Conventions and trade shows are similar no matter where you go and what they are for, so Matthew was used to the drill as he was going through the registration process, what was unusual was that you don’t have to wait for the show to open when you’re with the press.
They made their way to where the closed room sessions were going on, and looked for the sign for “Emerging Markets Summit”, which was the show they were attending. The Javits Center was big enough that there were several conventions at a time.
There was a table set up for people looking for information, about where to go and who was where. John walked up and asked where he could meet Dr. Elijah Cummings. He was given a room number and the three men went in search of Dr. Cummings.
He was very easy to find, as he was the only one in the conference room they were directed to. Dr. Cummings smiled at them and asked their names.
John introduced them each to Dr. Cummings, who looked at an itinerary in front of him. Making a small checkmark next to what Matthew assumed was John's name, or the name of the small television station that had sent them, Dr. Cummings smiled warmly and asked if it was to be question-and-answer or a lecture format.
John said, “I have a list of questions that the station manager provided me with, but other questions may present themselves as we go.”
Luc said, “if we could get you to sit at this small table facing each other, I could get some lights on you and will be in business. Does anyone need anything before we start?”
Dr. Cummings replied, “I have already been taking at the catering table right there in the corner, but I would like to have a cup of coffee in case I get dry while we converse. You three should also help yourself, I don’t know how they think one old man could eat all of that anyway.”
John and Matthew walked with Dr. Cummings over to the table, while Luc set up three lights stands from one of his cases. Matthew was amazed that the little case turned into such big lights.
Dr. Cummings was right about how much food was on that catering table. Bagels, donuts, yogurt, fresh fruit, individual servings of cereal, as well as toppings for all of it, orange juice, coffee, and at least a case of water bottles in bins of ice.
As they help themselves to the table’s bounty the doctor shook his head and chuckled.
When John asked the doctor what he was laughing at, he turned to them with a very serious expression’s and said “If things go the way I think they will, what’s on this table would be a treasure worth killing for in some places, in a year or two.”
“I know the economy is not doing the best, but that seems a bit extreme don’t you think?” John replied.
“Well I tell you what, let’s have our interview and if there is time left on our schedule, I will tell you candidly, and off the record what I really think is going to happen.” He answered.
“Why off the record, you know that’s a journalist’s least favorite expression!” John quipped.
“Well let’s just see how it goes, are you ready to begin?” Without waiting for a reply to Dr. headed over to one of the chairs sat down.
“If you hold still for a moment Dr., I just want to clip this microphone onto your collar or tie.” Luc Stated. He moved forward and click the microphone and battery pack onto the doctor. “It’s wireless, so you can just forget you have it on. I’ll take care of the levels from here.”
“Is it my turn?” John asked Luc.
As the two men set up John’s microphone, Matthew asked, “I thought I was holding a microphone for you?”
“You are, the room mic. We use a three microphone set up on interviews.” Luc Replied.
He set up Matthew with a microphone on the end of a pole with the weight on the bottom to help hold it steady. “We call this the boom mike.” He informed Matthew.
Matthew stood next to Luc, and Luc asked both men to speak normally, so he could get sound levels. When he was finished the questions began.
After a short introduction to the doctor for the benefit of the audience at home, John began asking his questions. “Dr., you are getting the reputation of being very bearish on our economy, do you not feel that we are coming back from the so-called “great recession” many economists have stated the economy is seeing green shoots do you feel they are wrong?”
“The economy is not a day in the market, or a week, or monthly job report. It is an aggregate of many different things. And that aggregate is continuing to decline not raise. Therefore I am very bearish as you put it.
According to the www.treasurydirect.gov website, Americas current treasury debt is just about 14 Trillion dollars. Which, the CIA world fact book also says is our Gross Domestic Product. So America is in debt a year’s wages. Plenty of people are, so that doesn’t sound so bad. But remember, that is our GROSS. Every dollar made in the country. By anyone, any company, anything! That isn’t what the government is pulling in with taxes and fees. And that does not include our operating expense, or Interest payments. So our national debt is a really about 10 years taxes if we go by the figures given by our Treasury Department.
So if we use 50% of our tax money to pay down our debt, and no new debt was accrued and we waved a magic wand to stop all interest accruing it would take 20 years minimum to pay off our debt. Of course this means cutting a lot of programs; social, executive, and military. And of course we don’t have a magic wand to wave - so that interest is going to keep growing. And we are increasing our social and executive spending as we grow the government bigger and bigger, and extend more and more benefits to our population.”
“But that does not seem insurmountable,” John said. “20 years does not seem like that much in terms of the government.”
“Right now, the U.S declared debt-to-GDP ratio of 63 percent is expected to rise to 90 percent by 2020 (that means 63% of our GDP would have to go to our debt each year to just break even on debt without any new expenses), according to the conservative forecasts of the Congressional Budget Office. Simply to keep that ratio steady at current levels, inflation would have to average 5 percent a year for the next decade. Which you could maybe stomach for a year or two, then what? Revolution, Starvation, 90% tax across the board? The economy is reaching “Breaking Strain”.” The doctor answered.
“What is breaking strain?” Asked John.
“It’s a term applied to ropes. A rope that will hold you at 3 meters may not be strong enough to hold you at 100 meters. The weight of the rope, the compression on the fibers, becomes too much. Therefore a rope you can climb a tree with may not be strong enough to climb a mountain because of breaking strain. This is what is happening in our economy today. Too many people are jumping on the rope to save their lives. The rope of our economy simply can’t hold them all.” The doctor answered.
“Aren’t you in a relative minority of people who feel this way?” John asked.
“Not really, even “Green Shoot cheerleaders” like Soros are hedging with precious metals. Also if you were to do a web search on sites such as YouTube, you could see people like Jim Cramer the television host talking about the meltdown as far back as 2007. Gerald Celente of the Trends Research center is another good and consistently accurate source. Leffer and others are all saying the same thing as I am and your also not looking at one very large piece.” The Doctor answered.
“What is that?” asked John.
“Private Debt! Personal debt in the US is staggering and increasing. Even way back in 2006, the average was 126% for people in America. We were spending 26% more than we made each year per person! We are spending now about 36% more than we make as individuals. This is unsustainable. When we can’t pay it, the debt reverts to the lending banks, which go for bailouts that the Government has to absorb. And that add to our National Debt. Private debt is just beginning to decline now because of diminishing available credit. Another bad sign for our economy as that means less consumer buying. But the damage is done. We can’t pay back what we have borrowed as individuals. To the tune of 36 trillion dollars in the USA alone. One bad week in the economy, and that could all be added to the national debt. Making our National debt 50 trillion dollars. Which is even more staggering when you realize the Gross Domestic Product of the whole world is only 53 Trillion dollars. It would take all the money in the world - every single penny, yuan, or euro that changes hands for a year, to pay off America’s debt. And we are only one county. Nearly the whole world is in the same shape.”
The questions went on like this for a while. Every answer the doctor gave was like a boot in Matthew's stomach.
Then the doctor concluded by saying “Will Rogers used to say - The best economic advice for a man is this ‘If your income is less than your out go, the only upshot is your downfall.”
John concluded the interview, and shook hands with the doctor. He asked if he had some time to answer a couple of personal questions, but the doctor had some more pressing meetings, so he gave John his email address encouraging him to send his questions along, and the three men left the conference room with all their gear.
