the $1 lunch experiment

here is the chronicle of The One-dollar Lunch Experiment , otherwise known as a one-man, 4-crockpot, itsy-bitsy social experiment — if not the first seed of a revolution.

Ok, that's an exaggeration, I don't think there's going to be a revolution, and even if there was a revolution, I think the effects would be short-lived, as they seem to have been with every other (have you heard me tell the story about being in Prague in October of 1990 and going to the bar where Havel and the Charter 77 revolutionaries would have underground rock shows and poetry readings; a year after the "Velvet revolution," there was a red velvet rope outside the bar and doormen only letting in the cool, well-dressed, beautiful, and those who bribed).

So let's call it a social experiment — not a bad way of thinking about my life as a whole.

The whole thing came about like this. I decided to do an article reviewing crock pots, so I ordered a ton of them and needed to do a lot of testing.

Simul- taneously, I tasted some dried heirloom beans that my brother had ordered from a place called Rancho Gordo in Napa. At $5/lb they cost 4 times what I normally spend on dried beans, but the one kind I tried made me want to try the other 26 varieties that they sell.

So I ordered them all.

And I created a spreadsheet with reviews (I'm happy to share it w/ anyone who's interested).

Now the survivalist's perfect storm of having both 4 crockpots and 26 pounds of dried beans in one's apartment at the same time will lead you to some unorthodox thinking. In my case, it led to the desire to feed my office lunch, and to do so such that I could charge them each only $1 a portion and still break even.

It was the perfect economic challenge/mass-providing activity to suit all my psychological needs.

Additionally, it brings me one step closer to my dream of being a 260-lb Baptist woman — now, in addition to the perpetual roots gospel I have playing in my apartment, my basso singing along, my hip-shaking, and now, the capper, my bringing of lunch to 22 people a day, as if I was toting my prized pies or buttermilk fried chicken to the church social or the fair.

So here are the 19 meals i ended up cooking over the 29 business days from sept 21 - nov 1. (didn't use any recipes, but can give basic ideas upon request)


1. Malaysian-style curried beef (rendang-like) w/ broc, red pepper, carrot, brown rice $1

2. SW-style chili con carne (pork/chicken livers as secret ingredient), green pepper, brown rice $1

3. Chana masala (chick pea curry) w/ broc, potato, brown rice $1

4. Chinese noodles w/ roast pork, red pepper, baby bok choy, peanut sauce $1

5. Penne w/ mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, labna, pepper/herbs de provence $1

6. Bbq pulled pork, heirloom flageolet beans, cabbage/cilantro/green pepper no-mayo slaw, rice $2 (couldn't get enough pork shoulder on sale, thus the price)

7. Hunter's stew (lamb, pork, chicharrones), white beans w/ spinach, brown rice $1

8. Re-tread chili (3 leftover chilis/beans from freezer mixed up), rice, cilantro $1

9. Pasta e fagioli (heirloom tepary and giant lima beans, artisinal orecchiete pasta) w/ watercress and sopressata) $2 due to Little Italy last-minute buying

10. peanut noodle dish w/ red peppers and scallions 75 cents (note, here's the pic, but normally i'd have to bring about twice this much food in)

11. 2 curries: french lentil w/ pea shoots/carrots/ghee (vegetarian not vegan), ground pork/red peppers/broc/cilantro and a roasted cauliflower (vegan) and brown rice $1

12. ricotta mini ravioli w/ broccoli rabe, heirloom snowcap beans, luganiga sausage, kalamata olives, fresh basil and tomato sauce: $2 (rabe is expensive)

13. tuscan-inspired sandwich w/ grilled duck hearts, broccoli rabe, white beans, shaved parmesan, and quality olive oil: $1.50

14. ziti w/ "sausage and peppers" -- sausage in the bolognese sauce w/ green pepper $1

15. vegan curried zucchini and brown rice. 75 cents (see pic)

16. heirloom mayocoba beans w/ green pepper, much better chick peas than you're used to (cuz they're not from a can) w/ spinach, brown rice $1

17. syrian-spiced grilled chicken breasts and "succotash" (corn, potato, greens), + chick peas, spinach, rice from yesterday $1.50

18. chicken cacciatore w/ egg noodles, green pepper, steamed yams $2

19. ricotta ravioli w/ zucchini and rich meat sauce (w/ soppressata cubes) $2

my favorite responses were from Kyle who repeatedly said how much he loved the whole idea of the thing (and seemed to enjoy the meals quite a bit too). megan was sweet b/c she had a new favorite every few days (as did margaret). and i got to know the people on the nerve side too, since obviously i opened it up to them.

in all, a blast, even though i'll probably have dishpan hands for all of 2011.