Oh, August. Between the heat, minor boredom, and a much-needed tune-up for my bike, I am over-budget for my August Extras. Here I present the photographic proof of my spendthrifty ways:
Let’s face it: spending money is fun, and yes, it is a good way to relieve minor boredom, provided it’s not the only strategy employed. In my case, you can see that most of August’s extra money went toward travel and getting my bike fixed, which didn’t leave much room for fun. Fun in the form of a new cookbook, for example.
Here I was inspired by Teena’s continuation of her Gourmet Project. To be honest, I missed out on Gourmet back when the magazine was still in print. I was intimidated by Gourmet, and frankly, I still am. I like really simple food—my favorite way to eat fruits and vegetables is still raw and freshly chopped. I’m also a frugal cook simply because I was raised not to waste anything. Why would you waste perfectly good leftovers or bits and bobs of ingredients? I worry that Gourmet is the antithesis of my frugal, simple upbringing: it’s excess for the sake of hedonic pleasure. And yet…I think I still have a lot to learn in the kitchen. I could stand to pay more attention to detail, to take more risks, to move outside my comfort zone. I was talking to my friend Daine earlier this summer, and he said to me, “Your recipes are good, but I always think to myself, ‘This needs more flavor!’” By “flavor,” he specifically meant fat, and it's true: Daine is far more liberal with the fat and sugar than I am. But his words made me think about how sometimes, I settle for bland food because I’m just too tired to think about more exciting seasonings.
And then there’s Matt, who poked gentle fun at me for not following recipes as written. He certainly had a point. I’m hoping that Gourmet Today will, if I let it, teach me some new tricks. It’s funny how in the lab, I have no problem following protocols to the letter, but in the kitchen, I am much flakier. There is probably much to be learned from following recipes with a pedigree as distinguished as Gourmet. We shall see!
Speaking of kitchens, having my own mint plant has been a longtime dream of mine, and you can see it’s now come true! My plant is healthier than this photo suggests; I plucked that yellow-and-brown leaf after taking this photo. I bought this pretty yellow pot because the mint needed something roomier. (The mint was a gift from my friend and colleague Christopher, who cultivates a very productive backyard garden.)
Almond flour! I heart almond flour and finally decided it was time to do a serious restocking by ordering four pounds from Amazon so that the price per pound was nine bucks. Of course, after that, my hippie food store was selling it for seven bucks a pound, but oh well. It just goes to show that regret can always be found at a bargain price.
But I don’t regret this purchase, even though it certainly nudged me over my budget for August. I love almond flour for pizza crust, cookies (baked or not), as a crispy topping for baked eggs, and as a general go-to ingredient. I like that it’s more nutritionally dense than grain flours, and I think it’s just a nice change of pace in vegetarian diets, which tend to be heavy on the grains.
Finally, I spruced up the old homestead with some candles from Pier One. I love Pier One’s style and could easily spend way too much money in there on any given day. Fortunately, I’m usually on two wheels for my ride home, so that prevents me from buying too much breakable stuff. I bought this spice-scented candle in anticipation of fall with all its cinnamon-ginger-cozy goodness. For me, home is not complete without a few fragrant candles. The medallion necklace is a fun bonus.
August is shaping up to be a good month for me. I’m running outside regularly. I’m eating well and trying some new things in the kitchen. My work life is productive and moving in a positive direction. I’m certainly not wallowing in depression and vats of ice cream, and I’m keeping an open mind and an open heart about the future. I’m cultivating compassion and trying to choose my behavior, rather than just reacting willy-nilly to things. Spending a little extra money on nesting and my cooking life seems like a very worthwhile investment to me—an investment in the here and now of life.
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PS Check out Holly’s fun post on her startling expenses: “Startling Expenses: Splurging vs. Saving.” It’s a cool post idea, one that I might