The three men were silent as they walked back out to the lobby John asked if anyone wanted to see the booths on the show floor, and collect swag pencils pens and whatever else the companies were giving out, but nobody felt much like doing that today. They were all thinking about what Dr. Cummings had said and free Frisbees were going to take their mind off of things.
“Well, where do you want to go for lunch?” Luc asked.
Matthew panicked for a moment; he did not have the money to spend even on a hot dog. But, John caught his eye and answered Luc, “it’s a small station, and we want more business from them, so we should not soak them too hard on the expense report. Besides, I do not want to tie up too much room on my American Express in case they are slow to reimburse expenses.”
Matthew was grateful to his friend for answering his unasked question in such a way as to not embarrass him in front of Luc. After all he had just met the man.
“Well then, no steaks at the Palm. Friday’s?” Luc asked.
“Done!” Came John’s enthusiastic reply.
Their second cab ride of the day was not nearly as jovial as the first. Matthew asked the other two what they thought about the interview they had just conducted, and the veracity of the doctors opinions.
“Well,” Luc started. “A lot of people who make a heck of a lot more than we do, are forking over $100 to hear him speak. That’s enough for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve been sitting here thinking that Marie and I have no savings. I’m still paying off our student debt. And, she hasn’t worked since the baby came because we can’t afford day care.”
“I know what you mean,” said John with a frown. “Savings has not really been my strong suit.”
“Hey, at least you guys have an income.” Said Matthew. “I still haven’t heard back on any of the resumes I sent out.”
“Well if you want some part-time work I can help you there.” Said Luc. “ We are hiring a janitor over at the station, and I was thinking about getting Marie to apply. But decided that we couldn’t afford the daycare even with the addition of a part time income. Why don’t you ride up with us right now? You can interview with Mark. If both John and I recommend you, you will definitely get the job.”
“That’s a great idea if you don’t mind being a janitor!” Said John. “The bus runs directly to our place from the station. Easy on, easy off!”
“I’m game for anything!” Matthew answered.
“One problem solved!” Said Luc. “No charge Matthew!” He said bowing his head graciously and tipping an imaginary hat.
The three friends drifted back to letter matters as they enjoyed their lunch. The taxi ride home found the conversation almost as light as their trip to Javits had been. When they reached the station, John and Luc introduced him to Mark the station manager.
“Are you a drinker?” Asked Mark. The large man had his hair close cropped, looking the entire world to Matthew like Sgt. Rock from the comic books.
“No sir!” Answered Matthew.
“Well that’s too bad! We will try you out anyway! When can you start?” He asked.
“Where’s my time card!” Said Matthew.
“Good answer!” Said Mark. “But tomorrow evening will be soon enough. “Be here at 6 PM, and someone will show you around. Three hours a night six days a week you have Friday night off. Those hours may change, but you will get plenty of notice -maybe!”
“Thank you sir!” Matthew shook Mark’s hand.
“Thank you! One less thing for me to do today. And if you screw up, I can just take it out on these two knuckleheads. Stop calling me sir, its just Mark around here. This is a cable access station, not ABC news.” Mark answered roughly but with a smile.
Since John and Luc were in the editing room, Matthew left a note saying thank you, and caught the bus home.
On the way home Matthew got off of the bus at the bodega a block from his apartment building. He did not have much food in the house, and felt that since he was going to start working tomorrow he retrieved himself something for ready made.
At the register, there was a glass warming box with orange colored pastry squares of some sort. Matthew asked the clerk what they were. The clerk said “They are patties! Haven’t you ever seen a Patty before?”
“Well I’ve seen them in one or two places since I’ve been in New York, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else. What are they; I mean I know they are patties. But, are they sweet?” Matthew asked.
“I didn’t know there was a place without patties!” The clerk said. “It’s Jamaican food. They’re usually a spicy beef filling. With a crust, it’s like a little meat pie. They are only a dollar why don’t you just try one.” Matthew smiled to himself about how cavalier the clerk was about a dollar. At minimum wage in New York, he had to work 15 minutes to get $2.00.
But at a dollar, that was even cheaper than buying a hot dog. And as Matthew didn’t really like hot dogs he decided to give it a shot. He bought the Patty and a can of beer, and began the very short walk home. He ate the paddy as he walked and decided that it was a little different than anything he had before but quite good. The filling was slightly spicy but not overpowering. All in all it worked quite well with the beer and he had a hot convenience meal for three dollars.
Matthew searched the net for a while, looking at some of the things Dr. Cummings had mentioned earlier that day during the interview. It was amazing how much the facts matched what Dr. Cummings had said.
For the second time in a week, Matthew felt like he had been dropped completely out of his element into another world. The first time had been losing his job, which would have thrown anyone for loop. But now he felt as if he was losing everything he ever know to be true about his country. It was surreal, the more you look into it the more weirded out he became.
Eventually he just closed his laptop and went to bed where he slept very fitfully.
The next morning, Matthew took a long walk to clear his head and think. And as he walked by the hardware store, and his friend Ben caught sight of him through the window and begin waving emphatically for him to come inside. Matthew entered the store to see what was going on.
“Matthew, where the heck have you been? I have not seen you for days. Are you interested in asking how many baking stones we've sold?” Ben asked.
“Has there been a rush on them, or are you just trying to get me to bake for you?” Matthew ribbed his friend.
“Sarcasm is the last refuge of a weak mind.” Ben said with a mock solemn face. Then he laughed and said. “Seriously I have sold a couple of dozen of them. I should have done this sooner. I am selling single tiles at the register for twice what they sell for in the aisle just by putting a little printout on them of how to use them for baking with what we worked out, or really you worked out.”
“We definitely did it together, I would have had no clue other than it was possible without you.” Matthew said. And began to laugh as he saw the little display by the register.
Ben had taken some clipart that looked like it was from the old West, of two portly bald men with giant mustaches, their arms around each other and beneath that, written in a font that looks like it would have been at home on a wanted poster “Benjamin and Matthews Handy Dandy Cookin’ Rocks!” and then beneath that, in smaller type, gave the directions that they had worked out between them.
“What do you say to $.50 per stone sold?” Asked Ben.
“I don’t need anything like that. I am happy to have gotten my stone for free!” Matthew told his friend with a smile.
“My boy, my boy, I can see you you’re going to be difficult about this, but your not being given a choice in the matter. We did this together, and if only one of us profits from it, that is not right. Some people might say it’s bad karma, or something. I personally believe Karma is a load of hooey. But, I don’t need to get sued!” He laughed. “Besides, you’re a good kid on a tight tight budge remember? And I was a kid like that once too.”
“Stop you are bringing tears to my eyes!” Matthew laughed. “Fine, I will take the fifty cents!”
“Great, lets look in the computer, and find out how much I owe you.” Ben said. He pulled up something on his computer and said, “Well, I owe you $7.50, but I am going to give you $10.00 . That will make my accounting easier. I will call you the next time we have $10 for you. I have your number from your application. Of course that money wont start accruing until we sell five more stones. It’s not charity after all it’s business. You have to look after yourself Matthew, not everyone feels the same as I do.”
“Well I am happy to be in business with you then.” He put the ten dollars in his pocket.
Matthew and Ben talked for a few more minutes, and then Ben had to help some other customers and Matthew got on his way.
Because of the bus schedule, Matthew was back at the station about fifteen minutes early. He went inside anyway to see if he could catch Luc or John before he clocked in.
As it turned out, they were both right inside the door as he walked in having some kind of impromptu meeting in the hallway with a couple of other people.
