It's now been three days since Eat on $30 ended…and I haven't been able to write a wrap-up or put down my conclusions about the challenge until now. The story of the last two days goes: for us, the challenge ended on Saturday with not so much a bang but a whimper – and that would be me whining. We spent Friday evening (after a trip to Trader Joe's for pasta, sausage, canned tomatoes, and cheap wine) at home enjoying our most luxurious meal of the week – sitting down with protein and a bottle of wine was quite the luxury. Saturday morning, we woke up at 5 am to help out at Mike's company flea market, where I had the OMG of allergy attacks. I sneezed and blew my nose for 4 hours and felt generally horrible. Let's not even talk about the free chicken biscuit I got…which fell in my coffee cup and was deemed too soggy to eat it (but I actually considered it for a second – that's Eat on $30 for you).
The rest of our day was spent at the farmers market and at home readying ourselves for the party Sunday night, climbing up and down ladders, hemming curtains, mopping the loft. Arduous physical work all day…and only eating a piece of bread with butter and leftover lentil soup. The day continued like this until around 10 pm when, after 15 hours of going and doing, I called the challenge. We sulked over to our neighborhood place where I ate the best tasting-most poorly cooked burger ever, washed it down with a glass of red wine, and went to bed. Not exactly the ending I had planned. I was riddled with guilt and felt like a failure for not making it those last two hours...but fatigue trumped guilt in the end. Before our late dinner, we were coming in UNDER budget by about $2.
The next morning…we really didn't eat anything. At all. We were head down getting the loft and all the food ready for folks coming over. For those that didn't know, we had a "break the fast" party Sunday evening…and asked people to donate $10 per person, all the money going to Project Open Hand, which I talked about it a previous post. I was disappointed that more of the Eat on $30 crew wasn't there…but our friends turned out and were so generous with their donations. As people noshed on gravlax crostini, BLT deviled eggs, Mike's famous latkes (rosemary ginger version this time), Jen's insane ginger chewies, and Betty Joan's pumpkin cupcakes…the pitcher we put out for donations began to fill. It was a great evening filled with lots of laughter and good conversation. I had more wine than I did food – neither of us ate much at all Sunday being focused on the party. We have raised – including donations from folks via PayPal that couldn't attend the party – somewhere close to $300 just by having a cocktail party. I'm getting choked up about it now as I did when I made the toast to everyone at the party on Sunday.
Those are the logistics. So what do I have to say about the challenge? I've come out of this week pissed off. Angry. Incredulous. Disappointed. Enthralled. Energized. Motivated. We talked some at the party about how doing this challenge changes you. You don't look at food the same way. You don't shop for groceries the same way. Something in the back of your mind is making you account for what you buy. Not waste food as much. Let me tell you…it doesn't go away. This challenge has inspired a lifestyle change by both Mike and I. Cooking at home more. Saving bones and veggie scraps for stock. We've been good about tallying our budget. It's changed me forever on a personal level…and I'll be doing this challenge again soon.
What about beyond that? I've made it a point to do whatever I can to help give back to the community I live in and focus on hunger issues and charities that deal with them. I'm determined to educate myself – and by association, those around me, about hunger issues on a larger scale. Being a "foodie" is a privilege of the middle to upper class and does not excuse me from knowing about the struggles of the rest of the world. Just because I *can* go into a store and haphazardly throw anything I want into a shopping cart doesn't mean I should…and it doesn't mean others CAN. Ignorance is something I can remedy and I can't choose to ignore it anymore. We folks here in the food world – and especially bloggers – live in a world that few get access to. Let's not forget that as of today, ok?
This challenge would not have been possible without the other bloggers that took part. They've done a really wonderful job about chronicling their experiences, being honest on how it made them feel, and how this week has changed them. There have been many really thoughtful posts and my heart is full because you took the time to do this with me. Please visit their blogs, get involved in the dialogues there and see the changes their making:
Since I said earlier in the week that I'd post my lentil soup recipe, here it is. The photo is definitely from the "looks like crap, tastes like delicious" files. What can I say? You eat a lot of brown food during Eat on $30. This soup is a lighter version of lentil soup than you're used to and could be made year-round.
Lemon and Rosemary Lentil Soup – makes 6 to 8 servings
– In a large stockpot, melt the butter. Add garlic and saute until cooked but not brown – 2 minutes or so. Add lentils, water, chopped rosemary and sprig, lemon juice and the juiced lemon halves, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours – cooking time will vary depending on your lentils. Remove hard rosemary sprig and lemon halves. Once cooked, taste your soup and season again if necessary. If you want your soup thinner, you can add more water or some stock and heat through. You could also puree this soup if you like it that way. I garnished mine with a little Parmesan cheese and chopped green onion. Serve immediately.