The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Now or Never

Even though I have been writing church music for the last several years, I have not shared much with my current choir. In the hustle and bustling of getting ready week after week and settling in as the director, it was the last thing on the agenda. Original songs would take several weeks of practice to work out the kinks. On some level, I wanted the choir and congregation to accept me in a more substantive way before pushing a lot of strange new music on them—I wanted them to buy into my vision and be willing to go for a ride with me.

I admit that part of the hesitation was my own inhibition about sharing this part of myself. All the other closet artists out there can no doubt relate.

However, we have sung at least 15 original Responsorial Psalms in the last year. At least a good 6-7 were mine. Most of them were originally composed by my cantor Mary. I enjoyed that as it took the spotlight off of me and gave me the chance to focus on the vocal arrangements and chord structures. She is nearly blind, so I have jurisdiction over everything written. That gives me an autonomy while still being a creative partner. She would sing a melody a cappella and the rest was up to me, with her feedback along the way. While it is appropriate to credit her as the songwriter on those, I definitely felt like a co-writer and could really stretch out creatively. It has been a great opportunity to practice arranging for voices, something I had not had a lot of experience with. Responsorial refrains are very short, which was a good opportunity to focus on the details and get them right.

Fast-forward to today.

Most Catholics are aware of what is happening in Advent, 2011: The implementation of the new translation of the English Mass, which includes changes to many of the sung parts.

The “Holy, Holy” is changing by the difference of a single phrase, but other pieces like the “Gloria” are radically different from the current translation. While it is possible to engineer existing music to fit the new words, this is often a questionable exercise. Some pieces just do not work with the different words. Even the “Holy, Holy” has significant troubles. “Lord God of power and might” will be rendered as “Lord God of hosts.” The difference of 3 syllables in a short piece, not to mention ending with an abrupt physical sound like “hosts,” is enough to threaten the very existence of an existing musical setting. Many versions are not going to survive.

Songwriters are like architects. There is a mathematics to it. You want to be creative, but yet all the pieces have to fit into the context, too: Heating vents cannot be covered by rugs or couches. Plants need to have the right amount of light. A house should be an expression of an artist’s creativity, but it still has to accommodate all the practical demands of withstanding the elements and being a functional space.

Songwriting is the same. You have to put the pieces together in a way that meets practical and artistic demands. The left and right sides of the brain are not only both used but they must work together in concert. Every note and phrase must make sense locally and within the whole. The right words need to be accented. Not only does the physical sound have an architecture, but there are the additional concerns regarding the appropriateness for liturgy and fitting with the available instruments, choir members and congregation. All that has to fit while still being an artistic expression.

All of this is to say: Do not be fooled at how “small” some of the changes are, because they will have a dramatic impact on the playability of these songs. This means that the next several months is now or never time. If the numerous Mass settings that I have composed are ever going to see the light of day, the time is now.

This gave me an incentive to pitch this music to the choir. They will sing whatever I ask, but it is important to me that they are with me in spirit. The choir is receptive to giving these compositions a chance. I want to be sensitive, as songwriters have a notorious reputation for holding their congregations hostage to being a dumping ground for their original music. The music has to resonate with the life of the congregation. But we must always remember that the Catholic faith has always inspired people to create art and music. Our faith would be dead if we did not make room for the different gifts people have to offer. I am a writer, and I need to tinker.

I have often had this vision that one day I would just open up my back catalogue of tunes and just start rolling them out as-is. What has happened is probably what is generally more likely: I pick a tune from the past I like, make a couple more to match, add a new piece and rearrange something else dramatically. There are factors which make some songs better options than others, and require still others to be adapted, such as the members of the choir and their respective ranges, the temperament and charism of the parish, and the singability and ease of learning of a piece. What we are rolling out is actually 2 older pieces and 3 brand spanking new ones. The creative process is always in the present tense.

I originally began writing a “Gloria” as I was recovering from cancer surgery back in 2005. Over the next few years I kept adding to it until the piece was complete. I recently added vocal harmonies that I am proud of. The other piece is a “Memorial Acclamation” from around the same time. I liked it so much I decided to use it to fashion a “Holy, Holy” and an “Amen,” since those pieces are a musical trinity. Mary added some significant advice, and we have worked out a finished set. They are simple, singable, and I overall feel good about them. I tried to work out a “Lamb of God,” but as I was tinkering on it one day, Erin started singing a completely new melody to the chord progression, and it turned out to be quite lovely. Her “Lamb of God” is the one we are going with.

