Alewives: Brewing Ale, Brewing Controversy

Some of what I have been reading recently has helped me reflect on the complex ways religious communities portray godliness and immorality when it comes to economic activity and gender. These reflections have come from a somewhat surprising source: the history of beer.

Given the male dominated/bro-centric nature of the beer industry in our culture, I was delighted to learn that brewing was once the preserve of women. Like bread and other daily necessities, for centuries ale was a largely domestic product. Its productionbarrels-1005376_1920 generally fell within the domain of women’s household tasks. It was common practice for women to sell their excess ale to neighbors and passers-by. Not only did this prevent waste, it also enabled medieval European women to earn an income from their domestic labor. In larger towns, women had a near monopoly on the production of ale for commercial sale.[1] Barrels of ale would be sold to colleges, churches, public houses, private homes, and, sometimes, cup-by-cup by an alewife taking her brew out onto the street.

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Hops, growing innocently.

The early modern era saw the gradual eclipse of alewives by male brewer’s guilds. This process was complex. The increased use of hops in brewing served as one factor. [4] While hopped beer had a much longer shelf life than ale made with traditional recipes, hop cultivation required a significant investment. Most early modern women lacked the necessary access to capital for such enterprises. Guilds, which were often powerful political/economic entities in medieval and early modern European towns, did have such access.

Social shaming also played a role in the downfall of the alewife.  As Christine Peters, historian of early modern England, notes:

“The making, and especially the selling, of ale strengthened the idea of women as the deceivers of men. The stereotypical alewife served poor quality ale in false measures and tempted men into drunkenness and immorality. Such associations conspired to diminish the social status of the alewife.”[2]

Some research even suggests that our Western archetypal image of a witch stems from negative portrayals of alewives and brewsters: cauldrons for brewing, cats to keep mice out of grain, pointy hats for standing out in a crowded street as an alewife sold her wares. Sounds familiar, does it not? [3]

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A seventeenth-century engraving of a dubious alewife from Oxfordshire

 

Courtesy of: Wellcome Library, London. http://wellcomeimages.org http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/Male brewers were able to use the stereotypical negative image of the alewife to their advantage. When churches were built, local guilds often provided a large portion of the funds needed for construction. These contributions gave the guilds some degree of authority when it came to the artwork and decoration placed in the church. Scattered throughout England are several pre-reformation churches whose decorations depict alewives being carried off to hell, tankard in hand, by demons. These overtly negative portrayals are found where professional guilds were strongest.[5] These carvings, tapestries, and paintings convey a clear message: alewives are immoral, hell bound, and worthy of reproach. This church-sanctioned propaganda, combined with the shifting economic landscape, proved effective in marginalizing traditional female brewsters. When the London Brewer’s Guild made their constitution in 1639, it detailed the exclusion of women on the basis of their being “unfit to brew or sell ale and beer.”[6]

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Reading about the presence of alewife-damning images in churches gave me pause. Given that most of the population was illiterate in this time period, the importance of visual art as communication tool in religious instruction can not be understated. Economically powerful guilds wanted to exploit the negative image of their female competitors and they used their financial clout in local churches to help them do it. The women involved in the traditional ways of making and selling ale were seen as destined for hell largely because those with power in that particular economic landscape willed it to be so.

The economic elements of church art and decoration are a physical reminder that while every church is a worship space, it is not only a worship space. Its structure and theology have been influenced by the economically active humans involved in its construction. With or without membership in a medieval merchant guild, humans will carry their economically active selves into the church. These often unacknowledged forces shape the portrayal of various economic identities within the community. In my scholarly work on complementarianism I frequently come across theological arguments for particular “Christian” family economic arrangements. In these arguments mothers working outside the home, and the fathers that “allow” them to do so, are given the alewife treatment.[7]

Unwitting participation in unjust theologizing of economic activity is still participation. It is not always easy to name or identify the ways our individual churches have a hand on our notions of praiseworthy/condemnable economic activity. Hopefully the historical example of Mother Louse and her alewife sisters can prompt us into some contemporary reflection. And maybe those among us who indulge should have a glass of ale in their honour…I will.

