Something out of Nothing

wheat berry salad with pickled ginger

By now, you know I'm not shy or private.  I have friends who are, I love them, and sometimes think it would serve me to shut up and divulge less.  Too late for that.  But even divulgent extroverts tend to keep their cards close when it comes to money.  I talked in this post about grocery budgets and lots of us came clean about what we spent.  I thought that felt good, but I know I'm strange.  I had really been stewing over our $150/week expenditure--I don't think it's extreme to say I felt guilty about it, even.  And whenever a car repair or doctor's bill came up, I'd think, "If I spent less on groceries, this wouldn't be so stressful."  You all helped me get over that.  Thank you.

Yesterday I had an incredible mind-clearing session with Penelope Bell.  Penelope specializes in teaching leaders, entrepreneurs, and teams how to transform stress into greater success--folks who need or want some sort of breakthrough. Even I don't want do divulge every detail of our amazing session, but I what came to light was my relationship with money.  All my hang-ups, fears about not having enough, and even bigger fears of making money someday--what if I'm not as generous as I say I'll be? What if I am successful and alienated from people in my life who are struggling financially?  What if I won't know how to function when worries about money don't occupy so much brain space?  I can't overstate what a momentous conversation it was for me. Penelope has led workshops on Women, Money, and Identity (don't worry--she and I share a dread of Suze Orman) and I didn't know how much I needed to talk to her until I was sitting across from her.  I felt known, cared for, enlightened, and gently directed to some next steps in my life.

Another thing we talked about was this blog.  Notice how I work it into conversation whenever possible?  I am infatuated.  But I told her what joy I get from helping people take care of themselves and their families on a budget, and how the current economic climate favors people like me (and lots of you) who have been making something out of nothing for years.  What I talk about here isn't something new. Last week, my Mom's friend Ellen posted a comment about a picnic she and my Mom shared together several years ago.  When Ellen asked my Mom how she made the delicious new potatoes with pesto, my Mom bashfully said, "Well, I had some leftover caesar salad in the fridge.  I put it through the food processor and poured it over the potatoes."  And I'll bet all of you have stories of making do, making something out of nothing, whether it's dinner or a gift you cobbled together for someone when you couldn't afford to buy anything.

A few days ago, the larder was low, and this has been one of those months for us--everything coming due, I haven't had any work, and I've calculated exactly when I can go to Costco to get more diapers.  I know there are some "Amen, Sister!" echos out there.  When Yancey goes to the station, he needs to take 24 hours worth of food with him because he can't leave the station to get it.  This means that, before a shift, I'm often scrounging through the fridge trying to come up with three meals for one seriously calorie-burning guy.  Yancey is such a hard worker.  Amazing.  And NEVER complaining.  One of the gifts I can give him right now is feeding him well.

I love that I can freely scrounge in front of you and even brag about it.  I found some hard red wheat berries. Told you--scrounging. They take forever to cook, so this isn't something I could have done if I hadn't been thinking ahead.  That's one thing about scrounging--sometimes it can't be last minute, which is a problem I have with all those 30-minute meals the magazines and cookbooks love to highlight.  Often, the ingredients are prepared (like roasted red peppers in a jar, for instance) and EXPENSIVE.  Scrounging often takes a lot more forethought.  Cooking dried beans or grains doesn't make for a quick dinner, even though it's cheap and nutritious.

So wheat berries, and not many fresh veggies around.  What I ended up with was cilantro, curly parsley (my favorite!), pickled ginger, ribbons of chard from my garden, green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Something out of nothing (Okay--you're right.  My pantry isn't nothing, but humor me).  Someday, it might not be like this, but we might as well talk about it together while it is, right?  Or you can go talk about it with Penelope and wonder how 35 years couldn't produce the kind of insight you had with her in an hour.  Thanks, Penelope.

fire station lunch

Wheat Berry Salad with Pickled Ginger and Sesame Oil
You can use all sorts of other grains here--bulgur, barley, quinoa, brown rice.  See this post or this one for more about cooking and using grains in cold salads.  If you don't have pickled ginger around, you could use some little chunks of candied ginger.  If you don't have that, peel and VERY THINLY slice some fresh ginger and let it soak in rice vinegar for 30 minutes.  Drain, and add.  And if your fridge is fuller than mine happened to be, you could add broccoli, baked tofu...many other things.

2 cups wheat berries
1/2 c. finely sliced green onions
handful chopped fresh cilantro
handful chopped fresh curly parsley
1/4 c. pickled ginger (I used the bright pink Kizami Shoga variety, available at Viet Wah or Uwajimaya)
4 Tb. sesame oil
3 Tb. soy sauce
2 Tb. rice vinegar
1 ts. sugar
red pepper flakes
2 Tb. toasted sesame seeds
salt or more soy sauce to taste

Rinse wheat berries, and cook in lots of boiling water for 50-60 minutes until soft.  They will still be really chewy.  Rinse with cold water and drain.

Combine wheat berries with the rest of ingredients, tasting as you go and adding more of anything to your liking.