My roommate Sheraz and I suffer from a certain indecision about what to eat; nothing seems good to us anymore, and this results in discussions of the “What do you want to eat? I dunno, what do YOU want to eat?” kind and in disastrous expeditions like today's, in which we drove around aimlessly for an hour looking for something that would hit the elusive "spot". I have no illusions; this is a mark of decadence, one more of the minor pyschological problems that comes of limitless opportunities and a complete lack of survival pressure. But to hell with that—we decided to solve our problem by turning it into an amusing adventure, applying our favorite tool for doing so: eccentric wagering.
In each week of the next four we will dine according to pre-defined rules. Any failure to fullfill the requirements of that week will result in losing the wager and paying a cash prize to the other party (first $10, then $20, then $30, and so on for each successive infraction). For week one, Sheraz and I have agreed on the following theme: we will spend no money whatsoever on food! The entire week we have to survive solely on what we can get from other people, using charm, wits, deception, or whatever.
We began tonight, by going to my cousin Torm's house and eating a lovely traditional Estonian meal: beef and cabbage stew, boiled potatoes, and a cucumber and tomato salad with yogurt sauce. Watch this space for daily updates!
In the meantime, I note that Mark Twain had an alternative but no less extreme cure for the same problem. Read about it here.
UPDATE—June 9, 2006, Friday: I ate decently today, starting with three eggs, scrambled, at my parents' house. Lunch was some macaroni and cheese I happened to have in my house (considered “free” according to the rules of the wager). Dinner was again at my parents' house—my saintly mother made a lovely shrimp jambalaya for me at ten p.m. Perfect—I survive another day!
Saturday: Breakfast was two pieces of bread my girlfriend happened to have at her apartment. Fortunately, the huge amount of jambalaya made by my mother (servings for four!) left a bit over for lunch today. For dinner, Sheraz played the hungry bachelor card on our married friend Mark Miller, who invited us over—we dined on excellent fried chicken with a bruschetta topping, sauteed greens, saffron risotto, and chocolate mousse with raspberries, all made by the skilled hand of Mark's wife, Nicole. Thanks!
Sunday: The day began with some oatmeal I had in my pantry; I found there some spaghetti also, which I boiled and ate at noon, albeit without sauce of any kind. Torm and Kaire, aware of our challenge, were kind enough to invite us over for dinner. On Sundays they sometimes cook ahead for the week to come, and so they had some tasty leftovers for us—Torm grilled a superb beef tenderloin, and Kaire broke out a very nice Estonian potato salad. As always, a fine dessert was served: raspberry whipped creme brulee. I think I'm eating better than ever under this arrangement!
Monday: Nobody's broken the wager yet! For breakfast, I made some chocolate-chip pancakes out of a mix I had in my pantry. I found some smoked salmon in my refrigerator, which I ate for lunch. In the evening I went to my parent's house yet again, and ate some frozen packages of vegetables and rice and a Boar's Head hot dog.
Tuesday: One of my leaner days. Breakfast consisted of a protein energy bar. I also drank a glass of Carnation Instant breakfast. For dinner I had a can of Progresso Beef Barley soup, taken from my mother's pantry (thanks!). My girlfriend also made me some thanksgiving stuffing, which she already had in her kitchen (the terms of the wager don't allow her to buy food for me—Sheraz is single and this would be quite an unfair advantage).
Wednesday: An excellent day! It started with some donut holes brought to the University by fellow graduate student Brandon Moore, who has my thanks. Our advisor and generous source of funding, inventor Michael Levine, was kind enough to take us all to lunch after the day's demonstration. This consisted of fried rice, Mongolian beef, and wok-seared lamb at P. F. Chiang's—I think the other members of my team may have been surprised to see me finish off all three plates! Dinner was again by Torm and Kaire: shepherd's pie with turkey-fennel sausage and cheese on top, and a nice salad with cucumbers and shallots. The week's almost up!
Thursday: Last day of the wager—dinner tonight is open! For "breakfast" I stopped by my parents' house and ate a can of Progresso Steak and Noodle soup—an excellent variety which I recommend to all starving bachelors, poor graduate students, and other fine individuals. Later I ate with my mother and a friend of hers—seared scallops. Thanks mom!
Indeed, thanks to everyone that graciously fed Sheraz and I during this week of feast and famine. We couldn't have done it without it you! Be sure to check this space for the next Culinary Adventure Week.