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Drinking beer as an act of feminist resistance. Next stop, home brewing!

 


[1] Christine Peters, “Work and the Household Economy” in Women in Early Modern Britian, 1450 – 1650 (New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 53. For example, the 1425 tax rolls of one Welsh town, Cun, list 27 female brewsters and only one male brewer.

[2] Ibid. The closest contemporary cultural parallel I can think of is the stereotypical image of a sleazy used car salesman who hawks vehicles of dubious quality as though they are in mint condition. The stereotype is negative, but many people still buy used cars. There may have been negative stereotypes associated with alewives and female innkeepers, but people still gave them their custom.

[3] I came across this thesis while taking in an exhibit on women and brewing at a local regional museum. A write-up about the exhibit from our local news station can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/halloween-witch-beermaker-1.3289646

[4] Hops had been around for a long time. In fact, the wonderful polymath and doctor of the church Hildegard von Bingen wrote about hops in the twelfth century. Sections of her Sacra Physicadetail the usefulness of hops as preserving agents and the health benefits of consuming beer brewed with them. She advised the nuns in her convent to consume a measure of beer daily to aid digestion and assist with maintaining a rosy complexion. So along with being a mystic visionary, a physician, scholar, and abbess, Hildegard was a skilled brewster. Queue imposter syndrome!

[5]As Theresa A. Vaughan observes, “portrayals of rural alewives are somewhat benign, but urban brewsters … were increasingly targeted in the Late Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period.” From “The Alewife: Changing Images and Bad Brews” in AVISTA Forum Journal Volume 21.1/2 (2011), 34. Vaughan’s piece makes interesting comparisons between depictions of alewives and the Virgin Mary in English art. Her article also contains many images of the church art I discuss here but did not have the license to post online. Her article can be accessed in full online: http://www.academia.edu/3428837/The_Alewife_Changing_Images_and_Bad_Brews

[6] Peters, 53.

[7] In case you are unfamiliar here is a clip from a prominent complementarian advocate. Disclaimer: this clip gives me rage cramps.

Author: Allison Murray, A PhD student in the History of Christianity.

https://womenintheology.org

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Jack O’lantern Pumpkin Pie

Like you read in my Fall 2017 Bucket List, I never pass up the opportunity to have pie – pumpkin pie, especially. Last year, I baked my first pie. it was peach and scrumptious. I can’t tell you how proud I felt. I made this delicious thing! I mean, sure, it was quite an ugly pie, but it was gone before we could gawk at it. For those, like myself, who are hardly talented, this Jack O’lantern Pumpkin Pie is festively-designed, without requiring the skill of a pastry chef! Plus, look at how adorable it is!

Ingredients

Dough:
Filling:

Directions

For the dough: Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Lightly beat 2 eggs in a small bowl. Stir them into the dough with a fork or by hand. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon cold water over the mixture.

Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. In a machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a small bowl, add them to the machine and pulse 1 to 2 times; don’t let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry, add up to a tablespoon cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.

Form the dough into a ball, then cut in half. Form each half into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish and trim the edges, leaving about 1 extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. On a lightly floured surface, roll the remaining disk into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes.

Position 2 oven racks in the center and lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift the sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the pumpkin cut-out. Lightly beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Remove the rolled dough from the freezer and, working on the baking sheet, cut out a solid 9-inch circle. Using a pattern or working free-handed, cut out two circles for the eyes, a triangle for the nose, and a toothy grin to resemble a jack-o’-lantern’s face. Mimicking the ribbed indentations of a pumpkin, cut out indentation markings along the top, bottom, and sides of the face (these will act as vents for the filling as well). Using a scrap of dough, cut out a “stem” and attach it to the top of the face using the beaten egg wash as glue. Return the face to the freezer for 20 minutes.

For the filling: Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, half-and-half, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Return the pie shell to the baking sheet and pour in the filling.