Luc saw him first and shouted, “Matthew, welcome!” as if he were the host at a party. “Everyone, this is my new protégé Matthew who will be working with us for a while.”
John clapped him on the back and said, “He can’t be your protégé Luc, he doesn’t use EH? At the end of every sentence.” He then introduced Matthew to the people standing in their group and told him what each did at the station.
“What will you be doing Matthew?” asked an older woman. “Are you covering for Ollie while he’s on his honeymoon?”
Matthew assumed Ollie was the soundman that he had covered for at the interview at Javits. “I’m just here to make sure the trash doesn’t pile up.” He said with a smile.
“Well your not doing a good job of it!” A rough voice came from behind him. “It’s all collecting right here by the front door. Don’t you people ever go home?
Matthew turned to see Mark walking up to him. He could tell by the way no one seemed to tense up in any way that this was either Mark’s normal tone, or that he was just joking.
“Don’t let Mark scare you off.” The older lady said to Matthew. “He always sounds like he’s going to dress you down, but he’s a ***** cat!”
“And you’re my mouse, I have twenty minutes blocked off for Matthew to show him how to do things right before you lot corrupt him. And you guys can’t even give me that!” Mark said with a twinkle in his eye.
Everyone laughed and drifted off to whatever they were doing. Mark took Matthews elbow and steered him into the front office where he spent a few minutes doing paperwork. Mark complimented him on bringing his license and social security card to prove his identity, and took copies of them for the government forms.
Matthew was pleased to find he was making $10.00 an hour, which was a very low pay for New York City, but more than the under $8.00 an hour minimum wage he had expected.
Next Mark gave him a tour of the studio. There were several soundstages of various sizes for the public to rent and make their own shows. They ranged from a single desk with a few lights to an actual stage with audience seats and a light bar full of fixtures.
There were also several editing rooms and a few sound rooms where musicians could record. The busiest room was the broadcast room where 3 people sat at desks and made sure that everything rolled smoothly on the two channels allotted to the public for the area.
The second busiest was the break room. It was a large room with vending machines, tables and coffeepots. People sat in groups here while waiting for the different rooms or studios they were renting to open up. Mark explained they charged by the hour for the rooms, and also rented the various equipment and lights.
It was a big place, and Matthew asked if anyone else was employed as janitors beside himself.
“Used to be three people, two full time and one part time. Now we have you. Everyone is responsible for cleaning the space they rent. If we need to go in and vacuum or clean up a spill, you will get a note and we will charge them for it at a very high rate, so people tend to be good about it. Mostly your job will be to walk through the offices and empty the garbage cans into the bin I am going to show you. You also need to clean the bathrooms and the break room and sweep the halls. There is a special task each day that should take up about a half hour to an hour that rotates every day on a two-week schedule. It’s a lot but if you stay focused three hours should be plenty. Ahh here we are.” Mark said as he ushered Matthew into the custodial room at the back of the facility.
He handed Matthew a key. “Only you, I and the network guy Tim have keys to this room. The network routers and supplies are in here. The door is to be locked when you are not in here. Toilet paper is expensive enough without some intrepid explorer walking off with a few rolls.” Mark quipped. “You got it from here?”
“I think so.” Matthew answered.
“Great, here is the list of things to do for everyday.” He said handing Matthew a notebook. “Just check it off as you do it and you should be fine. Time sheets are in the back, we do not use a timecard, you just fill in a sheet and leave it on my desk on Thursday. You have a locker here. You can put a lock on it if you like, but no one but me or Tim ever comes in here. I will be in my office if you have any questions.”
With that he left the custodial room, and Matthew got busy. Being a good manager of his time, he just pushed on through, so even though he was unfamiliar with the place and job, he was more than halfway through his list for the day after only an hour on the job. The book of tasks was set up very well. There were fourteen pages each representing a single day for two weeks. The chores were listed in order by rooms starting from the custodial office. The last chore left him by the front door with his cart. He then walked out the front door to the dumpster, emptied his trash and pushed the cart back to the custodial room done for the day.
He ran into John and Luc in one of the editing rooms where they were working on the Dr. Cummings interview. His friends had ordered a pizza and offered Matthew a slice, which he gratefully accepted. John told him he should stop back in when he was finished for the day and hang out with them a bit. He told Matthew that the two of them had many hours of work ahead before the video was ready to send to the station which was paying for it.
“Won’t you get in trouble if Mark sees you hanging out with me instead of working on it? Matthew asked, concerned for his friends.
Luc laughed out loud and John said, “Working in a studio like this one is like nothing else, ten percent of the job is double time and everyone is tense and freaking out, and ninety percent is three quarter time. You’re expected to socialize a bit. Besides, this is a private job Luc, Ollie, and I are doing. We are renting the studio for this. We get it for next to nothing though.”
“Ok then. I’d like to see how it’s done anyway.” Matthew said and got back to work.
When he finished his rounds he locked the custodial room, and went back to the editing room where he found his friends as well as Mark watching the interview. Luc was just re-cuing it to the start as he walked in.
“Are you looking for me? Asked Mark.
“No I’m done for the day. I was just looking for these two, and to see the tape we worked on.” Matthew replied.
“He covered for Ollie.” Luc informed Mark.
“You know sound?” Mark asked.
“I know how to hold a pole…” Matthew replied.
Mark laughed. “Well, if you want to come in here and use the training videos and books on audio, I am sure we could use you here and there until Ollie gets back. At least on the simple stuff. That will save Luc some headaches and you can get more hours.”
“I will take you up on that. Someone recently told me “No knowledge is bad knowledge” and it sounded like good advice. Matthew replied.
“They were right!” Mark said. “Now roll the tape Luc. Let’s see if I can help you find some stuff to cut.”
Luc used his mouse to start playback, and the men watched quietly all the way to the end.
“Your right John.” Mark said. “I don’t know what to cut out of that either. Just send the full tape to them and let them cut out what they want. There is no gaffes to cut- maybe they will be happy with all that footage. Is this guy for real?”
“He is pretty well known.” John replied.
“Well I guess we all have a lot to think about then.” Mark said. “And I am doing my thinking at home. Good night gents.”
The other men said goodnight and Mark left. Luc started the Internet transfer of the footage and put the back up into a FedEx envelope to be sent the following morning. Then they closed the doors and headed out.
Luc headed one off on foot and the Matthew and John hopped the bus home. They sat together but did not say much. It was a quick ride and then as they were walking in John asked, “Are you going to come down early tomorrow as Mark suggested?”
“Yes, I just have a date in the morning, then I am headed over.” He replied.
“You have a morning date? Weirdo!” John teased Matthew.
“Yes, at the grocery store, don’t be jealous.” Matthew replied.
“Double weirdo then Pal!” was John’s quick response.
“Hater!” Matthew said. “It’s with the woman who helped me figure out baking last week! He said. We are going to do a big shopping so I can scam more knowledge off of her.”
“Good! I could use some more good cooking from you.” John laughed.
“Good night John!” Matthew said as he got off the elevator.
“Good night chef Matthew.” John replied as the doors closed.
Matthew chuckled, opened his door and went straight to bed.
Well intrepid readers, this chapters coming in parts. Here is the first one:
Matthew was waiting outside of the store as Jane walked up. She was pulling a fold out wire shopping cart behind her. Another cart, still folded, was inside the first diagonally.