Today we unveiled this set, with the exception of the “Gloria” which will still take a couple of weeks of practice. It is hard to debut original music. I always feel that it is never good enough, and I continually find places to make changes. I have come to a place where I do not need people to like it for my emotional well-being. Some will, some will not, and some just need more time and a good performance before they are convinced. But there is no question that this is me revealing myself, and it is so hard to face rejection on thooe terms. When people do reject it, or even reject the whole idea of me sharing my music at all, I know cognitively that they are usually doing it to mask their own insecurities or ignorance, but it still can hurt quite a bit. But I also have grown tremendously by taking the chance to share anyway.

I was happy with how it went today. The choir did a good job and did right by me. We will see how it goes as this music is sung over the next few weeks. A lot of people are just exceedingly happy that we are finally transitioning away from the Latin Mass parts (which we began in Lent). Right now, I am just happy to be sharing this music. I have been working on this music for many years. Aside from some very informal Masses at the Catholic Worker, this has not been played in a Church setting before, so this is a big step for me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going Native

I saw an IMAX movie once about the Lewis & Clark expedition. The film showed the daring travels of this small group of explorers over rivers, fields and mountains in all weather. It also showed in dramatic detail the lengths these people went to carry with them massive amounts of crates, boxes and all sorts of supplies. They took a small city with them. While they were exploring completely uncharted territory, they seemed to put an astonishing amount of energy inward on managing their stuff. I wonder how often they took the opportunity to just look around.

Every so often, the movie would pan out and show a couple of native Americans sitting on a hilltop observing all this commotion. They would sit in the shade, with perhaps a day's worth of food with them. They traveled light, and because of this, they could just experience the present moment a little bit better. They could no doubt get what they needed from the land around them rather than by lugging around tons of supplies.

The last several months has involved a lot of of moving. With the Catholic Worker dismantling and people coming and going, goods donated far and wide, many things put into storage, and me moving twice, it was a seemingly constant effort moving things around from one place to another. I have boxes of unsorted personal papers and memorabilia that I have trudged from placed to place. Much of it is just random papers that I may or may not want to keep, but I have not taken the time to sort through it all.

I have felt like I was on the Lewis & Clark expedition, with all my energy inward on my stuff and barely looking around, keeping anything and everything because "I might need it someday." It was an empty, unsatisfying experience.

I have boxes and boxes of keepsakes and mementos. Some have unfinished emotional business, in some I am hanging on to the memory of loved ones, some who have passed, and in others I have stuff I would like to keep for a rainy day--I may want to re-read those old letters or show them to my kids someday.

It has gotten to the point where hauling this stuff around is affecting the quality of life in the present tense. I have had to make decisions about where I live because of it. I can not count the times I have said I would have few regrets if an "accidental" fire took this burden off of me.

I have a box of old National Geographic maps from my grandpa. We used to look through those maps in wonderful detail together, pondering places and comparing facts and figures. These were his maps. I will probably not look at those maps again that way, if I look at them at all. Even though I have sacramentalized the box of maps itself, is it not more accurate to say that it was sharing those moments together that I treasure more than the objects themselves? The box of maps itself does not bring with it what made those moments special. Why keep them?

When looking at these boxes of stuff, the glaring metaphor of emotional baggage cannot possibly go unnoticed. The real danger here is that I could think that by keeping this box of maps, I could somehow keep my grandpa, too. However, if I did have my grandpa around, I would not stuff him into a closet or a storage shed, so why would I do the same with stuff that I am clinging to as a way of clinging to him?

Some archivist might come along with a quite lovely idea--I could make a collage of these maps and put it on the wall! That would honor the memory in the best possible way while still clearing out the unnecessary clutter. It is the memory, after all, that I want to preserve, and all I need is a trigger for that. I am not trying to totally discount the object itself, because there is something about the historical artifact itself that makes me feel like I can touch those moments of the past so directly, but maybe all I need to keep is a piece of it. However, when I consider the time/effort it would take to put something together like that, I just shove the box back into the closet and figure I will deal with it another day.