Brush the frozen pumpkin face with the beaten egg, then lift it off the baking sheet. Place the face gently over the filling.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is set but the center is still slightly loose, 50 to 60 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)

 

 

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Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Nothing compares to a freshly made hummus platter from my favorite halal cart in East Harlem. Still, making hummus is actually insanely easy! Check out this awesome Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus recipe!

Ingredients

Directions

Special equipment: Halloween (spooky) cookie cutters

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Toss the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets and roast until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. During the last 5 to 10 minutes of the squash roasting, add the cleaned squash seeds to the other prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Roast until puffed and brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Let the squash cool slightly.

Put the garlic in a food processor and process to break it up a little. Add the squash, chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini and some salt and pepper and puree until smooth. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the remaining 3/4 cup olive oil to incorporate. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if desired.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cut the tortillas into shapes with spooky cookie cutters (you may need to stack the tortillas to press the cutters through) and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until crispy, 12 to 16 minutes.

Top the hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and the roasted squash seeds. Serve with the spooky tortilla chips.

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Spiced Pumpkin-Raisin Cookies

Both my Dad and I absolutely adore oatmeal raisin cookies! Spiced Pumpkin-Raisin Cookies is a quick spin on a classic, just in time for your Halloween festivities!

Recipe courtesy of: Giada De Laurentiis
Episode: Haunted House

Ingredients

Directions

Watch how to make this recipe.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and allspice. Stir to blend well. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, syrup and vanilla; whisk to blend. Using a flexible rubber spatula, gradually stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. Stir in the raisins.

For each cookie, drop 1 generous tablespoon of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing the mounds about 1 inch apart (or use a mini ice cream scoop). Using moistened fingertips, flatten each to a 2-inch-diameter round. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit more raw sugar.

Bake the cookies until brown and a bit firm to the touch, 17 to 20 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack and cool completely.

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Fall Bucket List 2017

 Autumn is my favorite season!

I know I said that about Winter last year, but good gosh, everything about this season gives me life! In fact, I reach my final form by the first of October. The spooky, witchy, completely transcended version of Jocelyn is in full effect, and she’s ready to wreak havoc!

A few posts ago, you all learned that I am currently residing in temporary housing, and that is particularly the reason why I haven’t been blogging. To be honest, having such a living situation makes it difficult to enjoy this time of year, and I know it may become increasingly depressing as we pass into the ever-so-jolly Christmasland. Regardless, I will make the best of a bad situation, and not let this setback, drawback, whatever you want to call it, prevent me from truly enjoying my favorite season.

Do you have a bucket list for Fall? Let me know what you’re up to in the comments below!