“Good morning Matthew, I’m glad to see you here. I must say I dislike waiting for people. Isn’t that horrible of me?” She laughed. “I am going to need your help getting the second cart out of the first, it was all I could do to get it in there.”
“Wow! When you say you’re going to do big shopping you mean it. Two shopping carts full? How will you get them home?” Matthew said while he got busy listing the second cart out.
“Matthew! You silly boy, I brought one cart for you to borrow, unless you feel like juggling the a lot of bags home by yourself.” She replied.
“Oops!” He answered sheepishly. “That was really nice of you Jane! I didn’t even think of that.”
“Yes, well most people in New York shop nearly every day, or at least every few days, so most people never think of bringing a cart shopping, except us old ladies.” She replied.
“I have noticed that most people with carts are older, I always assumed it was because they didn’t want to bother carrying a lot of bags around at their age. No offense!” Matthew answered.
“No offense taken I know my age, I see it every day in the mirror and I definitely feel it when I wake up on cold mornings. And you’re right; in many cases the only reason people bring the cart is so that they don’t have to carries a few bags, or sometimes it’s harder for them to get out because of things like stairs or just energy levels so they shop less often. But in a lot of cases you will find that older people tend to keep on hand more food than younger people do. It’s a habit we have developed in most cases through experience of some sort.” Came her reply.
“I can’t remember my folks having a great stash of food in their house.” Matthew said. “I wonder why.”
“Are you sure that they didn’t? Did you do a lot of cooking or was the kitchen to you a place to you put frozen burritos into a microwave? After all you didn’t know the difference between flours, so I assume you didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up.” Jane said with a smile.
“How come everybody I know is a wise guy?” Matthew said.
They both laughed and Jane asked him what he had on hand at home. He replied that there wasn’t much of anything. She reached into her bag and pulled out a list. She tore the bottom off and handed it to Matthew.
“I hope you don’t mind, I went through my kitchen and prepared a list of the basic stuff that you need. Now this is based on my diet, so if there is anything you do not like, we can do scratch them off the list.
By doing a big shopping once a month it forces you to plan ahead a little bit. So it is easier to buy the right sizes of any product and get the best deal available. It also makes it easier to keep to a budget. The first months are going to be the most expensive for you, because you don’t have a lot of things like spices and such, which are expensive. Why don’t we just go through the list as we walk and play it by ear? I didn’t know what your budget was, so I estimated this list at about $150. If that is too much, we can forgo some things. And if it’s too little well we can add can’t we.”
“Wow Jane, I don’t know what to say. It looks like you went to a lot of trouble for me between the car and this shopping list. I want you to know I really appreciate it.” Matthew said.
“Tish-tosh” Jane said. “It really was no trouble at all bringing the cart was a last-minute thing, and I did your list at the same time I did mine, which I do every week anyway. In reality I only went out of my way by a couple of minutes. And I get to have your company as we shop which should be fun don’t think?” It’s also pretty certain that you are going to be useful putting things in my cart for me!”
They both laughed, and Matthew looked over his list. “This looks pretty complete!” He said.
But he had a worried look on his face. Jane noted it and then she asked what the matter was.
“Well, I am using food stamps, and if it’s around $150.00 like you estimate, I should be fine there, and it leaves me a little reserve, in case I need something in the three weeks until my card is refilled. But what I am worried about is things like cleaning supplies and toiletries- they aren’t covered and my cash is limited.”
Jane said, ”Stick with me kid, I will teach you how to limit that stuff easily. Show me what cleaning stuff you think you need, and I am sure that there are covered products available that do the job nearly as well or better. I use a lot of them too. Even though I am not using food stamps, I have a fixed income, and do not feel like wasting money on glass spray because someone put blue dye in it.”
They walked into the store, and Jane headed for an aisle in the middle of the store instead of starting in produce where the store began. When Matthew asked why she said, “Well, produce has to be juggled when we get to the cans, so why not start there and have them on the bottom?” she asked.
“I guess that’s true, but won’t we still have to juggle them at the checkout?” Matthew asked.
“Our big shopping won’t be all that big Matthew, it all has to fit in the cart right. We can pack the carts from the register tray without any problems at all. My what a worry wart your being.”
The first aisle they went down was the drink aisle. Jane directed Matthew to put a 2.5 gallon cube of water in each of the carts.
“I usually just drink tap water.” Matthew said.
“Which is very frugal and smart of you Matthew, seeing as our NYC water is among the purest water in the US. Pure snowmelt from the Catskill Mountains. Wonderful stuff. And since we live in apartment buildings, the first thing we miss when the power is off. So every responsible boy keeps at least ten gallons of drinking water under his bed. It’s only $1.00 now, but priceless if you need it.” Was her reply. “I won’t lecture about many things, but water is a must.”
“So you have ten gallons under your bed?” Ben asked her.
“Why you cheeky boy! Asking a woman what she keeps under her bed. But since I volunteered for this mission, I will have you know I have 24 gallons of water under my bed. Because that is how many of these containers fit well.” She replied jovially.
“Why do you have that much if you say I need ten gallons.” He asked.
“Ten gallons will take care of you for a week. That’s enough for most things. With a little to spare even. And I did not say to only store ten gallons. I said at least. Here in the city apartments are small. There is not a lot of extra storage. Ten gallons is the make-do amount. I store more because I have a granddaughter who lives in Manhattan. She goes to school there. She would definitely come here to be with me if anything ever did happen. To take care of me.” She laughed to herself at this. “She thinks I am frailer than I am.”
So if you already have water, why are you getting more?” Matthew asked out of genuine curiosity.
“I rotate my water and replace one every 3 months I put the old one in the fridge and i then refill the container until it's time to rotate a new one. Water doesn’t really go bad, but it becomes stale and bad tasting after a time. The plastic containers it comes in allow some air exchange and it is noticeable and unpleasant. I for one don’t want to store water just to have it be unpleasant. I could use the space to keep my shoes it that were the case.” Was her reply. 'if I had the space I would store hundreds of gallons of water."
Matthew had never thought about water going bad, but what she said made sense. And she had been right so far. The two kept walking up the drink aisle. She completely skipped the soda but stopped by the juices. She asked Matthew to hand her two cans of grape juice concentrate and apple juice concentrate. They were in what looked like soda cans.
“Each of these is the same as buying frozen juice concentrate. But since it I don’t have a big freezer, I like to buy them in the cans. Tastes exactly the same. The warm storage cans are about 5cents a can more expensive, but the trade off is worth it in freezer space. What kind of juice do you like Matthew?” she asked.
“Pretty much all juice.” He answered. “I usually bought a bottle with lunch at work.”
“A bottle of juice is twelve ounces. A gallon is 128 ounces. For the price of two twelve-ounce bottles of apple juice here, we can buy a gallon of apple Juice, which we can then portion out into a sports bottle for 5 days. That is what you kids call a ‘no-brainer’ am I right?” she asked.
“As rain!” Matthew answered.
“Apple Juice is the cheapest juice usually.” Jane continued. “In the beginning I would suggest starting with that. Until you build up.”
“Since we are shopping for three weeks, I guess I should get two gallons.” Matthew said looking at his list. “Oh, you wrote one gallon and two cans. I thought you said the cans were too expensive?
“Not the twelve ounce cans sweetie. The concentrate cans. They are lighter and easier to store. They are also cheaper. When you use up the apple juice in the big bottle, you can use the bottle as your pitcher to hold the juice you are making.” She replied.
