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Dave — final thoughts

Looking back on my week of eating out of an emergency food hamper, two thoughts come to mind.

First, if I never see another plantain, that will still be too soon.

And second, the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank does an amazing job of providing for those in need.  I mean that sincerely. I’m just one person who used one hamper, which had everything I needed and more. Volunteers at the Food Bank provide thousands of those each year.

Throughout the week, I felt the frustration of seeing my friends and co-workers enjoying lunch or dinner while I went without. But in the back of my mind, I knew that my situation would end after seven days and I had to do was tough it out. The people who truly need the Food Bank don’t have that luxury. For them, making ends meet is a constant, daily struggle. 

Coming into this experiment, I talked about my preconceived notions of what would be in my hamper, whether I would like it and how much it would differ from what I was used to. But as the week went on, I realized that’s not what people who have to turn to the Food Bank are focused on. For them, it’s a matter of need. What you’re used to is irrelevant when you’re a single parent with a hungry kid.

I think I can honestly say I now appreciate, even if it’s just a little more, the fact I’m able to buy the foods I want. Not everyone is as lucky. And in a way, it was humbling for me. The only thing separating me from most of those people is a couple of paycheques.

That why I’ve decided to donate $100 to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank — about what I’d spend on groceries and meals in a week. And when I do bring cans of food to fundraisers and donation drives in the future, it won’t be creamed corn or kidney beans. I’ll give what I’d want to get. After all, shouldn’t we treat all people the way we ourselves want to be treated?

And one piece of advice for the volunteers putting the hampers together … avoid the bubblegum pudding (blech) stick with butterscotch, chocolate or vanilla instead 🙂


June 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

Dave — Day 4

My stomach was a lot happier with me on Thursday morning. Being my first day of holidays, I had time in the morning for a good breakfast so after sleeping in a little, I got started on making poached eggs (thanks to the allowance of vinegar) on toast, which are surprisingly easy.

Just bring a pot of water to a gentle boil, then lower the heat until the water just stops rolling. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar (it keeps the egg together) then stir the water so it makes a kind of tornado-like vortex in the middle. Crack an egg into a bowl and slowly pour that into the middle of the vortex. The spinning water will help keep the egg from spreading into a gelatinous mess. Let that cook for about three to five minutes (depending on how soft you like your yolks) lift out with a large spoon (preferrably one with holes) and dry the egg on a piece of paper towel. Homemade poached eggs!

That with a bowl of cereal had me starting the day on a full stomach for the first time this week, but only because of my own lack of time management.

And it’s time management that will be so important for me this weekend as I complete this challenge. Being on holiday, I’m getting out town to visit my parents in B.C. so it would be easy to rely on their fridge during the trip (my parents are the most hospitable people on the planet and I dare anyone to even try visiting my Mom without her making you a nine-course meal) but since I can’t, I’ve had to bring food with me.

Thursday was easy because I’d be in my car for most of day driving so I just packed a lunch. Two, tunafish sandwiches with lettuce (using zesty ranch spread in place of the mayo), a granola bar, some chocolate chip cookies and other snacks from my bag of treats, plantain chips,  and a couple cans of ginger ale. This isn’t really out of the norm for me as I usually like to pack a lunch for long car rides. And it also kept me full for the rest of the day.

But meals for the rest of the weekend had to be made before I left. One thing I’ve noticed as this week has progressed is how I’ve changed my way of looking at my hamper. Instead of seeing what’s not there and what I can’t make, I’m starting to focus on what is there and all the options I have. So, with breakfast — eggs, cereal, toast and an orange — and lunch — soup, bread, tuna, fruit and cookies — already taken care of, all I had to do before leaving was make three dinners. Leftover gnocchi will still be good for one of the nights, so I made another batch of sauce, using a second can of tomatoes, another green pepper and what was left of the eggplant, which I put in some tupperware and will have over rice another night. and for a third evening — HOTDOGS with a side of pork and beans, which I’m probably going to cook over a fire in their backyard.

June 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

Dave — Day 3

I normally don’t mind my desk being next to the office microwave. But on Wednesday, it sucked. You see, I left my lunch at home yesterday. Running seriously late, I only had time to grab a bottle of strawberry meal replacement as I rushed out the door, and didn’t make myself a lunch. So with only the small shake to tide me over — which was actually kinda tasty, but at 300 or so calories not nearly enough for an entire day — I had to watch (and smell) as co-worker after co-worker heated up their lunches, while I went without.

The worst part of my day came around 2 p.m., when the office manager walked into the newsroom carrying a tray of sandwiches. Her announcement of “free food!” prompted a stampede of voracious journalists and the platter was picked clean in a a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, as per the rules of this experiment, I couldn’t have one. Food not in the hamper is off limits — even free offerings in the office.

When my work day finally ended at 4 p.m., I raced home and had a snack then got started on dinner — gnocchi in tomato sauce, which is actually easy to make.

