Most of the time (present humid, NYC heat wave aside), gentle readers, your MatchGirl likes to cook. Cooking is fun. Cooking gives you a sense of accomplishment. Cooking for one is less fun - it's only you who gets to taste the fun things you've done - but, of course, it's only you who gets to taste it if you've made a mess of things, too.
Last weekend Michael Pollan wrote an article for the NY Times Sunday Magazine about how he thinks cooking shows are making the act of cooking into a spectator sport, as opposed to really inspiring people. And, while there are many times that I will turn on Food Network to watch a competition - Iron Chef/Iron Chef America, Chopped (with a shout out and congratulations to neighborhood fave Cody Utzmam) and Top Chef on Bravo - to see people cook things I probably wouldn't make for one (I'm talking to you, Barefoot Contessa!), or just to see someone experience another culture (and salivate over my favorite "celebrity" chef - how sexy is he in A Cook's Tour?!!), I've learned a lot, too.
In unemployment, however, though one has all the time in the world to spend cooking up fancy feast for family, friends and lovers, one does not really have the money to buy the fancy ingredients! So, while I enjoyed reading (and watching) Julie & Julia, dear ones, your MatchGirl cannot really imagine running all over the city looking for the ingredients for most of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French cooking - and I'm sure those of you living off your unemployment checks are in a similar boat.
I've definitely looked for ways to rein in my food budget in the past several months - easting out less and cheaper, cooking vats of things and eating it for days on end, coercing employed friends to buy me huge meals that will sustain me for the whole day and, something I have done a lot in my life - more because I have had a roommate or a boyfriend who was - cooking vegetarian. And while you can still drop a lot of cash cooking vegetarian/vegan - a bag of dried beans is pretty much always going to cost you less than a pound of meat. And keep longer in your pantry.
A vegan friend turned me onto 101 Cookbooks about a year ago and while she has some pricey ingredients included from time to time, most of it you can source from your local greenmarket or grocery and, of course, if you know about combining flavor (or are fearless with experimenting with it), you can always substitute something you have around for some ingredient you only need 1/4 cup of and you'll never use again.
Another one of my go-to foodie websites is Not Eating Out in New York, where Brooklyn gal Cathy spent two years not eating out - and therefore coming up with a ton of yummy and accessible recipes for her website. She not only has recipes, but writes about local food events, visits farms and gardens and keeps her readers informed about cook-offs and classes in NYC. For the most part, her recipes are filled with ingredients that you'll have around, or are easily sourced - and she breaks down every recipe based on cost and health factors.
Eating at home, day in and day out, three meals a day, when you are single and unemployed, can be quite a bore - more of a chore than a pleasure. Anyone else have great go-to websites or recipes that have been helping them through the tough times? your MatchGirl would love to hear them.