Rolling in Dough: Diary of a Cheapskate

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I’m currently rolling in dough.

Jealous? Ha! Keep reading …

What follows isn’t some cautionary tale about the perils of becoming suddenly, stinkingly rich. You know, a lottery winner belatedly discovers millions can buy her bigger breasts and flashier pickup trucks, but—sigh—not true love. A media baron builds himself Taj Mahal II, but misses his simpler childhood days with his trusty sled, “Rosebud.”

Things never got that far in my case. I guess I’m just fortunate my cautionary tale didn’t end with me being suddenly, stinkingly thrown into debtor’s prison.

Seriously, all I ever wanted to do was save the planet.

Money was the last thing on my mind when I decided to start puttin’ in the crop on my condo balcony recently. See, I’m not just a cheapskate. I’m also a serious news consumer (whenever I, uh, “borrow” my neighbor’s paper) and I’d read a spate of interesting articles about the “back-to-the-land” movement.

From restaurants that use only locally produced meat and dairy to a famous author whose latest book details the year her family spent growing their own food, there was something so appealing about the notion. For one thing, it would automatically improve my health (I’m pretty sure no one’s developed a seed for growing rows of chili cheese fries). And by not buying any foodstuffs produced by evil multinational corporations that inject pesticides and preservatives into everything, I’d be protecting the environment. I took excellent notes on all the articles before dumping the newspapers in the garbage.

(Er, that is, before gently placing them in the recycling bin. Yeah, that’s it.)

Again, this was about saving the planet. Not money. Still … as I made what would undoubtedly be my last-ever trip to the supermarket, I couldn’t help chuckling at those other poor suckers pushing their carts through the aisles of overpriced, artificially-enhanced products. No more $3.99-a-pound “heirloom” fauxmatoes for me. Going back-to-the-land meant never again having to say “Sorry, it’s generic, imitation Cheez Whiz-like spread” to guests in my home!

Alas, it wasn’t all homemade gravy. Because my condo complex has a strict “no large pets” policy, I had to abandon my plan for getting a Jersey cow and turning him loose in the North 40—aka, the guest bedroom. No biggie. If I couldn’t breed my own prime rib or churn butter during Law & Order reruns, I still could have God’s Little Acre on the balcony. I’d go vegan by growing my own fruits and vegetables, and be happy as a tofu pig in all-natural you-know-what.

But then it stopped raining. Forever. Here in Atlanta, the ongoing drought is so severe, we’ve had to resort to drastic measures. Wet T-shirt contests are still allowed (I said “drastic,” not “apocalyptic”), but all outdoor watering is banned. The local media have been full of helpful hints for conserving water, like only flushing the toilet on alternate Tuesdays—automatic exceptions granted whenever your elderly father visits, or you had Mexican for lunch—and showering along with the family ferns.

Now, I wanna be as green as the next gal. Hell, “conservation” is just another word for “cheap.” Still, I drew the line at hauling half-grown heads of Bibb lettuce into the tub with me and my bottle of cream rinse. It was back to the back-to-the-land drawing board.

Actually, I was desperately studying the food pyramid when my eye alighted on bread. Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Who doesn’t love bread (you don’t see people fighting over the liver basket at restaurants). It can be a meal in itself—just ask the guys in solitary confinement. And, thanks to a particularly non-nurturing junior high school home economics teacher whose face I’d always pictured in the pasty dough I was violently kneading, I already knew how to make bread. Plus, I was rapidly running out of food groups. It was this or growing my own lard.

During the next few weeks, my kitchen was suffused with warmth and the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread. Close friends and the minorest acquaintances dropped by regularly to marvel at my newfound ability to live off the land of the 450-degree oven. The day the cable guy who’d never been able to locate my home “sometime between the hours of eight and four” came and left with two loaves of pumpernickel in his toolbox, it hit me: “I could make a fortune selling this stuff!”

Clearly, inhaling second-hand flour fumes has a hallucinogenic effect. How else to explain the bulk-buying yeast spree I went on, or the eBay search I conducted for “used bakery trucks”? By the time I calculated that between ingredients, distribution, and advertising costs, each loaf of bread I sold would actually lose me about five dollars, my refrigerator was bursting with several hundred pounds of already-made, already-kneaded dough.

I’ve nobody but myself to blame, of course. I got greedy and lost sight of my original goal of saving money … er, the planet. I’ll be doing penance for the next month as I subsist entirely on a diet of bread sandwiches.

What, you’ve never had a bread sandwich?! A slice of bread tucked between two slices of bread; it’s so convenient. So filling. So surprisingly tasty.

It just hit me: I could make a fortune selling this stuff!



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