“But I really don’t think I will go through a gallon a week by myself.” Matthew replied.
“We are going to try to stretch your budget to cover two months if we can. The news last night said that New York was nearing bankruptcy, and that all state assistance was in jeopardy. The federal budgets in the same place, which is not good. 14% of people nationwide are on Food Stamps and here in NY it is closer to 15%. Food stamps come out of the federal budget, while programs like WIC and other food and cash assistance is state. If the state has to drop it’s programs- I don’t think the federal government can pick them up. At least not easily. I heard on the radio that over 50% of Americans get food assistance of some sort. While I don’t know where they are getting the numbers, I do not find it hard to believe. And since you are my new friend. And I have offered to help you figure it out, I think that you should make one month buy enough for two until you have a little safety cushion. Say three months, in reserve. You can do that in three months, and then start worrying a little less. At least I will worry less.” Here she laughed. “I hope I didn’t worry you about your food stamps. I’m just being a worry wart now.” She said
“Well, it’s beginning to be a common thread in my life, so I think it’s a great idea. If I had more storage space, I would try to do it every month regardless.” Matthew said, and then he told Jane about the interview with Dr. Cummings.
The two of them shook their heads at the state of affairs, and began to move on.
When they reached the coffee section, Jane turned and asked, “Do you drink coffee?”
“I do! And I have been worried. Coffee is expensive.” Matthew checked the list she had written. “Ahh, you have it on the list-Thank Goodness!”
She laughed. “Life has to have enjoyments as well as necessities Matthew!” She said. “Most people buy one of the name brand ready grounds. Do you have a brand?”
“Not per se. I usually just buy whatever, the blue jar or the red one usually.” He replied.
“Coffee is coffee to you huh? OK, I’m going to wreck that for you. For some reason whole coffee beans are usually more expensive than pre ground. I do not know why this is, as there is a step removed for the manufacturer. But there it is. However, you can usually buy the store brand whole bean for around the same as pre-ground name brand coffee. Or you can get the two-pound bags of some name brand whole beans such as 8 O’clock for the same price as pre-ground. There is a hands down win in flavor for whole bean coffee. I suggest you try it.” She told him.
“I guess I can see how that would be, but I do not have a grinder.” He told her.
“If you have a blender, you have a coffee grinder. A pretty good one. If you have a rolling pin, you have a coffee grinder. A mediocre one, but you have one. Just put the beans in a zip-lock bag between two towels. The size of the grind will be random, but it works. A bottle works the same way. And if you have a mortar and pestle available, you can have espresso right quick.” She replied.
“I do have a blender, lets try the whole bean.” He said.
“Another good money saving tip for coffee is too just making as much as you will drink. Many people make a pot of coffee everyday, and then throw away half a pot the next morning. They put those little cup marks on your coffee maker for a reason. If you consistently do this, you are just tossing money into the Hudson.” She said.
“Your right, I always make a full pot. I suppose I should just start making a cup or two and making more if I want it.” He said sheepishly.
They reached the end of the aisle and he did a quick calculation. “I don’t know if I am going to have enough.” He said. “We have barely scratched the list, and the money is going quick.”
“We will be fine,” She said. “Drinks and meats are the most expensive. Except for cleaning products. Let’s do that next and get it out of the way. Let’s start with paper products. What paper products do you typically use?”
“Paper towels, Paper Plates, Napkins, and of course Toilet paper.” Was his answer.
“Great, let’s hit the paper aisle. Are any of those products covered by your food stamps?” she asked.
“No, only food items are.” He replied.
“Good!” she said.
“Why is that good?” He asked perplexed.
“Because we are going to cure you of some wasteful habits right away without you being able to rely on food stamps to keep them going if you get lazy.” She said.
“Oh really?” Matthew said sardonically. “Like what for instance?”
“Let’s start with paper plates. Are you on a picnic? Why do you not use regular plates and wash them?” she asked.
“No reason, just convenience.” He answered. “I got into the habit in college. I had four roommates and the only way to get clean dishes was to have a stash of paper plates. After my divorce, I just fell back into it.”
“Time to fall out.” She said smiling. “Paper plates have a place in your house, in case the water goes off. You’re having a party, or you are invited on a picnic or road trip. That’s it.”
“You are right.” Matthew said guiltily. “That is a simple way to save money I do not have. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You are not going to like this next cut I am going to make.” She smiled.
“Not toilet paper!” he said, “That’s going to far!”
She laughed, “No- not toilet paper. Although during the depression many families had to. I remember when most family bathrooms had hooks on the wall for each member. On those hooks was a “wipe cloth” for each individual family member. After you used them, you rinsed them in the sink, and hung them back on your hook. You didn’t want to make a mistake and use someone else’s rag! Toilet paper was for guests only”
“Eww!” said a women walking by, and they both laughed.
“I’m talking about paper towels.” She said. Most of us use a lot more paper towels than we should.” She walked right past the paper towels to a section of the aisle given over to brooms, mops, and plungers. “Ahh here we are.” She picked up two packages and handed them to Matthew. “Here are your paper towels for the year. And both packages together cost less than one eight pack of paper towels.” He looked at them.
They were 20 packs of terry cloth rags.
“I have no qualms about switching,” Matthew said, “But isn’t doing the laundry for all of these rags going to be just as expensive?
“We will get to that directly.” She said.
The two friends walked back down to where they had left the carts. Matthew tossed the rags in and Jane tossed a single roll of low priced paper towels in after it.
“Hey I thought we weren’t getting any of these?” Matthew asked.
“Well sometimes you do just need paper towels, especially if you have pets or children. But even for single men, sometimes a mess shows up that you need a paper towel for. As well as other needs that a paper towel fills. From a filter to a note pad! But, one roll should last you a very long time now.” She said.
“Right. So now we need toilet paper.” He said. He reached for the cheapest single ply store brand he could find. She stopped him.
“Sometimes the cheapest isn’t the cheapest.” She said in a horrible Chinese accent, trying to look inscrutable.
“What are you talking about?” asked Matthew. “These are at least 20% cheaper than the name brands.
“Well, for a while the environmental movement was making a big noise about soft TP. Some were even saying it was worse than driving a hummer. So the US armed forces did a study. It turns out the greens were wrong. Even though it uses more materials to make soft paper. It works better, so you use less. In some cases a lot less. So it makes it cheaper. The study also suggested it would reduce sickness as well, by providing better hygiene. In typical fashion however, it still has not made it to the troops.” She paused, “The conversations we are having today!”
“Well I can’t say I am not glad… About the TP AND the conversations.” He replied. They both laughed and headed into the cleaning aisle.
Sorry this took so long in posting. I had a crazy couple of days, and I didn't want the story to turn too much into a "how to" lol. Sooo if this part is a bit awkward, I apologize.
When they reached the cleaning products aisle, Jane asked Matthew to run down the aisle and collect what he needed in cleaning products and bring them back to her. She instructed him not to look at prices, and to just get what he would get if money were no object.
Matthew headed down the aisle and came back with an armful of products. Glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, shower cleaner, Kitchen spray, degreaser, disinfectant, furniture polish, laundry detergent, dish detergent, fabric softener, bleach, color bleach, laundry pre treat. Spray starch, and a bar of soap.
“Land sakes Matthew!” Jane said. “All that!” She looked at the pile he made on top of a display of sponges in the middle of the aisle. “Spray starch! Really? Do you really use it?” she asked gently prodding him.
