Chewing the fat

When I was a boy growing up in Sydney – and this is the 60s we’re talking about here – I often spent school holidays at my grandmother’s house in the western suburbs. Generally speaking, it wasn’t much fun. My grandmother never had any money. There was a box on the wall out the back of the house that you fed pennies into if you wanted electricity. The electricity people installed it because she could never pay the bill, so we spent quite a number of nights scratching around in the dark for lost pennies, which was an especially traumatic thing if there was a good show coming on the telly.

That wasn’t the worst of it, though. I can clearly recall having fat for dinner one night. Ancient, globulous, orange-yellow fat, scraped out of an ancient cast iron frying pan where it apparently lived. Mind you, I actually didn’t mind it. It was delicious.

Now, I’m a cartoonist. I know a bit about politics but bugger-all about economics. The mechanics of meltdowns and bailouts is beyond me. I’ll happily admit that most of the analysis here on Troppo, for instance, goes in one eye and out the other. What I do understand about economics is that sometimes things go pear-shaped, the price of pears goes bananas and people have to eat fat instead.

Which brings me to a question: if America fails to rescue itself will we soon have to re-learn the dark art of 20th century working class cooking? Are things really going to get that bad?

According to CNN it’s already happening in the UK, where people are buying up big on cheap meat like livers and pig’s feet. There is even talk of seeking out forgotten recipes for gruel. In the States, of course, they’re going for more traditional comfort foods, such as pizzas and cordial. And soup. Soup is big.

Help me out here. My wife has already dumbed down our meals. She reads the papers. Her consumer confidence has hit an all time low. She’s cooking things on the cheap, like meaty slop that’ll provide hearty meals for weeks on end. She must be stopped. Apart from hiding the morning paper, is there anything I can do to restore her faith?

If the answer is ‘fat chance’ does anybody have any decent end-of-the-financial-world recipes I can pass on?

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10 Responses to Chewing the fat

  1. Guy Beres says:

    I think it would be only appropriate here to recommend the classic American bottom-of-the-food-chain fare; namely hamburgers (preferably from McDonalds), hot dogs, and plates full of potato chips fried in beef fat. This has the added bonus effect of propping up the U.S. economy, which is tanking in anyone’s language.

  2. MikeM says:

    Buy a wok and a book on Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai cookery. Stir-frying is an excellent technique to make a very small amount of meat go a long way. You can get four good-sized meals out of 500 grams of chicken fillet, rump steak or lamb (or kangaroo) stir-fry, so you can continue to buy nice meat, but not very much of it.

    A sack of long grain rice, a bag of onions and whatever fresh vegetables are in season. You can even make tofu taste more-or-less edible. Plenty of Asian herbs & spices available in Chinatown.

  3. FDB says:

    Lamb necks.

    They’re just as good as shanks or osso buco, but people don’t buy them ‘cos Jamie hasn’t told them to yet and they’re called “necks”.

    Ditto chook necks – enough meat for a decent gnaw off the barbie, or the finest stock you could hope for.

    This, if such a thing exists, is probably my special subject.

  4. FDB says:

    Oh yeah, and don’t ever buy anything but soft drink, cleaning products and toilet paper from a supermarket (assuming you have a choice). They are invariably more expensive on raw foods.

  5. Pappinbarra Fox says:

    and yes despite our jaundiced memories of life when we were youngsters people were happier after 1929 and then again after 1939 than at any other time in history. And it was the lard that did yessiree.
    FDB good point about what to buy at ubermarkets. Tho we did have punnets of strawbs for 99c last week.

  6. Tony says:

    When I was back on the tools we used to use a lubricant called Trefolex to thread a conduit. Around 1989 Tref was alleged to have cancerous properties so we changed to another lubricant, the superbly named Cool Tool. That didn’t last long. Our boss was a cheapskate so gave us lard instead. It worked. But I felt queasy every time I wiped my hands on my overalls.

  7. Tony says:

    The upside was I’d probably brown up a treat after 35 minutes at 180 degrees.

  8. Don Arthur says:

    How about mining this cookbook for some ideas?

    While it’s true that a lot of the recipes feature critters that you won’t find roaming wild in the NT, I’m sure you could adapt them (eg by substituting crocodile for alligator).

    Of course the most affordable meat of all is the meat you find pre-tenderized by the side of the road. Surf the net and I’m sure you’ll find some tasty recipes using locally available roadkill.

  9. Richard Green says:

    Move to a suburb with lots of Asians.

    That sounds crass, but let me elaborate.

    Move somewhere where much of the population is from one of the more recent waves of migrants (which has largely been East and South Asian), so that more of the population has buying habits from middle income countries.

    Since in those countries the food budget makes up half or something of the budget (rather than the <20% we’ve had since the post war era), people who lived in them are far more price conscious on food even when the budget has changed. Which means shops in their areas are necessarily lower priced to attract customers with greater price elasticity.

    Additionally, these migrant groups, like their predecessors and similar groups world wide tend to open commercial ventures with low capital requirements. Convenience stores, take aways, laundries and, as wincingly shown by Con the Fruiterer, green grocers and butchers. Subsequently, where migrants live, there are likely more of these, and competition does to prices as competition does.

    Both of these features also lead to greater availability of cheap and unusual cuts as well, and greater variety in general.

  10. Fleeced says:

    I still love a piece of bread smeared with pork dripping… Makes pork sandwiches incredible too. Probably not healthy, but pretty tasty.

    Another recession-food I enjoy is bread and butter pudding – traditionally made with stale bread. Bread pudding was popular in our house as well (a dry pudding, not to be confused with bread and butter pudding).

    If beef mince is too expensive, try turkey mince. A bit of sauce and seasoning, and you’ll barely know the difference… plus it’s leaner – which means you’re allowed to eat more pork dripping :)

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