Desperation Samba

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the week before the week before vacation is the worst week of the entire year. I can't put my clothes in the suitcase, because I haven't changed my mind about what I want to pack enough times yet. I can't really switch to autopilot at work, because there are still projects and deadlines that need to be met before I go. And I can't really go grocery shopping, because if I do, and we don't eat every. single. thing. in the house before we leave, then you just know that while we're away we'll have a major electrical storm and my house will be without power for 4 days and the basement will flood and the toilet will overflow and everything in the fridge and the freezer will spoil and we'll get rats and bugs and squatters and looting and our home will be condemned and we'll have to live in our cars or even worse -- WE'LL NEED TO MOVE IN WITH MY MOTHER.

So this week we're doing what I like to call the "desperation samba," a very carefully choreographed dance that involves cleaning out the current provisions and making meals out what basically amounts to random crap in my freezer and cupboards. Mysterious baggies of ground meat. Baked beans of unverifiable provenance. Canned soup out the wazoo. Cereal and PB&J for supper, with sides of creamed corn and freezer-burned lima beans. I mean, yes, we'll go to the store for absolute essentials, like milk and bread and the occasional fruit or vegetable, but my husband is under very strict orders should that unfortunate eventuality occur: quarts of milk only, smallest loaves of bread you can find, only three ears of corn. Our biggest splurge in the last two weeks was buying two pounds on strawberries last Sunday, and we did that only because, hey, we really like strawberries in our house, and I knew they'd get eaten.

I will say this much: doing this? Living like complete savages? It takes a lot of cojones, and confidence in your own cooking abilities. I like to think of myself as a better-than-average home cook, and I pride myself on my ability to make a meal out of basically anything, provided that I have access to basic herbs, spices, and bouillon cubes. But making meals out of scavenged foodstuffs is part skill, part alchemy, part divination, part illusion, and part faith, with a big heaping swig of ballsiness thrown in: "Oh, yes, you WILL eat what I am feeding you."

This is the kind of wackaloony stuff I've served to my actual family this week for dinner:
  • Browned loose sweet Italian sausage with chopped onions and canned diced tomatoes, served over elbow macaroni that was tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese
  • Thawed package of pre-cooked chicken with a sell-by date of November 2009, with some kind of noodly stuff
  • Zucchini gratin -- sliced zucchini sauteed with olive oil and Italian seasoning, with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese added
  • Frosted mini-wheats cereal
I mean, yeah, this is totally a first-world problem -- "oh, poor poor pitiful me, I am serving my family food that we bought maybe two weeks ago but that we had to properly store in the refrigerator or freezer until we got around to using it" -- and it's more than partly my own fault since I'm such a cheapskate, but still. When was the last time you served chicken to your kid that had been in the freezer for 8 months? I just don't want to waste money on stuff that will just sit around while I am laughing it up at the beach, and I don't want to take two chicken breasts if I don't have enough to share with everyone.

Now do you see why I worry about drinking?

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