  1. Go to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and the local mom-and-pop cafe down the street for a pumpkin spice latte. Of course, I can’t have my coffee without a pumpkin glazed donut or a bagel with pumpkin cream cheese spread! A bit of an overkill? Perhaps.
  2. Write a letter to a loved one(s). Of course, we should be writing letters and staying in touch with our family and friends all year long, but we can all admit that life happens and, well, we’re human. As Thanksgiving approaches, we start thinking of all those near and far, and this is the perfect time to sit down with a pen and paper and do some catching up. If it’s in the budget, I often like to send small gifts. A book, in my opinion, is always a great option.
  3. Take pictures. From October to December, I find myself always with my phone out snapping photographs of my surroundings. I love documenting a changing season. Growing up in Hawaii, you don’t really get to have that experience, so now, I really make an effort to take it in.
  4. Practice altruism. Again, none of us should be waiting until the holiday season to practice sharing or giving back. Keep in mind, community efforts benefit those in need all year long. There is always a need. Consider that altruism and solidarity is very much a mindset, a lifestyle. It’s the idea that, at the end of the day, all we really have is each other. Unity is what is going to make a difference in this world, and standing up for one another is something that should occur year-round.
  5. Go thrifting. But, before you do that, clean out your closet! Declutter. Get rid of all your junk! Then go thrifting.
  6. Read a book. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I read the most books between October and December. Although the indoors seem so inviting, go outside! Bring a book and a hot beverage to the park.
  7. Enjoy autumn produce. Personally, I’m looking forward to eating a lot of pears and persimmons.
  8. Cookies. Shortbread. Preferably almond or pecan shortbread. Maple creme cookies are also fantastic at this time of year!
  9. Have a lot of pie. I love pie. I would literally eat pie every day if it wouldn’t make me fluffy. JK – I’m already fluffy 😉 Apple pie. Pumpkin Pie. Pecan pie. Pie is life.
  10. Caramel apples. Or candied apples. Apples dipped in sweet stuff. Fruit turned cavities. I live for that. Funny thing is, I don’t think I even like caramel apples all that much. It has a lot more to do with nostalgia than anything else. (Isn’t it always?) When I was 10, my parents took me to Disney World, and I remember how exciting it was to try a caramel apple for the first time. When I was still living in Hawaii, I used to romanticized Fall and Winter in a sort of way that didn’t make any kind of sense – because I had never actually seen either season! On another episode of humans are weird asf.
  11. Apple cider. Now, this. I get down with cider. At New Years, my parents used to buy a bottle of apple cider, and we’d drink it in celebration. My first New Year’s away from home, I took like 3 bottles to the head and had the worst stomach ache after. LOL.
  12. Watch classic Halloween films or your favorite horror flicks. I’ve always been a fan of thrillers, however, I haven’t really been able to stomach slasher films and other horror flicks. To be honest, the closest thing to horror I’ve watched over the last several years is American Horror Story, which, by the way, if you haven’t seen, this is a great time to pick it up. There are several seasons on Netflix! As for classic Halloween films, much like everyone else, I love Halloweentown as well as Hocus Pocus, and even The Craft.
  13. Go for a hike. Is there no better time to go for a nature walk? I think not.
  14. Start journaling if you haven’t already. I can’t tell you how critical it is to document your life. I do a lot of life writing on several different platforms. I think there is something very unique about blogging because we’re writing for ourselves and others simultaneously. I suppose that is all writing, no? Heck, why do you even think I’m here? This is me documenting a chapter of my life. Yes, although I am writing for you, bits of my life come through on everything. The topics, the style, even the layout of my page, all of it is a reflection of me – even though I am technically writing to entertain you. This is me connecting with the world through my experiences. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of this.
  15. Start a bullet journal if you’re feeling ambitious. I started bullet journaling to aid my blogging journey. Bullet journaling is essentially this: part diary, part planner, and completely 100% customizable. You create a system that is ideal for tracking and organizing your life. In my bullet journal, you would find a
  16. Habit tracker! Again, this is a tracking system that is fully customizable. With it, you can have a better look at what daily habits you need to work on. A habit tracker is simply a daily checklist. Mine contains habits such as water intake and writing word count goals.
  17. Reevaluate your goals. OK SO – yeah, you’re right, we should probably be reevaluating our goals every 28 days, or 30 days, once a month basically. That way, we can have a clear path of action for each and every month. But, if you haven’t been reevaluating your goals at all, nows a good time to start as any! Honestly, for several months, I’ve put my goals pretty much on the back burner – basically I put my entire life on hold, because I thought there was simply no point to any of it, that it was a waste of time and effort, and all of this simply isn’t who I am, or could ever be. I mean, common, I was homeless. What do you expect? Sounds like depression doesn’t it? Bingo, baby. However, it dawned on me that, well, that’s the stupidest fucking thing I could possibly believe for myself. This whole thing, what I’m going through right now, is just…complicated… and there are so many things going on emotionally and mentally. Eventually, I’m sure more and more of this will come creeping out, but for now, if you’d like to read more about that whole THING, going here is probably the best place to start. (See Shelter Life Pt. 1-6)
  18. Reevaluate yourself (and your life). I’ve done a lot of this lately, but there is still so much more to do. So much more to go. I’m currently on a path of healing and, I suppose, growth. Aren’t we all? Like, always? But, I think that process, of growth, like, when it’s happening, is often not conscious to us. I think what matters is being able to take a look at our life and reflect in such a way that allows us to make informed, conscious decisions about our life. Every day. You should be asking yourself often, “Is this what I really want to be doing?” and “Is there a better way?” I’ve been experiencing waves of depression and every time I come up for air, I realize how much inaction and indifference is causing the drowning. Standing still is no different as walking backward. If I’m not going in the direction of recovery, I am essentially going in the direction of destruction. So, ask yourself often, “Am I going in the right direction?” Are your adjusting your sails when need be? Are you guiding your life or is your life guiding you?

