Monday, May 28, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

Saturday was an uneventful day - a simple breakfast of bacon and cheese omelets started our morning, followed by a quick trip to the playground to play while we waited for Gil to return from his morning at work. When we bumped into a friend with her husbands kids, the old saying, expect the unexpected, rang true. With the kids in town for the weekend, she was hoping maybe they could all come over Sunday to play with my son and go fishing on the lake since her husband, also a doctor, was off for the holiday.

Running through my head - what to make for dinner?

They'd surely stay for dinner and if I was going to honor my commitment to this week, what would we have to serve as a meal for not just us, but two more adults and three more children? I quickly ran through the options and decided to explain to her what we were doing because, for the life of me, I couldn't come up with a meal for all of us with what I had on hand. I offered up that we had enough chicken and salad and could cut up the cantaloupe and maybe make some frozen strawberry yogurt for dessert. She offered to bring the asparagus bunch she had in her crisper and anything else she could think would add to our meal.

When we arrived home and were preparing our lunch (tuna salad, romaine, diced celery, tomato, pecan pieces and dressing) I let Gil know we'd be having company on Sunday, he had a great idea - if they're going fishing, why not have fish for dinner? So, that was the plan - the chicken would be our standby just in case, but if they caught some fish, that would be our dinner.

Saturday dinner was a salad, cheeseburgers and spinach. Yum!

Since Gil had the day off yesterday (Sunday), we prepared a family breakfast of spinach and cheese omelets with some blackberries on the side; coffee as usual and an addition - a small glass of V-8 with a twist of lemon rounded out our morning meal. Our friends arrived shortly after lunch - I didn't have lunch (not hungry yet), Gil picked on what was in the refridgerator and our son ate some yogurt, blackberries, cucumber slices with ranch and roast beef from the salad bar I picked up - and had brought a big bunch of asparagus, cut up watermelon, a homemade lemon pie and a spinach & artichoke dip with rye rounds.

They liked the idea of eating their catch for dinner, so everyone was keen on fishing as planned with a fish-fry for dinner if they managed to catch some fish if the weather cooperated!

On and off thunderstorms throughout the day continued through most of the afternoon, so when a band of weather cleared, the kids and Gil headed to the dock with poles and bait and returned with dinner about an hour later. After cleaning the fish, we had about 4-pounds of filets for everyone to enjoy!

So, dinner was a meal of a large salad (romaine, tomatoes, pecan pieces, cucumber slices, scallions and dressing), fresh caught fish, grilled asparagus and fresh-brewed iced tea with lemon. The pie, for those not watching carbs, and added to the watermelon some cantaloupe and berries and we had a great dessert too, remaining within our commitment for the week.

Funny, but the kids didn't seem to mind not having the usual junk-foods - no complaints at all - they were quite content with the meal and fresh fruits or homemade pie for dessert, and enjoyed the fresh iced tea to drink with not one asking for juice or soda.

And, yes, I'm fully aware most folks would not have the option to go fishing off their dock...and if we didn't have that option available, we would have had the chicken legs/thighs in enough quantity to make grilled chicken for everyone. Fishing was just too tempting not to use as an opportunity to not just have fun (the kids wanted to go fishing - it was one reason they were coming over) but to feed ourselves from our own hands.

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." Chinese Proverb


  1. Anonymous11:40 AM

    I have seen a discernible divide in folks who fish near me. I live in the San Diego, CA area, only a few miles from the coast. Sport fishing is a big past-time with some folks we know, with big muscular boats (owned or hired), often lots of beer, and (sometimes) some big catches as a result. Many of these folks go so often that they give the fish away to friends or even toss it overboard because their freezers are full but other times they hardly catch a thing (the nature of fishing I guess). Sport fishing seems more of a social occasion (usually groups of men), a recreation that happens to sometimes provide bonus food.

    On the other hand, my husband (who doesn't find the time to go fishing as often as he would like) prefers to fish from the beach or the pier, athough he has done the big boat version a few times as a guest. It's easier to spontanously decide to go fishing and he is mindful of the cost and environmental impact of big boat fishing (even the big catches probably don't offset the real costs of sport fishing).

    My observation is that the folks fishing without boats are often from a different demographic segment than the ones at the marinas. Lots of immigrants, lots of minorities, some folks who appear to be struggling, lots of families fishing together. It's a guess on my part, but I wouldn't be surprised if many qualify for food stamps. Fresh fish is probably a important way to stretch their food budgets for many of these folks. It also happens to be a nice way to spend some time as a family or parent/child excursion.

    Another healthy, traditional food budget stretcher is gardening, even if it is just some lettuce, herbs, or a tomato plant in a container in a sunny spot. There are ways to do this without a huge amount of space or labor. is a good place for info. SFG has a small garden program for poor women who need to feed their families with minimal resources.

  2. Anonymous3:46 PM

    IMO, anything you can grow, catch or forage is fair game! I might prowl around for young dandelion greens later in the week.

