Quality Appetite Beats Expensive Food

, in a fit of bloggish self-reference, I quoted an article in which I was quoted evaluating my own experiment in tax resistance. Now I compound the absurdity by re-referencing that post by way of a recap, and highlighting the following excerpt:

“I’ve got more free time, I’m living a life that’s more closely aligned with my principles, and I haven’t really had to give up a whole lot to lower my spending… Most of my savings have come from spending smarter. I’m eating as well or better than before, for instance, but I’m cooking at home rather than going out. I’ve switched to drip coffee at home from $3 mochas on my way to work.”

Those who know me personally, in “meat space” as the kids these days are said to say, know that I’ve got a pretentious epicure in me. I like the finer things on my table, have a horse in the race over how to make a martini properly, prefer my cheeses odoriffic, my oysters recently pried off their rocks, and so forth.

So how can I be satisfied — delighted even — with drip Folgers, a cheap bourbon I affectionately call “Old Sock,” and the like? Do I not suffer pangs of regret over my downscaled dietary budget?

Well, I have to admit that I do miss being able to walk into one of the Bay Area’s many exotic cheese emporia and walk off with some delightfully rotted curd or other, price no object.

But I’ve learned a few tricks in my day. When I was in the Boy Scouts, my troop believed in the lots-of-hiking & lots-of-camping school of Scouting. And so we learned the finer points of cooking rehydrated this-and-that over one-burner stoves in the dark. And although most of what we cooked was probably prepared fairly poorly, and wasn’t much more than freeze-dried sow’s ear in tinfoil to begin with — at the end of a long day of hiking with a pack on, sitting hungry on a rock under the pines eating out of a metal tin, it was some of the most delicious food I’d ever tasted.

So I learned that the most important ingredient in good cooking isn’t anything you add to the dish, but it’s the quality of the appetite you bring to the table.

Nowadays I’ve got advantages both in the appetite and in the prep. I’m in a better mood in general after starting on my “experiment” — I’m not harassed by a desk job, and I’m more comfortable in my life and my skin. And I’ve got more time to gather ingredients and prepare meals. And so I’m cooking a wider variety of dishes, learning new recipes, and picking up new skills. Where I used to see a cabinet full of miscellaneous odds and ends and think “there’s nothing to eat” I now look at it and think “I can work with this.” This, in turn, makes me welcome in my sweetie’s kitchen, where I have a whole new set of ingredients to play with and tastes to satisfy — and the joy of sharing the meal with my sweetie to add spice and make things that much more delicious.

As a result it seems like just about every day I’m closing my eyes and marvelling at some flavor or other. Not all of my experiments work, but what I don’t like I learn from. I don’t remember having as much fun with food back when I could afford to eat out a lot and bring home the stinkiest cheeses.