Stuffed to the gills in the trenches

Among the cookbooks landing on my doormat recently was one promising (threatening?) meals to feed four for $75 a week, but call me skeptical. I learned the hard way that it is damn difficult even theoretically to feed a family enticingly and nourishingly on more than double that. Everything but junk is just getting crazy-expensive. I was actually almost tempted to try a recipe for chocolate peanut cookie bars but backed off after mentally adding up the tab for the non-staples alone (chocolate chips, butter, peanut butter and roasted salted peanuts). Maybe you serve that panful over four days, but you’re still talking real money if on one night it accompanies a casserole containing penne, chicken breasts, tomatoes, cilantro, tomato paste, half a pound of salami, a quarter-pound of Monterey jack and a cup of olives. Or consider the sage-spinach penne: A cupful of packed fresh sage leaves alone would put this deal of a dish at near caviar level. And the suggested substitute, basil, ain’t exactly a bargain, either, when a cook has only about 10 bucks a day. No wonder the publishing trend already seems to be rushing past recession cooking and back to indulgence-at-any-cost. Fantasy is very filling.