“Well, I am hoping to go on some interviews!” Matthew said defensively.
“OK, I won’t kid you. Good for you. I’m proud of you if you want to know the truth. I am going to run around the store for a minute, you wait here and tally up what all this gear costs, and I will be back in a minute. OK?” Without waiting for a reply, she disappeared around the corner. By the time Matthew had finished adding up everything, she had not returned, so he perused the items in the aisle as he waited. He was amazed at the final tally of his products. It would have cleaned him out.
When she returned she had one of the stores plastic shopping baskets over her arm. Inside were a few products. She walked up the cleaning aisle, adding three more. Then she returned and asked for his tally. Matthew sheepishly told her and she whistled.
“How much of that is covered by foodstamps?” she asked.
“ummm, None actually.” Matthew answered.
She showed him her basket. In it was:
Baking soda, a lemon, a box of cornstarch, a bottle of peroxide, a bottle of alcohol, a bottle of white vinegar, a box of borax, a box of washing soda, a small bottle of canola oil, and a bottle of liquid castile soap.
“These 11 items will replace all 17 of the ones you have out. They also will replace your bathroom soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and skin lotion among other things. And by my way of thinking, more than half should be covered by foodstamps. This amount should also last months for most of this stuff.” She said with a smile. “but even if foodstamps didn’t cover it. It all together costs less than your box of laundry detergent and softener”
“I’m sure that’s true…” Matthew said. “ But I’m not a chemist. And I don’t know how to use this stuff for cleaning. At least not most of it.”
“I come prepared Matthew.” She said reaching into her purse and handing him a couple of pages. “I printed these off the internet. And if you have any questions, you can also ask me.
Matthew took a quick look at the pages:
Baking Soda - cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
Castile Soap - unscented soap in liquid form, pure soap, a drop or two is all thats needed.
Canola Oil – Base for drawing out lemon oil from skin of lemon (do not use white of skin! Only zest.
Lemon - one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria, smells wonderful.
Borax - (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
White Vinegar - cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up. (Caution on glass: dilute to at least 5% or may etch glass NEVER USE ON MIRRORS, MAY EAT SILVERING FROM EDGED INWARD
Washing Soda - or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate,. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
Isopropyl Alcohol - is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
Cornstarch - can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
Hydrogen Peroxide – disinfects, bleaches, removes mold.
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
Bathroom mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.
Many recipes and info or at:
http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm (definitely check out this page-Mac)
Another page showed him how to use vinegar as fabric softener
A series of pages illustrated the “No Poo” movement of people who were using baking soda as shampoo.
There was even a series on dental care using peroxide, salt, and baking soda.
Matthew was stunned. His cleaning and toiletries purchases would have been over 60 dollars. Using these other products it was under 10, and foodstamps would cover half of them. He felt as if he had been lied to and stolen from for years.
There are a lot of pages and information that I would give, but that would ruin the flow of the story. Please do some research on the following:
Home made cleaning products (or natural cleaning products)
Home made toiletries ( or natural toiletries)
Also cleaning with each of the ingredients she mentioned.
If you are making your own lemon oil, use canola for cleaning but never use canola for internal use. Canola oil is a poison, made from a poisonous plant. Part of being a prepper is prepping your body. What you put into it is as important as physical training.
Do not let your children use Borax in projects it is a naturally mineral that happens to be poisonous! It is a wonderful product used and stored correctly and not dangerous. But do your own research!
End of soapbox!
here is bit 15D
The next aisle the pair tackled was the canned goods. Michael figured on two cans of fruits and vegetables a day for 7 weeks and came up with 49 cans.
In the back of the store was the dented can bins, and Michael picked through them. Then he went into the regular canned aisle and rounded out his purchases. Altogether he picked up 55 cans for a price of around 30 dollars. At Jane’s urging he also added a few cans of tuna, chicken, and turkey. Although he didn’t eat canned meat often, he thought she made a good point about the price, and the convenience of having a few cans. If the power went out he would also have the ability to make a sandwich at least.
Jane also made him read the label on the cans before choosing a brand. She told him never to get anything with MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).
“Why?” asked Matthew, curious as to why she was so adamant.
“I used to use the salt substitute “Accent” because I was worried about my blood pressure.” She started, “I did not know at the time that most salt substitutes and spice blends have MSG added to them. Accent is almost completely MSG. I began having headaches and I went to my doctor. He had no clue as to what could be causing it. The headaches worsened as time went on. Then I was getting Chinese food with a friend and she ordered hers with no MSG. I had never heard that so as we were eating I asked her about it. She was a hospital nutritionist so I was curious. ‘MSG is an excito-toxin.’ She explained to me, ‘it breaks the blood brain barrier and allows any toxins in your body into your brain. It also creates damage to your stomach lining. Restaurants and food makers add it to the food because it excites your brain. Making you feel as if you are enjoying the food more. Therefore you ascribe the feeling to the restaurant or dish. You eat more, you eat faster, and you get hungry again sooner. It is the source of the old saw about eating Chinese and being hungry an hour later. Also since it is a salt, it makes you thirsty and you will drink more – more profit. It is incredibly bad for you. It diminishes digestion and has been linked to ADD, obesity, and Parkinson’s disease among other things. People who eat a lot of it can develop actual lesions on the brain.’ She told me. I was shocked. I could not believe all the damage this product could do, and that it was in our food. ‘That is not all,’ she went on ‘they hide it under a lot of different names. Like modified food starch for instance and many others. So you have to be vigilant.’ I told her that I didn’t think I got headaches from Chinese food and she laughed and said ‘Almost everyone is allergic to MSG, but we build up a tolerance to the feeling. The chemical is still doing the damage, but we don’t feel it. Here is an experiment everyone should try. Go one month consciously trying to not eat MSG. You can even do a web search on other names MSG is hidden under. Then after a month, when your body is cleaned out of it, eat something with MSG, and see how you feel within minutes.’ We finished our meal and then when I got home I did some research and I tried the experiment.”
“Really? I never heard of such a thing!” Matthew exclaimed.
“Really!” Jane answered. “I had gone about a month and truthfully I think it was a little less. My granddaughter was over and she had a bag of beef jerky. I was teasing her about it. I asked her for the bag to read the ingredients, and saw that it had MSG. I have since found out that most commercial jerky does. Well let me tell you Matthew, I had one small piece and within fifteen minutes my head was aching. I normally would not have put my headache down to my diet, I would have just said to myself ‘oh I am getting a head ache’ but since I had been MSG free, it was the first headache I had endured for a while. I also had a stomachache soon after. I would have normally put that down to eating the jerky on an empty stomach. I now know better. Since I have been MSG free for a few years now, I can normally taste MSG in a dish, and avoid it. And nearly always when I get a headache, I can trace it back to the MSG I missed in something.”
“Wow, I am going to definitely avoid that stuff!’ Matthew said. “What else should I be paying attention too on labels?”
“Well, my rule of thumb is to not get any products that have chemicals added to them. If the ingredients aren’t all food products that I could buy easily, I do not get the products. Whatchmacallit dioxide and di sodium whoozit aren’t helping me that is for sure. And the other big thing to avoid is any artificial sweeteners.” She said emphatically.
“Like diet soda?” asked Matthew.
