“Till then…” (as I ended part 1 of this tale) is now, and I made it back alive after living off the Dollar Tree menu for the past five days. More of a mind trip than a culinary mess, the experiment left me both slightly concerned and surprisingly satisfied in the palate.
Truth be told, I may have squeezed in a Nadeau chicken cheese sub and an avocado club sandwich from Steve’s Restaurant during the week, but for the most part, I stuck to my guns.
Wednesday morning was a cinch. You can’t screw up a yogurt and blueberries. I don’t care what the label says, all yogurts taste like a passionless kiss. The blueberries snapped a bit and were a touch sour, but mixed with the Danon, overall, a great meal to start the day.
The night prior, I actually prepared the field peas and snaps with a small bag of yellow rice I bought. It was a disaster. The rice took much too long to cook, and while I waited and grew more impatient, I put the burner on super low and headed to the basement for what I thought was fifteen minutes. It wasn’t. It was forty-five.
Nothing was burning but the rice sat like quicksand in the pan. No worries. The snaps and peas will provide the moisture. Ugh! I accidentally drained the peas and snaps into the strainer. Damn basement! I poured some tap water into the can and finger-stirred what looked like coagulated snake guts for a second. Then I nuked the matter and mixed it with the rice.
“No fucking way am I eating you.” I said, staring into the remains. “You’re vile.”
Moving on, that night, still steadfast to complete my mission, I took a mulligan and hit the restart button. I needed to focus. Prepare this food with thought. Consider the product and work inward. Don’t rush. I took out the frozen cooked shrimp and Asian lo mien. Soaked the shrimp in water and ice and microwaved the lo mein. Then I heated up a pan, rolled in some olive oil and slowly added the shrimp with the noodles beef and broccoli, some pepper, salt, touch of hot sauce and, baby, we were back in business!
It wasn’t order-ready house lo mein from Happy Garden or anything, but it was far from terrible.
Next morning, I went nuts and had some strawberries with my yogurt. Still good. But as I covered tracks throughout the state, shoring up commitments with referrals, I was excited to get into my next real meal from the Dollar Tree. Spring rolls it would be, and when it came time to sink my teeth into one, after cooking them at 350-degrees, I ate all 12 in one sitting, dipping the rolls in soy sauce, licking my fingers clean. That said, they were delicious, a cabbage filled triumph.
That night, after spending a few dollars downtown, I reined it in, deciding against ordering a pizza and instead ate the Red Baron scrambled egg bake with sausage, cheese and gravy. This was no good. Just bad. Two bites and I was out. Soft where it should have been hard, drab, limp, lacking in panache. And I expected the results. It was a poor purchase.
The Lobster roll had been an option to eat instead, but the longer that frozen log of filler sat in my freezer, the further it actually got from being eaten. The ingredients, which were read to me out loud, scared me away, and it also started playing tricks with my brain. I had planned on cooking up the Wild Salmon fillet as my Sunday lunch. The grand finale was the pork loin riblet and Virginia sausages for dinner. Now, I was second-guessing my test diet. So far, I was doing okay, although there was a lingering bubble in my butt, and I was pretty sure that after the riblet and sausage I would need a full cleanse.
After I grilled a wild salmon in foil with cut onions and peppers and salt, touch of olive oil, I shoveled it all down my throat, loving every bite. The best meal of all, hands down. Around 9 o’clock that night, I thawed the pork loin, heated up the grill, got out the BBQ brush and started lathering the small sample of riblet. Over and over I flipped and dashed. They smelled good, looked juicy. The skin on the Virginia sausage burnt to perfection. Showtime.
My son and I stood at the kitchen island and dug in. A bit hesitant, I nibbled at the riblet at first. Not bad. I didn’t know exactly what it was I was eating, but it tasted good and went down easy. My son cut into a sausage. He approved, eating two quickly. I was less impressed. One bite and I fed the rest to my dog, Maggie. Pretty gross.
Now, I had nothing to do or eat until morning, and only then would I know the true ramifications of my social experiment. Would my son awaken to a violent, vomitous fit? How much sodium had I actually eaten over five days? Will this taste of fish ever leave my lips?
In the end, if I was to ever live through some lean times again, at least I had a plan. I would alter my Dollar Tree meals somewhat, simplifying the roster of foods and get on with the personal rebuild. I’d be fed and a little less broke, but in the end, I’d live. As I knew I would. Rob
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, “Notes From the Last Breath Farm: A Music Junkies Quest To Be Heard” can be purchased at the Bookery on Elm Street and Amazon.