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Enjoying the recession with the new Joads: an economic analysis and a recipe

September 23, 2008


I had to ask my husband to run some numbers for me on his techy-thingy finance calculator, because my calculator only goes to 99 million. His only goes up to 9.9 billion, so he needed to use its scientific notation function. We can’t afford a new one now, and I said I thought we should hold out till they come out with quadrillion models. Actually, I think they’re already out, but backordered because of the rush from Zimbabwe.

The first step to enjoying the recession is to relax: we’re not in a recession. Although it is highly likely that every citizen and resident alien, and perhaps every alien resident as well, has experienced two consecutive negative quarters, the nation as a whole has not. This is because the nation as a whole is subject to an algorithmic warp that is secreted in one of Hank Paulson’s molar fillings.

If the wolf is at your door, bribe him with the Zimbabwe dollars you bought for fun on eBay, back when you had a little money for fun, plus shipping, plus UPS shipping surcharge.  If he’s a smart wolf, you might have to surrender your chocolate to him.

The second step to enjoying the recession is to understand your potential obligation and figure out how you are going to pay it. $700 billion divided among the 155 million people who are in the American workforce is $4,516. This is the amount every household will need to contribute to pay for a $700 billion bailout. Does this make your patriotic heart surge, or what?

So the average American household, if Congress reneges in its duty to mind the nation’s purse strings, might be called upon to pay an extra $376.33 a month in taxes. The ostensible justification will be to help out poor Wall Street, encourage lending, and keep commerce flowing. Of course this is a highly improbable outcome, because the regulations that should rightfully accompany such a revenue-depleting extravaganza will only succeed in damming up commerce.

At our house, we are beginning to enjoy life as the new Joads. If you haven’t read The Grapes of Wrath, this would probably be a depressing time to do so. Besides, it wouldn’t be a useful referent, because our country now has controls in place that were designed to prevent such scenarios. Or it did, until some provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999. We still have FDIC insurance, but now commercial banks can invest in the stock market and in things like mortgage-backed securities and derivatives: investments that depend on other investments. The banks don’t necessarily have to invest with too much caution, though, because of what’s in Hank’s fillings.

One of the ways I’m trying to save my household’s patriotic $376.33 a month is by reducing our restaurant attendance and cooking diner-type food at home. My husband and I both found diner sandwich suppers a big treat when we were college students.

We look forward all day to our hot-sandwich suppers. Back when the law firm’s business was a bit better, and it didn’t cost quite so much to drive to work and park, we bought a panini grill, and I’m very glad to have it now.  I put a few slices of pot roast on a slice of homemade bread and grill as an open-face sandwich. I put a swig of wasabi on top.  I serve up a side of pinto beans, doused with a bit of Rufus Teague’s Barbecue Sauce. It’s a simple, delicious, and nutritious meal: a boon to our morale, our palates, and our household economy.

Bean note: I buy 10-pound bags of beans, and cook them from scratch, about 3 cups at a time. I store them in an American-made covered container in the refrigerator so I always have some ready to heat.

To cook dry beans, cover with at least 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, boil 2 minutes, let stand an hour, and drain. Then cover the beans with water again, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2-1/2 hours.

Diner sandwiches are simple to make, fun, and delicious. They invigorate the ambience of the home, and bring conversation of old times to the table. We’ve been retelling our parents’ depression stories lately. You can do this. You might have to do this, to help investment bankers who are reduced to multi-million-dollar-pension lifestyles.

If you have been financially responsible, lived within your means, and nevertheless find your budget a little straitened, please try my pot roast panini and beans. Share your creative variations with me. And remember, the hungry you feed at least are your own.

  1. Janet permalink
    September 25, 2008 6:27 pm


    Try it with chicken breasts that have been marinated in the juice of about 6 little limes and a couple of dollops of honey, with chili and cumin to taste. Serve on a hard roll with salsa verde, lettuce, tomato and avocado. Yum!

  2. September 25, 2008 7:35 pm

    Janet, you have absolutely captured the spirit of the thing.

  3. Grace RN NJ permalink
    October 31, 2009 6:27 pm

    Ah, you have no experience is true poverty dining! Let me show how it’s done.

    Serves 3 adults and 7 children.

    Open one can of Spam, and cut into one piece per person. Put Good Luck Butter, small amount, unless you have some bacon grease then use that, and melt. Fry the span slices well, turning once. Place once slice fried Spam on each person’s plate. Place one slice of white bread on each plate. Cook one 10- ounce box of frozen vegetables and place one piece in each place. Fill glasses with reconsituted skin milk-one cup per person. Mange! and remember-no seconds.

    Remembering the 1950’s and 60’s in my house, where daily poverty was just a given. There was rain, snow, no heat, little food,few chlothes, socks and shoes. That was just, you know, Life.

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