“Just like diet soda!” she answered. “Sucralose was invented as ant poison for crying out loud. And Nutrasweet or aspartame or acesulfamane or whatever you want to call it has been linked to Alzheimer’s, Gulf War Syndrome, and again Parkinson’s disease. It also causes obesity which is a dirty trick to play on people who are using it trying to loose weight.”
“Gulf War Syndrome! Now you are pulling my leg!” Matthew said.
“Well I wish I was, Nutra-Sweet turns to Formaldehyde at 86° Fahrenheit. Our boys were being served drinks that had been stored in tents outside in temperatures over 100°. Not to mention that your body is over 86° anyway. Gulf War Syndrome is awfully close in symptoms to formaldehyde poisoning.” She shook her head in disgust. “Half of all law suits against the FDA are over nutra sweet. It is epidemic.”
“But we have to eat something. If it is in everything, what do we have to do? Eat organic? Become a vegetarian? Those aren’t easy things to do.” Matthew said. “Besides you have to die of something, right.”
“Well it’s true, you have to die of something. But do you want to have a good quality of life while you’re alive? Avoiding a few things like artificial sweeteners and MSG is not really all that hard. And unless you want to get into the medical treadmill when you’re my age, it’s well worth it. The only pill I take is a multi vitamin. And I am not a burden on my family. Until my Medicare kicked in at 65, I had no insurance and didn’t need it. Diet and exercise are lifestyle choices to lower your need for doctors. It is easy, and so much nicer. You can eat organic if you want, or become a vegetarian as you say. But I don’t always eat organic, and I am not a vegetarian. I just do the easy and obvious steps. It is enough.” She smiled, and put her hand on Matthews shoulder. “It is your decision Matthew. But I recommend you try. You will find it is really pretty easy, and you don’t have to give anything up, or buy special diet products. East what you want, just read the label.”
“OK, Ok!” he mocked growled at her. “I will give it a try.” And they moved on to the meat aisle
When they reached the meat aisle, Jane walked up to the window and said, “Can I get my bundle Dottie?”
“Sure thing Jane!” the women said, and walked into the back of the meat room.
“What is a bundle?” Matthew asked.
“Most grocery stores will sell you a bundle of meat at a great savings if you order it the week before and pay for it then. Since I am Jewish, and don’t eat pork or rabbit, I usually get chicken, beef, and turkey in my bundle, but occasionally there is something else- like duck.” Came her answer.
“Do you just order what you want?” Matthew asked.
“No, not at this store anyway. They know not to give me pork or rabbit. And there is always some ground beef. But other than that it is always a little different. I don’t know what cuts I am going to get exactly but I get 30lbs of meat for $65.00 and that is amazing at today’s prices. I get what ever they have a lot of. Its kind of fun actually, and since I only get meat once a month usually, I have plenty of time to plan meals.” She said. “But, since your recipe book is kind of sparse… I don’t think we will get you a bundle this month.”
“Ahh, so then what should I look for?” Matthew asked.
“Well let’s just walk down the aisle and I will give you some advice. Then you can make your own decisions.” She replied.
Without waiting for a reply, she walked over to the case and stopped by the chicken. “Chicken is usually cheapest by the pound when bought whole. Some parts, like the breasts are expensive and some like thighs are cheaper, but whenever you buy chicken cut up, it costs more. Even if it is just a whole chicken that has already been cut up. Look the whole chicken is under a dollar a pound, and the chicken breast is 7 dollars a pound. So you can get the two breasts on the whole chicken for less than the cost of the split breast in the package. Then you get the rest of the chicken for free. Isn’t it silly to spend 4 or 5 dollars for someone to spend a few minutes cutting your bird? You do have a knife right?” she asked.
“Sure do. Wow your right. I can get four split breasts for the price of three, and get two whole chickens worth of other parts for free.” He laughed. “But a whole chicken would feed me for a week.”
“Probably not a week,” she said. “But, definitely for a couple days. Chickens are not always this price. So when they are low like this, you should buy a few if you have freezer space. You can leave one whole in case of company, and cut the rest up and freeze in meal size containers.”
Matthew grabbed a couple of birds. They moved onto the turkey section of the case.
“Turkeys are great too. And even a small turkey will definitely give you a weeks worth of meals.” Jane explained. “But turkey can get old fast. So if you make one, you can carve it completely and make yourself small ‘TV dinner’ style meals that you freeze for when you don’t have time to cook. You can microwave them, or do what I do which is to wrap them in foil and heat them in the oven. You wrap the foil, then slide into a freezer bag, when you are ready to eat them, you can just pop them in your toaster oven or regular oven. Things just taste better that way, and it only adds five minutes.”
Matthew agreed with her. Microwave food tasted like microwaved food.
“Turkey sausage is great too.” She continued. “My friends tell me turkey sausage is better than pork sausage, but turkey bacon shouldn’t be called bacon.”
Matthew grinned and said. “If you do not think of turkey bacon as bacon it isn’t bad. But I am not a big bacon eater anyway.”
“Well a package of turkey bacon is around $3.00.” She said. “And that will make you four meals of Paycheck.”
“What the heck is Paycheck?” Matthew asked.
“It’s a depression era meal, you take a quarter pound of turkey bacon, slice it into little slivers. Cook it in a skillet with a diced onion, diced potato, and some slivered cabbage. And you have to get the potato pieces small so they are done at the same time. Add an egg or two to bind it and you have a skillet full of food for around a dollar. And it’s good too. Everybody loves it.” She smiled at his expression. “What is it?” she asked.
“Cabbage and eggs?” He asked. “And is that a breakfast or dinner?” he waited and then added, “It sounds greasy…”
Jane laughed. “Cabbage is not only the cheapest vegetable, it is one of the best for you. And it features heavily in depression era cooking along with bacon and potatoes because of both of those reasons. I guess it might be greasy with pork bacon, but with turkey bacon I usually add a little olive oil while cooking it. And, while I usually use it as a breakfast, it makes a lot food. I usually get at least a lunch out of it too, sometimes more.”
“Well you haven’t steered me wrong yet.” Matthew said. “I will try it.”
“These sausages are very versatile as well.” She said. “ I always get the Italian style over the breakfast style. You get more for your money and I like them better. Besides their use as a side for your eggs at breakfast. They are good with pasta and marinara, or my favorite, sliced into coins and sautéed with mushrooms, onion, and asparagus in olive oil, and served over Ziti or Penne. That is a cheap, quick way to entertain and people always ask for the recipe. Asparagus is expensive for a vegetable, but much this dish is cheaper than getting an expensive meat for company. You can also slice the sausage while still frozen, and feed unexpected company in half an hour. You can also replace the asparagus with broccoli”
“Now that sounds good!” Matthew said with a smile. “I’m getting hungry.”
Jane laughed and said, “we are almost done. Don’t forget the Parmesan or Romano if your making sausage and asparagus. Another good quick meal with sausage is with bread. Add a bell pepper and an onion and you can have sausage and pepper heroes. Or with cheese and Marinara and you have a sausage parm.”
“Are you sure you’re not Italian?” asked Matthew with a wink.
Jane actually giggled and said, “Nope, but those are all New York foods as much as they are Italian.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?” Matthew asked.
“Within reason…” Jane said warily.
“Well, you said you were Jewish, and you don’t eat pork. Yet you spoke about putting cheese on meat dishes. I thought that was not kosher.” He said shyly.
“That is a good question.” She said. “I am a reformed Jew. My rabbi believes the command that is taken as not mixing meat and dairy is actually talking about a specific pagan dish sacrificed to a pagan god where a baby goat was boiled in the milk of it’s own mother. We keep clean and unclean meats, but none of the hedge laws at our synagogue.”
