Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cheap Eats

I’m the parent of a teenage girl. She’s naturally slim, and doesn’t have a huge appetite. But she plays in a garage band made up of teenage boys, and they do. They show up at our house at noon on weekends, make a horrible racket for about 5 hours, and go home. If someone brings a bag of potato chips, they’re gone in 10 minutes.

I feel guilty, because as the “host” of this activity, I feel that we ought to feed them. My wife argues that since we’re providing the rehearsal space, they should bring their own food. But when they do bring their own food, it’s potato chips. I try to talk to them about it, but they say that potato chips are fine. They just look bored if I try to bring up the subject of protein and vitamins.

So last week I gave in to my better nature and I made a big pot of “teenager food.” This is something I made up on the spot that is very easy and cheap, but far more nutritious than potato chips. It consists of the following ingredients:

2 boxes of macaroni and cheese (which requires 1/2 cup of milk and a stick of butter)
2 cans of chunk light tuna (you can use albacore, but it’s more expensive)
4 slices of bacon
1/2 of a green bell pepper or 1 onion
2 tablespoons of dried parsley

Pre-fry the bacon or nuke it in the microwave and cut it up into chunks. Dice the bell pepper. Make the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions, then throw in the tuna, the bacon, the bell pepper and the parsley and mix it thoroughly. Then put out some empty bowls and send a text message to the garage announcing that food is ready and get the hell out of the kitchen as a safety measure.

Feeds five ravenous teenage boys and one less ravenous teenage girl. Total cost? About 4 bucks. That’s less than 70 cents per teenager.

It got me thinking about cheap food, and I realized there’s two kinds of cheap food. There’s the kind that’s cheap because it’s plentiful, and there’s the kind that’s cheap because nobody wants it.

Last night I went to the movies. We have a “second run” theater in our neighborhood that charges $1.75 per ticket to see movies that have ended their primary run at the big Cineplex with the cushy seats. I like going there because I absolutely hate to spend $9 to see the mediocre crap that Hollywood churns out. Unfortunately, the second-run theater is kind of run-down, clearly operating on a shoestring budget.

The second run theater is like most movie theaters – they make their money on concessions. Popcorn is expensive, drinks are expensive, candy is expensive. But for some reason, hot dogs are only a dollar. Hot dogs can’t be more plentiful than popcorn, so why are they so cheap? Now you know why I don’t eat them.

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