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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Introduction to Arcane Archives

For NaNo, I’m going to attempt my Arcane Archives WIP (work-in-progress)!

Here is the opening line:

Syd watches the clock steadily tick-tock in sequence with the sounds of her heels tapping against church seats. She turns to find the Pastor looking right at her, smiling. “Sydney!”, her mother yells, “Stand up; pay attention! Everyone is looking at you!”

Summary: In this tale, historical fiction meets whimsical fantasy when a modern-day witch unlocks the secrets of her ancestral past, uncovering the history of Old Religion and the disappearance of arcane knowledge. As she ventures beneath New York City’s oldest chapel, she finds a mysterious stranger, a hidden library and a lot more than what she bargained for.

Main Character – Syd
Narrator – Third Person Omniscient, “God” – Mysterious Stranger Joan Wytte

Joan Wytte takes on the character of Syd’s ancestor. She has the personality of an old wise woman and grandmother.

Syd’s mother, Penny, is a practicing Catholic and clerical assistant for the church. She is also the library’s keeper and, of course, a witch.

Topics covered:
Similarities between nature religion (better known as paganism) and evolution.
Intersectionality between religion and class warfare.
Imperialism/colonialism.
History of Catholicism in England.

And, another writing project emerges!

I will be spending October developing the plot and world building. I want to begin a character chart as well. The goal is to have the novel well outlined before November 1st!

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October 2017 Goals & Life Reflections: Essentially, The Reason Why I Stopped Blogging

In truth, I would probably benefit greatly from coming up with a list of goals each month. But, that hardly happens, doesn’t it? As I’ve said numerous times here and there: Every day continues to surprise me. I dip and dive as life continues to yank me from one experience to the next. At each birth of a season, I consider how much life has changed since this time last year. Certainly, for this year, that is quite an understatement. But perhaps it is always an understatement. This year, I am much more me, than the last. Yet, not.

If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it is that we must learn how to shine through our own darkness. Or, in less fancy words: Strength through adversity is EVERYTHING. Also, equally as important, the care and nurturing for the self. As they say, when in doubt, love yourself. No one says that, by the way. But, now I do. When your needs aren’t being met, when you’re suffering – physically, mentally, or emotionally – whatever the problem may be, your first instinct should always be love, care, and support yourself. You have to do this selfishly sometimes, without guilt. Neglect yourself and your entire life will follow suit.

For the better half of a year, I’ve kept this secret from most of my friends, family, and peers. That secret contains a lot of self-doubt, defeat, and shame. But, in order to move forward with my life, I think I really need to unapologetically speak out about it. Last year, my husband and I were met with a challenge we were hardly prepared for. At the time, we were faced with a landlord who, unknowingly at that point, was scheming to take advantage of us. We’ve played games with this dodgy landlord for several years up until that point, however, the cost of moving was extremely unrealistic, and we considered this “normal shady landlord business”. When it came to repairs, myself, as well as my neighbors were forced to make complaints to the New York City Housing Authority before anything got done. That’s how bad it was. And, I’m not talking a simple leak here and there. I’m talking no access to water, sometimes no heat in the winter. Before we left, we had a literal hole in our wall. I could stick my finger in our neighbor’s apartment if I wanted to. We also had excessive mold in the bedroom, to a point where I could no longer sleep there because of my asthma. These were very serious, almost life-threatening offenses. On top of steady rent increases, we were essentially being played by our landlord. It wasn’t until 2016, that he decided to double our rent. This ultimately leads us to fight in court. We did this for nearly 8 months before losing our case and getting evicted from our apartment. I spent 6 months working with several non-profits seeking legal, housing, and financial assistance. No one helped us. Soon we were faced with the threat of homelessness. We have been residing in the New York City Shelter System for 4-5 months now. It has been a trying experience – one that has toughened my already thick skin. A handful of traumatic experiences later, here I am.