I could easily devote the next several months to managing my past. I could make collages of items. I could take photos. I could sort and label photos. I have an old 1980s computer with old files I would love to have, if I could ever take the time to set it up and relearn how to use the machine again. Let's not even talk about scrapbooking.

As any hoarder will tell you: I could lose 2/3 of this stuff and never miss it. Easy.

If it were just one box of maps, I could just keep them and bring them out now and then to remember. But it is not just one little box. It is old furniture. It is broken stuff. It is boxes and boxes of unsorted piles of clutter. Plane tickets, business cards, little notes, cards and envelopes--envelopes, for crying out loud! The real downside is that keeping anything for several years turns it into an artifact. It could be a 20 year old page of ads from the newspaper, but by golly it is 20 years old and now it is precious!

This stuff legitimately does bring back memories. However, it is not like I kick back on a Saturday evening, put a pot of tea on the stove, light the fireplace and bring out one of these boxes to savor old times. No, the only time I interact with this stuff at all is when I am moving. And moving, admittedly, can either be the best or worst of times to wrap up loose ends. I often throw stuff out, but just as often I am to busy and end up just transferring it from one location to another, unchanged.

Lately, I have barely had the time or energy to do all this moving, and when I realize I am just shuffling junk from one place to another, I have finally been "moved" enough to say: Enough is enough. It is time to purge.

I had a great time driving around Columbus recently, dropping off items at various thrift stores, churches and outreach organizations. It felt so much better doing this than the drudgery of hauling boxes from one storage environment to another. The Catholic Worker movement has a history of living in the present. There is a tendency not to hold onto excess items or even money. They take what they need and give out the rest, in full faith that when they are in need later, what goes around will come back around. It was great that so many people donated to the Catholic Worker, but it is hard to justify keeping all those donations in a storage shed when they could be put to good use outside. We only stored it because it was possible we would be up and running again in a short while. When that did not happen, it became time to liquidate. So I have been liquidating both my personal stuff and the Catholic Worker belongings, too.

For so many years, I kept this stuff because it felt like a piece of me. How could I get rid of something that was a part of me? The ironic thing is that the more I have given away recently, the more I have felt like myself. That baggage was keeping me trapped in a bygone moment and preventing me from fully living into the present moment. Even when it was just sitting in a closet somewhere, its presence still weighed me down on some level of my being. I am lighter and more me than before.

I would like to think I gave away half my possessions over the past few weeks. That is an overstatement, but perhaps the good news is that it felt like half. I delivered many truckloads to Goodwill and divided appliances, furniture and other items to various people and organizations. I took many trips to the recycling bin.

The greatest horror in this is that it is darn near impossible to find a good home for used books. I have a wonderful collection of classics, spiritual works, just all sorts of great stuff. The used books stores have enough of what I have, and often they will shred the rest if they take it at all. It is certainly a sign of the decline of civilization that no one wants good used books, even when given for free. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church right in the OSU campus area operates a used book store, and they donate the proceeds to NSI, an agency that runs a free food pantry and other services for the poor. They took a lot of my stuff, and I was glad to leave it there.

It is time to go native. It is time to travel light and spend time in the present moment. It is interesting that "going native" has connotations of nakedness. It is about being more exposed, perhaps more vulnerable but also perhaps more flexible, which is a form of strength.

As for the box of maps, I think this is actually my own collection and not my grandpa's after all! So much for memory!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Cheesecake Episode

I had some cheesecake tonight. I was very surprised by the impact it had on me. I could immediately feel my energy rise and then suddenly dip. The old familiar roller coaster was going down its track.

I had not been eating much sugar for the last two weeks. I have felt great from all the fresh produce and otherwise high quality foods I have been eating. However, I have not been fully cognizant of the impact on my energy levels until tonight. I have been very even-keel.

You would think that even-keel would be boring, but it is not. It is just a steady, healthy stream of energy. Energy is basically a non-issue. I do not have a never ending series of peaks and valleys with junk food and caffeine first to perpetuate it and then to mediate it.

I still consume some sugar. It may be a while before I can take my coffee straight, but I only put a small amount in. Other than that, I have been relatively sugar free.

