Sunday, December 15, 2013

Food Stamp Gourmet

You're on a ridiculously tight food budget. Say, you've been on food stamps for half a year because your income dropped to below the amount you pay in rent (just hypothetically). And say your food stamp benefits have been cut by about 10% because the state found out about the $125 stipend you collect four times a year (which doesn't quite cover the overdraft in your checking account after paying the rent). How do you make mealtimes interesting?

Well, not to make a meal of it (ha, ha), you combine cheapo store-brand boxed dinners with crappy generic processed-meat products in creative ways.

The other day, I decided to try cutting up a couple of jumbo Polish sausage links (which I have been dying to get rid of) into a pan of macaroni and cheese (the type with the sauce already mixed in a foil-and-plastic pouch). Results: dismal. Halfway through my dinner, I realized that I didn't like the taste of Polish sausage enough to justify letting it dominate the so-called cheddar flavor of the sauce. Desperate for something to off-set the Polish-sausageness of the dish, I ended up stirring in several spoonfuls of sauerkraut (a jar of which turns out to be a necessary fixture in my refrigerator). Though this improved things a bit, I don't think the experiment was a success.

Today I was discouraged to find lots of Polish sausage still in my fridge. A zip-lock baggy full of the links, even. Why do there seem to be more of them in there every time I look? Is this some kind of perverse recap of the miracle of Zarephath?

Chastened by my recent mac-and-kielbasa debacle, I decided to try cutting up a couple of the links into a pan of instant cornbread stuffing. And surprise! This time it worked! Who would have thought that a preparation mostly of stale bread soaked in water would out-flavor a meat byproduct that had already proven too pungent for mac-and-cheese? I suppose one must never underestimate the power of sage and related spices, combined to excess as they generally are in box dinners of this sort. The flavors balanced perfectly... or as close to that as prevailing conditions allowed.

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