Friday, April 15, 2011

Every Day Indulgences

A recent discussion in the comments of Gourmet & Gourmand, on the high price of pine nuts, led me to thinking about what types of things I am willing to pay high prices for and what I am not.  Having a modest but not entirely restrictive budget allows me the luxury to make decisions like the following:

* order take-out once or twice a week from some perfectly acceptable but non-inspiring neighborhood restaurant with entrees in the $6-10 region OR cook modest meals at home/eat leftovers every night and have one night out every month or so at a really good restaurant with wine, dessert et al.  I am ashamed to say that, out of laziness, we usually choose the former when we really want to choose the the latter.

* buy the really good $6/lb pasta, local creamery milk, old-ish balsamico, imported San Marzano canned tomatoes here and there but stick with the cheap stuff the rest of the time OR get ingredients of middle of the road, good quality all the time but forego anything really special.

It requires planning, waiting and priorities, my food budget does.  I'm not complaining.  Not in the slightest way.  However, as someone who values high quality ingredients above most else, it does lead me to some interesting inner dialogues on what's worth buying and when.

There are some things that I never skimp on.  They are my every day indulgences and I know myself too well to go back to lesser things if I can help it.  I will just grumble, gripe and moan about it and lose whatever enjoyment I might have gotten from the inferior product simply due to my own bad attitude about it.  My list of must-have indulgences isn't long:

* Parmesan Reggiano.  I have to have the good stuff.  I have to.  I can eat $3 pasta sauce from a jar, but it has to have excellent Parm shavings on top.

* Chocolate.  I'm not going to say that I never eat a Snickers or a bag of M&M's (I totally do)  but I must have excellent chocolate in the house at all times.   French, Spanish, Austrian, Venezuelan, artisanal truffles or dark, dark bars with ridiculously high cocoa content...  mmmm.  For a mere $10 or so, I can have a small bit of the best chocolates in the world.  Since it is so good, I nibble it in tiny amounts and make it last, but when it's gone, I flounder.  Must have excellent chocolate!

* Meat.  Kid Cayenne has her squeamy nature and I just like really nice meat.  I buy the best quality we can afford, all the time.  It works because we only eat meat in smallish quantities and with just two of us, that doesn't add up to a lot.

It makes me happy that gorgeous, good quality ingredients are a luxury that I can attain (in moderation), as opposed to most beautifully made items like clothing, cars and fab furniture.  Eating good food makes me feel incredibly privileged and I never take it for granted.

What do you consistently splurge on?  What are your every day indulgences?


Tim April 15, 2011 at 12:26 PM  

Great blog, Juju. I do nearly the same sort of thing, eating on the cheap most nights, rarely if ever going out to dine, but when it's time to enjoy, putting my foot to the floor.

And it follows Vandergrift's law of conservation of calories. Since you can only eat so many calories before you hurt your waistline, don't waste any of them on inferior ingredients: don't eat cheap chocolate, don't eat lousy pizza, and don't eat cheap parmesan--make 'em _count_!

NOJuju April 15, 2011 at 12:36 PM  

I forgot to add coffee. I can't drink bad coffee. It makes me irate. It's got to be good or I'd rather have none at all. Snobbish? Unfortunately.

Anonymous,  April 15, 2011 at 12:49 PM  

Great Bacon. Sadly most of the bacon available in at grocery stores are not even really smoked. Just soaked in sugar smoke additives. I want the good stuff. The made with love real smoked bacon. It's crazy how much better it is. Worth every penny even if I am unemployeed and sound be eating ramen noodles.

Melissa,  April 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM  

I totally agree on the Parmagiano-Reggiano. I buy a wedge and use a veggie peeler to put a few shavings on a green salad. NOM.

Good bread. Most supermarket breads are just meh. Also, they have high-fructose corn syrup. So I buy from a local bakery whenever I can.

V,  April 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM  

Yes to the cheese. Goes for all cheese.

Olive oil. We seldom buy really high-end crazy stuff, maybe for caprese salads in late summer, but we always have the ~$12 decent kind (sorry, I forget the specs offhand, but it's from Kalamata) vs the ~$5 supermarket standards.

Dry saucisse, soppressata, and similar. We order Columbus "Crespone" whole salamis three at a time. In France and Italy you can go cheap on this but here, boy, you find a good one, you've got a permanent monkey on your back.

Organic eggs.

The Gourmet April 15, 2011 at 2:41 PM  

I'm with you on the Parmesan sista!
Cheese is one thing I could never live without, the stinkier the better. Unfortunately that usually means a little more $$, but it's absolutely worth it as I honestly feel it raises the happiness bar. Oh and I can't forget a good bottle of red wine.

Lisa April 15, 2011 at 8:03 PM  

Let's see...good eggs. I buy the cage free, organic, ridiculously expensive ones. Once you get in the habit, the other ones taste bad. And it's always either the imported canned tomatoes or the organic ones (Muir Glen are very tasty).

I also try to buy the best meat, even if it means I don't eat as much or as often. And when I buy lunchmeat, which is not often, it's the imported salami and the expensive roast beef. Chipped ham and olive loaf just won't do.

candice April 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM  

Years ago I was in the $20/week left to spend on food category; and when you get down that far, there's not much you won't leave out or compromise on. I mean, I love the good stuff, but if what's getting you by is eggs, grits, and oatmeal, that's what you do.

Coffee is pretty much the only thing. I used to come back from visiting home at Christmas with many pounds of chicory coffee every year.

Celeste April 17, 2011 at 8:22 AM  

Supermarket sharp cheddar is fine, but good pecorino & parmesan are necessities. And supermarket brand dried lentils, beans, etc. work for me. Yes, we all love Camellia, but Shur-Fine is surely fine.

Anonymous,  April 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM  

Just stumbled on your blog. Nice! Your comment about Chocolate struck a chord. My chocolate indulgence is Sahagun chocolates.

Melinda,  April 25, 2011 at 4:23 PM  

Ours are locally roasted coffee, good eggs, and black olives.

We cheat with the olives and get E's parents to bring them from Turkey, though.

I don't know if farmer's market veggies count, since they're often cheaper than the grocery store ones, but they are a little extra work and much nicer.

Also, we make things at home in order to have a nicer version, like bread, crackers and hummus.

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