Sugar is hard to avoid. It is not just in desserts. The worst culprits are carbonated beverages (which are no different than desserts), which thankfully I do not consume. Other than that, virtually all processed foods are loaded with sugar—breads, frozen foods, anything packaged. It is just everywhere, unless you eat basic, whole foods.

Avoiding sugar is not just for the weight conscious. Sugar is a key suspect in the modern diseases of affluence—heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and possibly quite a bit more. It also disrupts our energy levels, as I experienced tonight.

My first thought was that I could not wait until the sugar cycle passes and I could get back to good eating, again!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brisk Walk, No Talk

I had an unexpected walk today. I woke up to find my truck had been towed and impounded. I mapped out the location and found it was only 2.5 miles away, so I figured I could save a few bucks on cab fare by hoofing it. I could have dressed a little better for a brisk walk on a blustery day, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad.

Cognitively, I understand why parking is so strictly enforced in the city. Parking is a precious commodity, and offenses would quickly get out of hand if policies were not enforced. The cynic in me also wonders how much of it is a money-making scene, but on some level, it does make sense. Most people don’t have the time or even the knowledge of whose car it is to inform someone of an impending tow.

But the small town person in me will probably never understand. Waking up to find your car has been towed feels terribly unwelcoming. Someone could have just put a reminder under my windshield wiper. Maybe there was an emergency or just an oversight. On the flip side, folks probably feel it isn’t their job to babysit some dumbass who obviously can’t read a sign. But that’s just it: Human beings are interacting with each other through signs, policies and procedures rather than through direct contact. Any time you put a large amount of people together in a small area, interactions get less and less personal and more and more procedural.

In any case, a 2.5 mile walk should not be a rare thing, and I’m glad I got the reminder. There should be plenty of opportunities for such a walk in the course of daily life. I’m not a fitness buff by any means, but throughout my life I’ve periodically had all kinds of exercise: I’ve schlepped bags of dog food in a warehouse for 40 hours a week and after several months dropped from a 36 to a 32 waist. I’ve sweated hard in the garden under the hot sun in the summertime. I’ve ridden bikes all across town, ran long distances in the woods in the fall, lifted weights to thundering rock and roll music, and mopped floors in a food pantry for half the night. Each of these was a high for me. But I’ve never felt healthier than when I would walk consistently.

I’m a big believer in the miracle of walking, and there are others out there who feel the same. There’s just something about it. It’s not as intense as other forms of exercise, but that may be why it is so good. It is like food slow cooked in a crock pot rather than scorched in an oven. It just gets things moving in a better way. Walking is one of the main things that defines our species, so we are built for it. For a kinesthetic person like me, it helps me think. The best is walking early in the morning and then again later in the day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back on the Food Track

Living at the Catholic Worker was a bounty and a blessing in many ways, but one negative aspect was that the quality of my diet went down considerably. There were always leftovers to be eaten from our many potlucks, retreats and other events. In an effort to reduce waste and save money, many of us tried to eat up as much of this as possible. The downside was that what was left was often starchy, processed, snack food-type items.

I have always tried to balance between quality foods and economical ones. The scales definitely tipped toward the economical during this time.

I’m on a quest to get back on the food track. The jury is still out as to what I want to focus on, but I’m fairly certainly I want to eat good stuff and avoid bad stuff. Easy enough, right?

When I tell people that I am switching to a diet of mostly of organic and fairly traded foods, the first question they have is: How in the world can you afford it? I do live on a tight budget, and the prices of organic foods are often 2-5+ times more than their conventional counterparts.

Like most Americans, though, there are lots of places where I can trim expenses out of my food budget to make room for more organics:

1. I avoid restaurants. I love a good night out as much as the next person, but how often do we opt for restaurants just out of laziness?
2. I am careful about waste. I try to eat what I buy and preserve leftovers. Some folks may throw out anywhere between 15-50% of what they buy! That’s money.
3. I avoid processed foods. In fact, I try to buy the most basic ingredients as possible: Potatoes. Carrots. Beef. Garlic.

It comes down to priorities. The same folks who scoff at the high prices of organic foods may think nothing of a $50 dinner for two at the Olive Garden. Price wise, it’s outrageous, but the customers are happy. Some folks recently made fun of my fair trade coffee which is $10 for 10 oz. However, these same people have a Keurig in their home and often treat themselves to gas station coffee which is several times more expensive (and tastes worse) than what they could have brewed at home. My fair trade coffee comes in pretty cheap in comparison. I’m all for going out, but there are cheaper ways to do that.