If you’d like to read more about my experience in housing court, you can read a paper titled A Tale of Landlord and Tenant: Exploitation, Eviction, and Homelessness here. If you’re interested in my experience of living in the New York City Shelter System, see my short essays titled Shelter Life Pt. 1-6 here.

As you will read in my essays linked above, coping with these obstacles really comes from maintaining a sort of normalcy – a level of ordinariness. Until very recently, that was very difficult for me to do. Now that I have access to the internet, I am better able to return to what makes me, me – writing. With that being said, my biggest goal for October is to just enjoy my favorite season to the best of my ability. How will I do this? In celebration of this spooky season, I will write 30 – YES THIRTY – blog posts between now and Halloween! I will also update my banner above to better represent this beautiful season. In addition to the upcoming posts, I also plan to finally kick, ban, and delete all of my spam bots – and believe me, there are many! While I write these posts, I will also be preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) on the side. I have a new work-in-progress stand-alone novel titled Arcane Archives on the way! An introductory post, as well as daily progress reports, will definitely come in November! I’m excited for what’s to come this Fall and I hope you will stick around for it!

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Meal Planning for Low-Income Families

When I started MIM about a year and a half ago, I really wanted to write articles about frugal living that were realistic and practical for low-income individuals and families. I really missed the mark.

Why? Well, because I wasn’t food insecure. I wasn’t getting 50% of my food from food banks or pantries. I wasn’t living in a food desert or a homeless shelter.

Instead, I wrote articles about grocery delivery and online coupon clipping with the assumption that people living in poverty, living in the projects, living in shelters, could realistically afford the grocery delivery fee or even had access to the internet, or a computer, or a printer, or the literacy to do such a task.

Life has been funny to me, I’ve experienced several different kinds of poor, all of which is very different.

There is a difference between having a choice to spend $22 dollars a week on groceries, and not having a choice to spend $22 dollars a week on groceries. So, today, I write this article for a different demographic.

In the past, I’ve written specifically with urban living in mind, with New York City being its focal point. So, I will continue to gear my posts, at least minimally, to locals.

When it comes to meal planning, there are many variables to consider including, of course, access and affordability. For example, a low-income family living in New York City can buy a carton of eggs, quite easily, for $1, while that is certainly not the case elsewhere. So, although I’ve religiously recommended the consumption of eggs, I do realize that it is not a viable option for everyone.

What is a viable option for everyone? A lot of the time, it is the pantry goods, including canned goods. Why? Because they’re affordable everywhere and everyone has access to them.

No matter where you are, here is a list of easily obtainable food products that are universally affordable.

Breakfast

  1. Pancake mix
    1. Pancake mix can be extremely affordable if you don’t care for name brands. Generic brands of pancake mix, including those you can find at Dollar Tree, for example, might not be your Aunt Jemima, but they’re equally filling.
  2. Oatmeal
    1. Again, same concept. Oats are extremely cheap, even more so if you’re willing to ditch Quaker. To maintain some of the nutritional value, don’t buy Quick or Instant oats – stick to Old Fashion.
  3. Corn Flakes
    1. I’m convinced the government is stockpiling cornflakes because there is always a $1.79  gigantic off-brand box of this stuff on sale.

 

