advice? Cut your freakin’ onions at home.

MomThe other day I stood in the meat section staring at the packages of cellophane-wrapped meats and could not figure out what I wanted to cook for dinner. Steak? Too expensive. Pork? Nobody really likes it but me. Chicken? We had that last night. Pasta? I can’t eat that right now, and again, nobody really likes it but me.

Why oh why do I have to be saddled with this chore of cooking dinner? I thought of my husband, the lucky bastard who just gets to come home and eat. He doesn’t have to worry about what to make or the work involved in making it, and the crushing blow when it doesn’t come out as planned. Yeah, I’m not the best cook on the planet.

My mom was a great cook, though. Every night there was a complete, hot meal on the table, and it was always something different. Sure, we had our family favorites that were repeated over and over again. My mom made a killer pot roast. I’d bust a gut eating piles of mashed potatoes smothered in the gravy that came with the roast. And her spaghetti sauce was out of this world and something I’ve never been able to replicate.

This “what to make” conundrum at the market made me think back to my own dinner table growing up, and how vastly it differs from the one I’ve provided my children with. I have to admit, this is one of the times I had it better.

For one, my family ate together. We had assigned seating, same spot for each child every night. I sat on a bench next to my dad which had its good and bad points. I’d occasionally  get a sip of his beer (good point!), but if you didn’t like what we had for dinner, there was no hiding the fact that you didn’t really eat much. He watched my plate like a hawk.

We also had a small TV in the kitchen, but the only thing that was allowed to be played was the news. Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel joined our family each night during dinner – and Warner Wolf with sports, at which point my brother would hush everyone at the table. God forbid he missed “Let’s go to the videotape!”

Another thing my folks did right? My mother made a dinner. Period. If you didn’t like it? Tough titties. There were meals served in my house that I absolutely despised. One of them was tenderloin. My mom made it in a pressure cooker, so when I’d come home and see that steamy pot with the little thing-a-ma-jig bobbing on top, I knew I was in for a gruesome dinner. The meat was pink, fatty, salty and stringy. I’d trim away the fat, and try to force down the meat, but eagle-eye dad would see the pile of fat and yell at me. He would say, “A little fat is good for you! Eat it!”

This fight would also ensue when we had stew. I love stew now, but as a kid I hated it. Maybe it was because my plate invariably got the chunks of meat that were sinewy and fatty. In any case on most stew nights I’d have a few large chunks of fatty meat and potatoes (which I also didn’t care for in stew for some reason) left on my plate. When I flat out refused to eat them, you got the pleasure of sitting at the table until they were eaten.

Yes, I could relate to that scene in Mommie Dearest with the steak. There were many nights I’d watch the dinner dishes being washed, while I sat in my place staring at dried chunks of cold, fatty meat. I’d just sit there…in a dark kitchen lit only by the dim bulb on the stove, until my mother would finally pardon me from my formica topped prison and send me to bed.

I think not trying to please everyone made cooking easier for my mom, and our dinner table had a wide variety of food placed upon it. We ate very little fish, because at the time, only my dad liked it. Sometimes mom would make him some fish, and the rest of us ate something else – those were nights I slid a little further down the bench to escape the smell of dad’s dinner. At least once a month we ate sausages from a Czech butcher my dad would visit in Astoria, NY.

There were hot summer nights when we would eat a cold supper of deli meat, wrapped in white butcher’s paper, sliced paper thin, on crusty rye bread with a side potato or macaroni salad. When we were older, Wednesday nights were for Chinese food that dad would bring home from some joint in the city. Man, was that stuff good.

My point is, there was always a meal out on that table every single night. Like it or lump it, dinner is served. I think I need to adopt this attitude. If chicken is on sale, we eat chicken. I don’t care if we had it yesterday, here it is again. Life is short, and I’m wasting too much time pulling my hair out in the meat aisle.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get my family to sit together during dinner – we’ve tried to rectify this wrinkle in our family fabric, but everyone is too used to taking their food and eating it where they are most comfortable. I wonder if this would have happened if we’d had an eat in kitchen?

Mom? If you’re up there watching, I just want to let you know, you did dinner right.

Graben

In my previous post I talked about my daily breakfast during my semester abroad in Vienna. I also made mention of my “meal plan” – a paltry five bucks a day to cover lunch and dinner. Let me tell you, that measly amount forced you to make some very clever choices.

The money came to you in one lump sum each week. A hungry college sophomore with $35 in their hot little hands could lead to disaster, if you weren’t careful. Yes, there would be splurging; perhaps a meal out or a slice of Sacher torte. But the remainder would be squirreled away and spent very wisely. At least for me.

At first we would visit little local eateries, but it was near to impossible to stay within the $5 limit that way. Even eating at McDonald’s took you over your limit. So we had to get creative.

We talked to our director, who spoke to the folks who ran the Pension, and they set us up a makeshift kitchen. This consisted of a hot plate and a few pots, pans and utensils in a room the size of a broom closet. It was on the floor below ours which meant carrying your supplies down one flight and your finished meal back up again. There were two burners for close to 20 students…that kitchen saw lots of action.

With no refrigerators, we began eating mostly rice and pasta. I think I ate close to 17 pounds of rice seasoned with nothing more than soy sauce over those 3 months. After we became weary of dry goods, we figured out a way to keep some cold cuts, cheese & yogurt.

Our windows were of the variety that swung both in and out – there was a set that swung into the room, and a second set that swung out to the street and could be attached to the exterior of the building. Between the two windows was a space about 4 inches deep. That was our fridge.

A trip to the Billa (Vienna’s answer to Food Lion) on Singerstraße could net ham, rolls, rice, yogurt and beer for way less than our $5 limit. We might spend a third of our weekly allowance, but be able to eat 3/4 of our meals from that one shopping excursion. The rest of the money was earmarked for other stuff. Mainly Beer. Most weekends I hung out at this club called “The Atrium” where I drank liters of Pilsner and danced to every song from  “Thriller” and Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long.” Aah, the 80’s…

But I also had to save some of my food money for other things, like shampoo and tampons and film. See, most of the kids that were on the trip with me were from families who could easily afford the journey. Not me – I was a on a strict budget. My dad supplied me with money for my spring break trip to Switzerland, and money to give my relatives when I went to Czechoslovakia after the semester was done.

Somehow I managed to make it stretch. That $35 bucks a week got me 2 not so square meals each day, plus tickets for the subway (when I actually bought one), an occasional würst from the stand outside Steffl’s department store on the Karntnerstraße, and the most wonderful gelato, always hazelnut, that I have ever had in my entire life. I even managed a weekend trip to Rome without having to dip into my savings too much.

When I got home with a surplus of cash, I remember my dad sort of scolding me for not having spent more of the money he had sent me over with. I don’t know, I figured him sending me to Vienna was payment enough – I could rough it a little. It taught me how to economize and stretch a dollar. Plus, I came home an absolute rail.

Not eating will do that to you.