I took one can of tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes and simmered them together. Then cut up an oyster mushroom and a few button mushrooms and sauteed them with half an eggplant, a green pepper, some salt and pepper and added that to the sauce to simmer. Meanwhile, I cut up and boiled three large potatoes until soft then mashed them up. Once cool, I added two small eggs to the potatoes (you don’t want the eggs to cook so the poatoes need to cool a bit) and started mixing in flour (just under two cups) until it made a dough. (Basically, the flour will thicken the dough and you add it to get the taste and texture you want). I kneeded that for a couple of minutes, then cut it into small balls, rolled them out so they look like snakes (get your kids to help, they’ll learn about cooking and have fun), pressed it with a fork to give some texture for the sauce to stick to, cut them into bite-sized pieces and boiled them once agin until they float. Et Voila, you have gnocchi.

June 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Dave – Day 2

For the record — no matter what any five-year-old tells you, bubble gum-flavoured pudding does not taste good. As one of my co-workers, Jenna, pointed out while I was eating some for lunch, it looks and tastes a lot like the toothpaste dentists give little kids. And it made my tongue go numb. Seriously. A few hours later, bubble gum was all I could taste, which you might think would be a good thing, but it wasn’t.

Other than that, lunch was just OK yesterday, mostly because it didn’t fill me up. For the first time in a while, my stomach was growling when I left work, so I rushed home to cook something up, which turned out to be tough. Some other people taking part in this social experiment have listed creative recipes they’ve come up with, which would be nice to try, if I had the ingredients. But I don’t, so I had to get creative for dinner. One thing I’ve really noticed is we’ve got lots of breakfast options — toast, eggs, milk, cereal, fruit and granola bars — and lots to make a solid lunch — soup, salad or tuna for sandwiches — but not a lot of what would make a traditional dinner. Unless hotdogs is your idea of a traditional dinner.

So I started putting things together and soon had something that resembled a filling evening meal — tomatoes, beans, potatoes and eggplant served over rice, not that bad actually, especially with a little salt and peppers for added flavour.

June 2, 2010 at 9:27 am 2 comments

Dave — breakfast Day 1

Breakfast was easy this morning. A danish and a glass of juice for me and a bottle of strawberry “complete meal replacement” drink for my roommate (I also had granola bar when I got to my desk at work). That’s actually pretty standard for me so I didn’t notice a change. I’ve never been a big on breakfast, I like to sleep for an 15 minutes or so instead, and usually just grab a piece of fruit or an energy bar as I’m heading out the door. Lunches, however, will be a different story. No Chinese takeaway for me this week and the soup and sandwiches in the cafeteria upstairs are off limits.

Instead, I brought bubblegum flavoured pudding, chocolate chip cookies and some baby carrots with me today. I was going to throw a tuna sandwich in there too, but realized there wasn’t time this morning and will have to go without (although the extra 15 minutes of sleep was worth it). One thing I’m quickly learning is I’m going to have to be a lot more organized when it comes to meals this week. Instead of just seeing what’s in the fridge and putting something together when I get hungry I’m going to have to think ahead and do a better job of planning.

June 1, 2010 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

That’s a lot of food

The eight-year-old me would have loved what’s in the hamper given to me by the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. Chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, pudding, juice, candy, hot dogs and Oreos.

The now 34-year-old me found a few things to like, too. Plantains, eggs, oranges, potatoes, milk, a Caesar salad kit and even a few cans of generic ginger ale. (And thankfully, no creamed corn!)

Looking at the week ahead, there’s definitely enough food here to keep my roommate and I fed for the next seven days. But making ‘meals’ out of it all will take some creativity. Without meat, we’re going to have to find protein from another source, and without any pasta, the large can of tomato sauce will have to added to something else.

But each time we’re forced to come up with a new recipe or mix-and-match a few items will be a reminder that there’s a lot of people in this city (and around the world) who have to make tougher choices than that every day.

Dinner tonight: salad with fruit and some juice. Gotta eat the fresh food first!


June 1, 2010 at 2:10 am Leave a comment

Here we go …

A few hours before heading down to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank to pick up my hamper I can’t help but dwell on my preconceived notions of what will be inside.

Will I be eating soup every day? (Mushroom isn’t bad) What about cans of beets and creamed corn? (I really don’t like those) Will there be beer? (Probably not but finger’s crossed) What about fresh fruits and veggies? (Hopefully).

I’m used to eating healthy and, as a single guy in his mid-30s, have grown accustomed to being able to afford the foods I want so this will be an adjustment. But it will also be an eye-opening experience. I don’t shop with a list, or a budget really. I pretty much buy what I want. Unfortunately, hundreds of people in Calgary don’t have that luxury and have to rely on the generosity of others. I’m hoping this experience will give me some insight into what they go through week-in and week-out. I’m also hoping to learn a new recipe or two (that doesn’t call for beets or creamed corn).

So, with an open mind and an empty stomach, I begin.


May 31, 2010 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

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