Lunch / Dinner

  1. Bread
    1. Buy the store-brand stuff. Wheat if you can manage it.
  2. Bologna
    1. You can fry it, you can eat it cold, it’s the cheapest deli meat.
  3. Canned tuna
    1. If you have an Aldi near you, GO THERE. It’s 69 cents.
  4. Canned beans AND dry beans.
    1. Canned beans spiced up to your liking paired with rice will fill you up.
    2. Buy dry beans, soak them overnight, and cook them in bulk.
    3. A bag of beans will often cost you about the same as 1-2 cans, but it produces 5x the amount.
  5. Rice
    1. Long grain, or whatever it cheapest near you.
  6. Canned pasta sauce
    1. It’s not as tasty as your Ragu, but it’s ⅓ of the price. You can season it up and add ground meat and anything else you has lying around.
  7. Hot dogs
    1. Keep in mind that although hot dogs are often eaten on bread, they also make great fillers.
    2. Buy in bulk, if possible.
    3. Buy a generic 10-pack.
    4. Drop them in your chili, pasta sauce or box mac n cheese.
    5. Fry in a pan with potatoes and cabbage.
  8. Instant ramen
    1. Buy them by the case, it’s cheaper.
    2. You can toss Spam, Vienna sausage, eggs –  just about anything to bulk it up.
  9. Cream of ___ soup (preferably mushroom)  
    1. With ground beef, frozen veg of choice, and pasta or egg noodles.
  10. OFF-BRAND ONLY canned meals and soups
    1. Go to Aldi or Dollar Tree. You’ll get the same product for $1 and it’ll taste exactly the same.

 

This list is definitely work-in-progress, and something I’d like to build over time. Feel free to add to it!

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Miscarriage Manifesto

** Trigger warning **

This post includes pregnancy loss, miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, and death – which may be triggering to those who have experienced these tragedies in the past. Please do not continue reading if that is the case for you.

Pregnancy loss is perhaps one of the most taboo, not-talked-about topics in women’s health, and because of this, there is such a small, nearly non-existent online community for this special kind of grief. There are no support groups in your community, and no one to talk to. I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could help open up the dialogue between other women? If I could create this safe space for women to speak about their experiences? Truth be told, I have never gone about doing something like this for my blog, however, lately, I have felt compelled to speak out and share my story.

Over the past few years, I’ve experienced 2 late-term pregnancy losses. After the first loss, I did not announce my second pregnancy. I would hesitate to share a pregnancy publicly again. Have you ever tried to grieve publicly? It’s crippling. What should be a happy experience becomes a very stressful one after the event of a miscarriage. It feels as though the most exciting and joyous milestone in my life has been taken from me. Now, reproductive health has become one of my biggest ongoing stressors and has caused unspeakable grief, emotional turmoil, and numerous doctor visits.

My first miscarriage required a dilatation and curettage operation which is similar to what occurs for an abortion. The second time, labor began on its own, and I delivered the baby. In both instances, a complete autopsy could not be done because it was not covered by my insurance. However, ongoing tests have been conducted, during and after both losses. Although numerous X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and tissue samplings have been produced, the answers are still not clear. Poor fetal growth was a primary cause in both cases, and there is a possible link to a blood-clotting disorder that is known to cause recurrent miscarriages.

Additionally, there are gaps in my medical history simply because I had not gone to the doctor very often in the last 6-7 years, and I had not seen an OBGYN until I was in my mid-20’s. For a short while, I also did not have insurance. Sometimes, I couldn’t afford the co-pay or simply couldn’t justify spending the money to go to the doctor when I was sick or not getting my period.

I think the biggest challenge of all is self-blame, and self-blame is a dangerous road to travel, especially alone. Before my first pregnancy, I had lost some weight after a huge lifestyle overhaul. I felt fantastic. I started doing yoga, eating carrots, and ovulating like a beast. I did everything right. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t even take Tylenol. Yet, I had become the biggest failure, because my body refused to do what it was literally designed to do. Billions of years of evolution, and every supplement under the sun, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t grow a human.

If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.

Below is a poem a wrote some odd months ago titled Miscarriage Manifesto

The greatest pain of all is having your heart. beat. ripped away.

Pale and blue. Purple eyelids and fingertips. Peaceful, perfect, a piece of art you were.

It was Spring time and I was prepared to welcome new life. But, instead, a great darkness came — and it stole every flicker of light. From the pits of my chest to my womb, I was overcome by this darkness.

As you left, all of me followed.

Pregnancy loss has been the greatest loss of my life. Stillbirth has been the most difficult hello and goodbye.

Pregnancy and childbirth should be, and is, one of the most earth-shattering experiences in a woman’s life. You are, indeed, growing life! There is nothing more divine.

