Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Dollar a Day- Could you do it?

There is a small ad that appears from time to time on this blog with the headline, " A Dollar a day". I wonder if those of us in wealthy countries could live on that if we tried. It would not be a question in most cases of having to, but just very simply of trying to, to see if we could do it.

What does a dollar buy you? A small bag of generic rice, pasta...sure. But what about flavour?

What can you make for a dollar's worth of ingredients? Think about make that stretch to feed you all day long. Right, you got it...only one meal.

At times when money has been lean while living in France, I began to see where many French dishes sprang from. One day, looking in my kitchen, a few days before the paycheck landed, I had a few things on hand...but what if I had to feed a family on this? What would I have done? What do and what have people done? I then saw the birth of many things I would have looked past otherwise like onion soup, croque monsieur, cassoulet....these are all poor dishes. The dishes created from want and need, born of tremendous creativity and the human desire for flavor despite circumstances. It takes a genius to take a few onions, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and if you're lucky, a beef bone and make a feast large enough for a family. I can see into the origins of this classic French dish like never before. I savour it when I taste it. I appreciate it. I hail the French!

Of course, this is not an ability unique to the French. The entire world has created dishes from need. A dollar a day...or less.

Give it a try on a day when you are feeling particularly low. On a day when the internal rains are pouring despite the sunshine outside. You will feel better.

Onion soup
Makes about 4 servings

1/8 cup olive oil
4 large onions, sliced
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
4 cups water

Begin to saute the onions in a the olive oil on medium heat...cook until they just begin to caramelize, turning a soft golden brown. Now, sprinkle in the flour, mustard salt and pepper...continue to saute for just a few minutes.

Transfer the onion mixture to a large soup pot. Add the water. Cover. Cook on a gentle low heat
for about 2 hours.

If you do not have Dijon style mustard, improvise! Use what you can substitute a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce or even hot sauce.