The mark-up on processed foods is amazing. Organic ground beef comes it at a whopping $5/lb. However, you can buy the same beef pressed into hamburger patties with a fancy colorful box and pay $7.00 for 10 oz. If you do the math on this, that comes down to well over $11/lb! All they did was shape the ground beef into hamburger patties. Is THAT worth paying more than double? I also did a little price comparison on potatoes. Organic potatoes are a lot more expensive than conventional, but if you compare the price to Ore Ida hash browns, the cost savings disappears. It’s not that hard to cut a potato! (It was hard to do a price comparison here because frozen potatoes seem somewhat dehydrated so that will affect price/lb.) When it comes to “processed” foods, I’ll buy cheese and bread but I don’t need anyone to cut my potatoes for me and charge me double.

I do think organics are over-priced. They are marketed as a yuppie luxury item rather than wholesome nourishing food we all need. Still, it comes down to what I value.

Besides, the above list contains not just cost saving measures. I just about have to do this to meet my other health goals:

I want to eat a balanced, nutrient dense diet, as holistic and minimally processed as possible.

There are many items to avoid. I still have not decided which ones to prioritize. I think minimizing sugar, MSG, colors/flavors and other additives, is where I’ll put my attention.

I was quite taken with Dr. Robert H. Lustig’s viral You Tube clip on sugar and have come away convinced it is worth avoiding, even eliminating, if possible. Besides, I’m just so sick of sugar. Damn near everything is chock full of sugar these days. You can’t even get meatballs, for crying out loud, without sugar in them. All breads are sweet breads. Salsa, pasta sauce, you name it, it’s all full of sugar. It tastes great without it! The most scary thing is when you wean yourself off of this processed stuff and then have an opportunity to taste it again, it is real apparent just how bad it is once you’ve had some time away from it.

I am trying to minimize meat from factory-farmed animals. The best meat is that which is not only organic but where the animals eat a diet that matches what they are built to eat. This makes sense environmentally, nutritionally and from a standpoint of animal cruelty.

There are many things to do and many things to avoid. The best thing is to eat foods that I prepare myself out of the most basic, natural ingredients possible, and then I’m golden. There is no need to watch labels and scan ingredients when the items don’t even have labels. By doing this, I will be generally avoiding what I want to avoid (and then some) and getting what I want (and then some).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Farmers Markets and Red Meat

Spring means the return of farmers market season! I dragged my tired body out of bed just early enough to visit some markets before they closed. I’m partial to Worthington and Clintonville, but I’ve noticed that they have many of the same vendors. I have a feeling they are not the cheapest markets, so I’m game for looking around in the upcoming weeks.

I have to admit it was heavy on my heart to pass by so many booths selling heirloom vegetable plants. This year, I’m garden-less for the first time in a while (although I may help out at St. James the Less from time to time). Vegetables were scarce at the market due to the time of year, but I was there for meat.

My haul was this: Two whole chickens, 2 packages of bacon, 1 dozen eggs, and an assortment of 100% grass-fed beef. For the latter, I found some that had the bone-in and the rest was ground beef. I tried some of the Raven Rocks almonds—I don’t even like almonds but these were so good I almost drove back to buy some. I looked into buying a quarter-cow, probably from Long Meadows farm. Buying in bulk is the way to go to save money when it comes to organic meat.

Red meat has largely been demonized since the anti-fat hysteria of the 1980s. It was based on some truth and some myths. One thing people seem to forget is that fat is a nutrient. Yes, we must be careful to avoid the bad fats, but we need to seek out the good fats. I’m pleased to note that researchers from different disciplines are converging on this: food anthropologists who study the healthy eating habits of traditional cultures as well as mainline scientists are discovering that fat seems to be okay. Americans have collectively reduced fat intake by 10% since the 1980s and still heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes and obesity are on the rise. It’s not the fat, as Dr. Robert H. Lustig points out.