My first pregnancy was nothing short of magical. I was in awe of every adjustment my body made to make way for new life. My body morphed and for the first time, my standards of beauty morphed. Strength was beauty. Spirit was beauty. Womanhood was beauty. Now, I held a new found appreciation for what the female anatomy can endure, and will endure, to birth a new generation each and every day. It is nothing short of miraculous, indeed, yet, clearly not perfect, but perfect in its own way. A sprinkle of luck. A dab of chance. And, here. we. are.

It was a celestial journey to motherhood – one in which I did not reach my destination. One in which, even today, with modern medicine and medical teams, one in four do not reach their destination.

We are here, one in four, suffering from our loss — with our hearts torn from us and our wombs prematurely vacant. We live with a deep longing for our child that was not born or left too soon. We live with our failure to do what is the most natural; which is to do what billions of years of evolution have taught our bodies to do. And, we could not do it. We failed. 

My chest becomes heavy and my breathing quickened as a passerby to Children’s Place. I purposely avoid the toy section. And, as much as try to force against it, I can’t avoid the reaction to pain – a squinted eye. Is it obvious I am childless?

After you left, I spent several months avoiding your photographs. I shoved every newborn outfit and diaper box under the bed. I refused to touch or use the bedroom closet — within was your stroller and car seat tucked away. I didn’t even have the strength to pull it out for donation. I didn’t cry right away, but when I did, I cried for months. I pulled the pregnancy progress pictures off Facebook, and then I put them back. It is difficult to distinguish the difference between trying to say goodbye and wanting to forget.

But my biggest mistake of all is I didn’t talk about it. How do you? Pulling these words out of my mouth is no less than ripping out my tongue. It’s trying to put sentences together from the bile at the bottom of my stomach. It’s vomiting yourself to gastrointestinal disorder over a faulty uterus.

Only now will you learn, “everything happens for a reason” is the cruelest sentiment. I think our all-loving, all-benevolent God has quite enough angels, or at the very least, can wait until old age to collect them. Life is beautiful, isn’t it? A blessing, a gift. Why would anyone retract it?

Yes, I can try again. No, that will not make this better.

It seems that I am met with unintelligent design, or at the very least, a universe that is clearly uninterested with my timeline.

And, through this internal struggle of attachment and detachment from self and child, will I slowly find myself again. Often, it will be in the arms of loved ones who loved me before and after such a tragedy. I will be met with

I will be met with good wishes, and a, “is there anything I can do to make this better”, and of course, I will respond with, “no – but thank you for asking”.

 
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Today, my husband and I celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary.

Yesterday, while we were on a walk, I reminded him of this, and he asked,
“So, how long have we been together now?”
I replied, “It’s our wedding anniversary plus 10 years.”
— “Oh, right”, he said.

It really does feel like forever — I’ve ran out of fingers to count the years. It’s hard to imagine what it felt like before I met him. It’s like trying to imagine what it’s like to live without a sibling or parent — it’s just hard to imagine because they’ve always been there.

What’s so peculiar is that it wasn’t until more recently, maybe within the last year or so, that I reached this sudden realization that this was for life. It’s not like on your wedding day when you make this vow of forever, you make that promise — no, this was different, I suddenly just *knew*, and now, I exist differently because of it. It’s the epitome of reassurance and comfort to have a friend, and more importantly, an ally or comrade for life, and to feel like the Universe has got your back, at least on this — which is arguably the most important thing in life anyway. We were meant to do life together.

Over the years, I’ve tried to write about love, but it’s very difficult to write — at least realistically and truthfully. I think *this* is just so difficult to describe, even for a writer. We’re constantly growing and learning what all of this means. And, I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that no one can really teach you about love, similarly to no one can really teach you about life. It’s one of those things you have to learn yourself. I’m grateful that I get to learn about love and life with Thomas. There are billions of people on earth, and somehow, someway, our histories, our lives, they decided to intertwine. I’ve had poor luck with friendships and finding others I can connect with, yet, somehow, I hit the lottery with you. What a blessing.

 

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