  3. Anonymous3:54 PM

    I tried to post this on the blog, but apparently, I'm not doing something right, because it wouldn't go...

    as the single parent of 5 kids, I learned long ago that what you are all guessing is true. My ex didn't contribute to the household for years, and since the kids were small, it made more sense to go on welfare/food stamps. It was quite literally impossible to work enough jobs to pay for child care along with all the other bills, and buy groceries. And I couldn't just keep taking from my family--they all had their own needs.

    But as for buying vitamins, like one of the bloggers mentioned, to make up the nutritional difference--food stamps won't cover that. They also don't pay for toothpaste, toilet tissue, hand soap, laundry soap, kleenex, etc. etc.--all those other non-food items that you normally pick up while you're shopping.

    I got around that by buying cases of bottled soda--not only did the stamps cover that, but it would also cover the deposit. That gave me an extra couple of bucks every week for non-food essentials when I returned them and collected the deposit. But it didn't do much for the kids teeth and health. on the other hand, canned juice for 5 kids was way too expensive, so we made do with soda and koolaid. (non sweetened only costed about 12 cents a pack and you don't really need to add as much sugar as it says on the package--and you can even add a little extra water to stretch it.)
    I would always plant a garden, and most of my kids love fresh veggies--but that only took care of the summer months. the rest of the year it was always canned stuff, normally from the cheapest discount store I could find. as I'm sure you know, there is very little nutritional value in that stuff and the sodium content is ridiculously high. It's no wonder the poor have so many health problems!

    anyhow, all I'm saying is that if it's possible to eat healthy on food stamps, I'd be amazed to hear how it's done.
    but I don't think I'll try it again anytime soon, so I'll be watching to see how that goes.
    But the odds of Congress doing anything anytime soon....well, the poor would be better off buying lottery tickets.

    (and, for the record, I did climb out of the welfare/food stamp rut. I now have a good job (vs. being on welfare--it's an outstanding job!), my 2 youngest are in college, my oldest has a job that pays more than mine and put herself through college, and the two middle kids have jobs and are supporting families.
    Being on welfare is a huge hit to the ego...but I think it should only be the rare exception that anyone should need to accept it as a way of life. And my experience with the system is a little outdated. It's been about 6 years since I they decided I didn't need any more help! Fortunately, I'd lost a job with the Post Office, and they offered some help going back to school so I was on the verge of getting my associate's degree. I went back ito ask for just some food stamps until I could find work, but since I had $50 in the bank, they turned me down. I was able to get a job. At $9/hour, and with no day care costs to consider, I was a little better off.
    And now I've worked myself up to a salaried position, three of the kids have moved on to their own lives, and while a lot of people would look down their noses at the amount of money I make currently, all I can tell them is that for their own sake, I hope they don't have some life changing experience that puts them on the street and makes them have to learn all this.)

    thanks for letting me vent. You wouldn't believe the number of idiotic comments I've heard about how "everyone" on welfare is lazy and just stealing from all the good taxpayers out there.

    Josie Labath

  4. Anonymous7:20 PM


    You did the best you could. Don't listen to anyone who would say something bad about getting assistance but has never walked in your shoes.

    Sure, there are always people who milk the system, rich or poor. Doesn't mean everyone does. Most "welfare" folks I have known personally were not on assistance long-term, usually long enough support their kids and get a degree, then get back on their feet. So that is what I tend to thing is the norm, not the typical stereotype. Even if not in school, I would rather a single parent be home with kids (even teenagers, who need a different kind of supervision) than put the kids in cheap, crummy daycare just to work a deadend low wage job. That routine is more likely to lead to the perpetual multi-generation welfare cycle.

    My MIL had to go on the British equivelent of welfare when my husband was 11. She had some health problems and it wasn't possible for her to work after a while, even though she was highly educated. It wasn't easy, but she managed to successfully rear 3 kids alone. All are hard-working, self-supporting and pay back far more the system than they ever received.

    I don't know if my parents ever used food stamps, but I wouldn't be surprised if they qualified at times (we got free breakfast at school at times, but I thought it was a treat and didn't know it was based on income). My dad was self-employed and it was feast or famine (feast wasn't so often). My mom's good money management skills and my dad's organic garden (plus a freezer) meant that we kids weren't usually aware of how tight things things were sometimes.

    That said, I do think a lot could be done improve the food stamp program. I would say better nutrition education, but the govt doesn't have a very good track record on that for anyone, let alone food stamp recipients. Lots of well-off folks don't know beans about nutrition either, so I don't think it's an income thing. But there is something wrong with a food assistance program that doesn't somehow find a way to provide real, nutrient dense foods in adequate quantities to people in need instead allowing koolaid and refined carbs because they are cheap.

  5. Regina congrats on thinking on your feet and managing to come up with a great dinner for a bunch of people without destroying your budget!

  6. Hi goes to Gil =)