“What are hedge laws?” Matthew asked.
“Long story. Suffice it to say that they are extra bits of rules added to biblical laws to be certain that the commands aren’t accidentally broken. An extra layer or “hedge”. If you have a lot of questions you could speak to my rabbi.” She said.
“Just curious. I never really thought about their being a lot of different Jewish denominations.” He replied.
“Oh yes, just like other faiths.” She answered. “Some Chasidics do not consider reformed Jews Jewish.” She smiled.
And they moved onto the chop meat.
Matthew had noted previously the different packages of chopped meat available, and had been surprised at how many different varieties there seemed to be. He said as much to Jane.
“Well, there are differences and then there are differences,” Jane said. “This section here has chopped turkey, which is cheaper than beef, but does not work as well as beef for most recipes calling for chopped meat. It makes great sausage or Asian food however. I don’t really use it because I am just not fond of it. The chopped chicken is good. But is usually much more expensive than beef. I get it if it is on sale sometimes. “
“What is this package with three different kinds of meat?” Matthew asked.
“Meatball mix. It has chopped pork, beef, and veal. I don’t eat pork and am not a big fan of veal for ethical reasons, so I never get that. Next to it is Bison. Low in fat, but expensive usually. Another item I only get on sale. The secret to Bison is that it needs to be rare or medium rare or it tastes too dry. Sometimes this store has venison, it’s the same thing- rare is the key. Store venison is usually farm raised red deer – European deer. Not the American whitetail. It is a different taste altogether than wild venison. Much like wild turkey and farm turkey, completely different tastes.”
“Makes sense, I don’t need anything exotic though. What’s with all these percentages on these packages?” Matthew asked pointing to a section of beef that went from 75% to 95% in 5 % increments.
“It all looks the same but there is a big price difference.”
“The percentage is how much meat to how much fat. The percentage represents the meat, or the “lean” as it’s called. So the 75% is 25% fat and tallow. The tallow is used as a binder so patties and meatballs hold the shape you intend for them.”
“So I should probably get the leanest, because even though it is the most expensive, I get mostly meat- and it is better for me right?” Matthew asked.
“Well lean meat is better for you, that’s true- cheaper usually not. You have to do the math, but usually the heavier fat content is MUCH cheaper than buying lean. I guess since they have much less trimming to do. Or the perception of being healthier is something people pay more for. The truth is, the heavier fat content is usually what I buy, because even with the lean beef, I have to drain it anyway. Why not drain a little more, and save a buck or two? Right?” She asked with a smile. “You just have to do the math when you’re buying. “
“Seems as if that is the common thread with shopping.” Matthew said.
“It is.” She replied. “Do you have enough meat for the month now?”
“Yes, except for some lunch meat for sandwiches. I guess we should head over for the deli department.” Matthew said.
“Not so fast, what kind of lunch meat do you get?” She asked.
“Usually just roast beef and turkey.” He answered.
“Well then let’s do a quick experiment. I will wait here, run over to the deli and check the price per pound for both of those meats and then come back here.” She instructed.
Matthew walked over to the deli and came back with the price per pound of the two meats. She then walked over to the Roasts section of the meat department. She held up a roast to Matthew pointing at the price per pound. “What’s the difference?” she asked him.
“Wow! It costs less than half as much? Is it the same thing?” He asked.
“Well yes and no. Someone has already cooked the roast beef in the deli, and then they slice it for you. Other than the convenience factor they are the same. You do have an oven and a knife? Right?” She asked teasingly.
“Point made wise guy!” He mock growled. “I guess I can assume the turkey is the same?”
“Finally!” she exclaimed.
“Finally I got it huh?” Matthew asked.
“No! Finally one of your assumptions is right!’ She said with a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh brother!” Matthew said heading off into the dairy aisle.
In the dairy aisle, Matthew grabbed a two pounds of butter and a brick of cheese and looked up at Jane, waiting for her to comment. She did not disappoint. She asked if he needed eggs, then smiled. “you are waiting for me to tell you that you did something wrong aren’t you?” she asked.
“Well, Kinda.” He admitted.
“Well I prefer butter over margarine too. You got the generic kind. And, it’s the same thing with the cheese that you chose. You did fine. If you drank milk, I would have suggested that you try dry milk, or blending the dry and fresh. But all in all, I think you did well. You need anything else? Because I am done.” She said.
“I’m through. This is the most groceries I have had in a long time.” Matthew answered.
They went through the checkout. Matthew used all his food stamp money and had to kick in twelve dollars for the overage and the things not covered. He was not too worried though as he was working now, and since he had a bus pass and food, he felt he was covered for the week or so until he was paid.
The two friends said goodbye at the door, and made plans to meet for lunch in the park a few days in the future.
When Matthew got home and was putting away his food. He was amazed at the sense of peace that he got from seeing all the bags on his kitchen counter. He was actually disappointed when he put it away that there was still shelf room to fill. He felt as good or better as he had when he had left the studio the day Mark hired him.
Thinking of the studio, Matthew headed out to see if he could get some time in learning audio. When he reached the studio, He went looking for Mark to find the instructional materials.
“It’s about time you showed up!” Mark growled in his characteristic mock anger. “No time for learning, you are going on the clock as an audio guy right now!”
“But I have no clue about audio Mark!” he protested.
“Luc says you have done this before and were fine. All you have to do is hold a boom mike over your economist friend’s head for an hour. A monkey could handle it. Since I can’t find a monkey, you will have to do. Not another word! Head to Studio B and hook up with your partners in crime!” Mark’s tone was practically a yell at this point.
“On my way!” Matthew said nervously, headed down the hall for the studio that Mark had named.
When he reached studio B, he found John busily looking over notes, and looking flustered.
“What’s going on?” Matthew asked.
“Thank goodness you’re here!” John exclaimed. “We are giving a follow up interview with Dr. Cummings and it’s in like 5 minutes. Go hook up with Luc, and we will talk after.”
“On my way! Ummm, where is he?” Matthew returned.
“I’m right here! How was your date?” Luc said walking into the studio behind Matthew.
“My date?” Matthew said looking over at John, “Don’t believe everything that Walter Cronkite over there tells you. I went grocery shopping with an elderly woman.”
“Cougars! I would never have guessed you dog!’ Luc returned and both he and John burst into laughter. Finally Matthew joined them and said, ‘Ok Ok, I guess that is funny, but this woman is like a mom to me, lay off.”
“Sorry!” Luc said. “I don’t want to upset you, just joshing. John told me that she was your fairy godmother.”
“That’s actually not a bad way to describe her.” Matthew said.
“Hello Gentlemen! We meet again.” Dr. Cummings said walking into the studio with a smile. “Thank you for agreeing to do it.”
“No Problem Dr. Thank You!” John returned shaking his hand.
“Thank you for requesting us from the station.” Luc said.
“No problem, no problem. I liked the footage you sent out.” Dr. Cummings said.
“To be perfectly honest, we didn’t edit it- they did. We just sent them raw tape.” Luc replied candidly.
“Whatever works. They are the ones paying both of us. If they are happy, who are we to complain.” The Doctor laughed.
Luc got both John and Dr. Cummings settled and lit, and gave Matthew his instructions. And then indicated he was ready to begin by saying “Speed!” the video version of film’s “Action” and the session began.