People often ask me, “Wes, you’re so poor. How could I pretend to be a cool poor person and eat like you?”
At my poorest, I ate nothing for three weeks. I lost 25 pounds in a condition known scientifically as “starvation.” I had three pennies but couldn’t buy any food with them.
At my second poorest, while housed, I ate mostly rice and beans — sometimes with chopped tomatoes, garlic and onions added — sliced bread and butter and an occasional can of Chef Boyardee ravioli. Twice a month, I’d eat a two-egg omelet with sliced cheese. Sometimes I’d use peanut butter on the bread. Or I just ate the bread plain. If I woke up hungry at night, I’d usually eat a slice of bread with enough water to fill me up rather than make rice and beans.
When I’ve been homeless, I’ve usually had more money rather than less (no rent!), so in addition to the canned ravioli, which I’d then eat cold, I could also afford to eat fast food, such as cheeseburgers and fries.
Sardines are a great option. You can get them incredibly cheap in those big, oval, one-pound cans.
I’d save my precious cans of chunk light tuna fish packed in water for honored dinner guests. I’d add them to egg noodles with mayo and my most innocuous onions (red or Walla Walla, not yellow). “Poor” means drinking the juice from the tuna can right after opening it. It’s the best part.
I learned to love liver and onions. I stopped when my doctor said stop, but I have a new doctor, so I’m hoping I can start again. It’s cheap and good.
I have harvested blackberries from vines all around Seattle. You can’t kill them; they’re like locusts — there’s too many of them. You might as well eat the little monsters.
I learned to love SOS, also known as chipped beef on toast.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I used to buy Wisconsin Limburger cheese — back when it was way cheaper than it is now — and rolls. I would go to a Seattle park and sit on the grass and eat the rolls with Limburger on them. Limburger is not only a great source of protein; you get to eat in peace as everyone around you distances themselves by about 50 feet.
When I was about 8, my mother and I lived for several months in a garage that had been converted to an apartment. It had a kitchen with a stove that could burn either kerosene or wood. Kerosene and wood cost too much, so dinner was made in an electric skillet most of the time. My favorite was electric skillet buttered Wonder Bread balls. You put two tablespoons of butter in the pan, melt it, wad up a slice of Wonder Bread and roll the wad around in the butter, letting it soak the butter up. It was a delicacy.
My experience with eating rice and beans made me a star at Oxfam events. I get invited to these because I’m a known poor person. They give you a “random” number when you walk in and — based on the number they assign you — you get your make-believe economic class for the event. I’ve always got “dirt poor.” I think the whole deal is rigged. You get a meal based on your class. I always take chopsticks to these events so I don’t have to eat my rice and beans with my hands. I eat them with enthusiasm, just like I did those years when that was almost always what was for dinner.
I hope you wonder how our vendors eat. You buy the paper from a vendor, probably. You might pay a tip, we hope. Well, the tip goes entirely to the vendor. Thank you very much.
They buy food with the proceeds.
The important thing to understand is that these newspapers aren’t as free as we’d like. We want a Real Change genie who’d just wrinkle her nose and pop these papers into existence, but no. We have to have a staff to put these things out. Plus more staff to make sure that the distribution happens and sales go on without undue hitches.
All that in addition to the mere cost of printing these things. Printers charge to run the presses.
Please contribute. No one likes cold canned ravioli.
Read more of the Jun 1-7, 2022 issue.