The Daily Palate

My life in food.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Starving Students: Variations on a Theme

"Hello Mom? Could you send me $500? Love you!"
"Mommy? I talked to my sister yesterday and she's overdrawn by $500 and I'm down to $40. We're hungry."
"Hello Mom? Please call, I'm starving."
"Mommy, I burned my mouth and its swollen now. What should I do? Where are you?"
"Mom, I'm overdrawn and ate the last ramen 2 days ago. We already used up the money in the piggy bank to buy boxes of macaroni w/powdered cheese. Call me!"
"Mommy, Stephen bought me some rice & beans and Diana took me to dinner."
"Mom, I took 3 buses to sell my $70 college textbook for $5. They almost didn't take it, I thought I was going to cry. Jason bought me a taco for dinner and so now I can eat breakfast at Wendy's in the airport on my way home. Mom - that was the very best taco I ever ate in my whole life."

When I was finally able to check voicemail after being unreachable by cell for several days, there were approximately 14 variations on the starvation theme from my precious daughters. As I listened to their sad little messages beseeching their mother for money and moral support I envisioned my babies off in the big city, far from home, down to the last dollar for the first time in their lives, and laughed and laughed and laughed. Does that make me a bad person?

Ahhhh - the glory days of youth. A time to discover that peanut butter is expensive. A time to learn that wringing out jeans by hand tears off your skin. A time to eat boiled potatos with salt and no butter. A time for poverty, cheap thrills, and bad beer. While it is true that I was amused by their plight, I am not unsympathetic. I remember the shocking surprise of it all. While life on my own did eliminate the weeknight curfew, it also very nearly eliminated dinner as well.

The little darlings were only a few days from being home, so I rang up and laughed at them each in turn. I promised to be at the airport on time and drive them straight to food. We went to the Eastside Cafe where Mia ate the chicken sandwich and Candice had the fish tacos. One hour later, they were ready for dinner. And so it went over the next few days with the girls dining on mahi mahi w/mango salsa, yellow tomato gazpacho, stuffed spinach and mushroom Mangia pizza, hummus, homefries, picnic feasts, breakfast at Magnolia, until their little cheeks once again held a healthy pink glow.

With full bellies, replenished bank accounts, and new underwear - my daughters have returned to the mean streets. Now they are own their own and life is hard. As a salute to starving college students everywhere, I'll share a couple of my old college standby's.

Mystery Meat w/Rice

1 lb ground meat (cheapest you can find)
1 onion chopped (go for it - have a nice fresh 1013 or Vidalia if your budget allows. you can't deny yourself everything)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (you should consider the store brand)
1 cup rice (no Texamati or even long grain - cheap, short, broken store brand)

Brown ground meat and chopped onions in skillet over medium high fire. Drain fat. Add can of cream of mushroom soup and half can of water. Salt & pepper to taste (no fresh cracked pepper either). Simmer.

Wash rice - this entails putting water in pan with the rice, swishing it around a bit, and pouring out the water. Add two cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil. Add salt (1/4 tsp), reduce flame to simmer, and cover pan. Simmer over low fire 30 minutes.

Serve Mystery Meat over cooked rice. For this to be authentic you have to use cheap ground chuck and no fresh mushrooms. Ditto for sour cream or heavy cream in the sauce.


Top Ramen

Find a quarter. Buy the ramen. Prepare as directed. Eat straight from the pan.

Bon Appetit!

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