Red meat is actually quite good for you, but there is one essential caveat: avoid the factory-farmed stuff. Everything that vegetarians say about red meat is largely true, if you consider only factory-farmed animals. Naturally raised, organic meats that are devoid of steroids and antibiotics and which are raised on a diet consistent with what the animals would have naturally eaten in their pre-domesticated state is actually quite good for you. Those variables make a critical difference. Grass-fed beef has a beneficial ratio of good/bad fats, where factory farmed beef is the opposite. Grass-fed and organic beef is also much better for the environment, on many levels.

I’m getting to the point where I can’t eat the other stuff, anyway. Those tubes of ground beef for $0.99/lb at the grocery story are just terrible. I’m not exactly sure what makes that beef so bad, but I can barely stomach it anymore. I’ve become very tuned in to the difference in quality and let me tell you that it is significant.

In turning my diet around, one of the major factors is eating organic, pasture raised meats. I’ve taken a big step in that direction today. I should point out that you can buy this kind of meat at Whole Foods, Trader Joes and the Clintonville Co-cop, to name a couple places, but I think the selection and prices is better at farmers markets.

I should also mention that is the definitive place to go to find a farm near you that sells this stuff, and it also has a plethora of research on the health and environmental benefits of naturally raised meats.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Lost Art: Bacon & Beans

I ended up soaking and pre-cooking a lot more pinto beans than I needed for the chili the other day. I put them away for another recipe. Here is what I did:

I chopped up and cooked a couple slices of organic bacon in the bottom of a pot. I added a little olive oil to keep it cooking well, since it was only in stainless steel. I then added a large array of chopped vegetables, mostly items that were leftover from the chili: onion, leek, banana pepper, garlic and a couple of mushrooms. I let it all sauté together for a while, tossing it with the bacon and oil. After it had cooked a bit, I threw in the pinto beans and added just enough water to cover it all, maybe an inch or more. I had previously boiled the beans and estimated that they needed about an hour more of cooking, so I planned that by the time the water ran out it would be done. I added some sea salt, black pepper, paprika and chili seasoning (it was the black pepper that made this dish). If it cooked any longer, the vegetables would have reduced to mush, but clocking in just under an hour prevented that.

It was simple and delicioso, to borrow a phrase from a popular cooking show.

It is great to keep a pot of ready-made beans like this on hand at all times. It can be a side dish or a main dish. It can be incorporated into other dishes, such as burritos or omelets. This dish can be prepared in so many ways with different ingredients, so it can be a great help when cleaning out the pantry.

“Beans & bacon” is a popular dish just about everywhere, such as drunken beans from Mexico or cassoulet from France. American pop cuisine has so ruined this concept with sweet baked beans and canned food varieties that many folks just do not know how good it can be. It is a great way to put vegetables into the forefront and meat into a supporting role, and even a robust meateater would never feel slighted.

Many Americans have little knowledge of how to properly prepare vegetables. Many folks assume that having vegetables means opening a can of plain corn or fetching a salad of iceberg lettuce. The truth is that vegetables can be a robust and central part of any meal, and the possibilities are nearly endless. Having a great recipe for beans should be essential for every household.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Compliments to the Chef

I usually try not to pat myself on the back too heartily, but I must admit that tonight’s chili is just amazing. We’re talking eyes-roll-back-in-your-head-food-gasm good. It’s loaded with a bounty of mostly organic produce and beef—leeks, mushrooms, yellow and red peppers, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, you name it. I top it off with lots of raw green onions, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

My only regret is not recording the prices of everything. I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing some more food blogging. A big passion of mine is eating healthy, holistic foods on a shoestring budget. I'd love to know how much it cost to make this meal.

It is easy to bemoan the high prices of organic foods, but they are nothing compared to what we pay at restaurants or for ready-made, excessively packaged items at the grocery store. With a little bit of planning, we can eat really well without breaking the bank. Heck, I paid $3.50 for two donuts and a coffee this morning at Tim Horton’s! I have been spending the hours since coming up with all sorts of ideas of what kind of robust, organic breakfast I could have made for that same amount! A meal of organic bacon & eggs is still easily under $2. In the past, I have made a chicken soup that is mind-blowingly nutritious and crank out 12 quarts of thick goodness for under $20. I did it once for $15.

This chili tonight is full of everything that is good. My eating habits have gone down substantially over the last couple of years, but I was once very good at eating very well and very cheaply. It’s time to step back up to the plate.