The wall

It was not the greatest day of the SNAP week. In running terms, this is what is known as hitting the wall. In the morning, both girls sleepily, reflexively asked if they could have cereal – maybe some Cheerios? – and looked bummed when I reminded them that our cereal is not part of ourfood allowance. Lucy had yogurt, Bea had a banana, and I had hot cereal with raisins, dates, prunes, and almonds. I think I was the only satisfied customer.

Well, I was happy

I’d had big plans for my last $1.27 too. An avocado. I would get to prove at last when I’ve known all my life – that I would literally spend my last dollar on an avocado. But when I got to the supermarket, I learned avocados are $1.29 each this week. Two cents short, and my dream of a future grilled cheese and avocado evaporated.

I know I’m lucky – on Sunday, I can go back to buying all the avocados I want. I’m better off, even on this SNAP budget, than the 46.2 million Americans living in poverty. But on a day when a lot of other stuff was wearing me out, it was frustrating.

Lunch for the girls was hard-boiled eggs and Rachael Ray’s carrot salad. I made a spicy lentil soup with the leftover lentils and the tomato sauce and plenty of Tabasco. Served it with a salad of romaine and roasted beets in a simple oil and vinegar dressing.

Because of some scheduling changes, we wound up making early dinner, which also threw me off my game. How off my game? Well, I’d been hard boiling some eggs for tomorrow and flat out forgot about them for a half hour. Now they’re EXTRAHARD boiled eggs. For dinner itself I made a skillet corn bread and added corn kernels. Improvised the buttermilk with milk and vinegar. I was rushed, and didn’t mix the bread thoroughly. But topped with some grated cheese, it was still good – especially slathered in homemade butter. Lucy, meanwhile, made the white chili. We made this a lot – it comes together in about five minutes and it’s just the thing after a long exhausted day. It’s one of the first things I learned to cook and it still holds up.

Lucy heated up the leftover chicken from Sunday night, chicken broth, cooked white beans, and chopped green onions. Added some cumin and hint of cinnamon and we were good to go. I usually add cilantro because I am TEAM CILANTRO SUCK IT PARSLEY, but no cilantro this week.

After dinner, we had friends came over for dessert. I wanted, as part of this challenge, to show that even on a little more than five bucks a day, you can still see your friends. You should still see your friends. You should entertain and have company and have your kids play together and eat together, no matter how much or little you have. We’re wired for connection. The real world kind, the kind that doesn’t happen in a status update.

For Kristin and her two daughters, I made the Marcus Samuelson horchata with brown rice and almonds. Subbed honey for the white sugar. My first time out with horchata, and aside from the pain in the ass of straining it, it was pretty easy and very, very good.

Served it with churros. Even though I’m desperately rationing the last of my groceries, I went with my usual tack of a superrich dough. Make churros with water? I wouldn’t dream of it.

Shook the churros in paper bags with cinnamon and sugar, and served them with a quick chocolate sauce made from some butter and chocolate chips melted together, with just a little sprinkle of salt.

We toasted with our horchata and every bite of the churros and morsel of the chocolate sauce was gone in about thirty seconds. And even though it was a long, tough, tiring day, it ended with friends and fried dough. Not too bad.

Tomorrow will be better.