Ask Mrs. Vera: How can I stretch my food stamp allowance to make healthy meals for my family?

Dear Mrs. Vera,

How can I stretch my food stamp allowance to make healthy meals for my family?

Kindest Regards,
Emeril J. Lagasse,
Fall River, MA

Mrs. Vera, with wooly hair worms.

Mrs. Vera Newman,
San Francisco, California.
Photo: Cameron Wolf

Dear Emeril,

Love your Yukon Gold potato nest recipe, the one filled with tiny creamed onions.  That dish could be scaled up to provide crispy housing for the homeless and starving, and any tiny onion babies they have still clinging to life in those red “right-to-starve” states. And, not to be a Narc, but the last time I saw you, when we split the lunch bill, your wallet had $11,000 in it, which disqualifies you for the food stamp program right off the bat. Not that I care how you spend your hard-earned money, but next time, please give the cost of the postage to one of the former home-owners hanging out by restaurant dumpsters everywhere instead of asking me to solve our lower-class hunger, malnutrition and poverty-related problems for the cost of a first-class stamp and a 3-day window for expected delivery.  I’m good, but I’m no magician.  I’m sure you mean well, however, and are genuinely troubled by the millions and millions of folks who will never get to eat food of the caliber you create.  I have found that shouting at food does little to improve its flavor, availability, or affordability, so we’ll focus on ingredients over style, at least until Obama fixes the “Caps” function on my keyboard.  In the spirit of talking to you, but so as not to distract my other readers, I will be slamming pots and pans and throwing ingredients around the room and to myself (and catching them) while we chat, but I’ll be doing it very cinematically, in slow-motion (I’m trained in Butoh™) while I play some soundtrack music with my toes on the Hammond™ Electric Organ that I’ve just Arduino™-hacked to boil popcorn.  Before I forget, what have you been up to lately?  Yes, yes anyway, Emeril, I recently defeated a Great Wizard, Boehno the Sad (absolutely no relation to the clown).  And OK, he’s a Mediocre Wizard at best, but give me a break I’m not a real sorceress, I only got stuck with the title because of a typo in this ad I placed when I was looking for some woman to help me drive my Flying Saucer cross-galaxy to Santa BarbarArcturus to visit my sister, who wasn’t even home when we got there.  The only lady to respond was a tea-cup repairperson claiming to be an expert sauceress on her Myspace™ page, and then when I get home, this Wizard shows up just itching for a fight, challenges me to a duel of spells and incantations and arcane witchery, etc. (I heard ‘stitchery’, and got a little overconfident), as it turns out, he mistook me for the cracked saucer lady, who got out of the spaceship at the Saturn Rest Stop to work on the rings.  Or so she said.  What a series of complicated misunderstandings traversing the Universe turned out to be!  So since then, for thousands of years, we’ve been half-engaged in a duel of wits.  That’s preferable to fully engaging with a halfwit, in my point of view.  He’ll drop a house on me, I’ll ruin his credit score.  He’ll seal me up in a wall or a well, I’ll put sugar in his gas tank.  I’m not proud of it, but he won’t quit, so what can I do?  Last Saturday, he turned me into a fly, and I was buzzing around the chambers of the House Speaker John Boehner, eavesdropping a little, I’m ashamed to admit, while fighting off gigantic spiders.  From what I overheard, those people really hate poor folks and Black Presidents and going to the doctor, in that order.  They love having money and making money for their peers, and are very much in favor of people being as hungry as possible, unless they know them personally or they vote Republican.  Also, they are afraid of spiders, and of flies that become human-sized (but have pretty human faces and stylish hair) suddenly during pitched battle with necromancers.  With my trusty pocket-mirror, I flashed back a bolt of bedevilment in the nick of time, which apparently turned Boehno the Sad and a few others in the way into three foot lengths of sewer pipe, so they could be stuck anywhere now, how could I know where exactly?  Hopefully, this means I can get a break from P.U. Eldritch Fire Breath for a while, and get my column done on time for once.  I heard Right Wing Washingtonedeads discussing their strategies for starving the unfortunate during my very buzzy weekend, and they were particularly excited by a new food bank initiative they had concocted to punish dum-dums that work for a living, if there were any jobs, duh. Because, y’know, Obama ‘N stuff.  Their plan, an attempt to steal some thunder from super-intimidating Lady Senator Elizabeth Warren, is a set of new regulations requiring food banks across this putrid, mooching nation to hold in reserve, and not distribute, a much larger percentage of the vittles and windowsill pies that so tempt the army of hobos out there from working naked in a coal mine for a hamburger next Tuesday.  They figure by holding any and all food assets in a gigantic bin or can, they can prevent the recurrence of a bubble in the market, such as the ones you see when starved people gorge themselves on dumpster gold, and ruin their trim figures with distended, off-putting bellies, similar to the bubble-bellies what happens to the dead if you ignore them too long.  I wasn’t sure what problem this was supposed to be a solution for, exactly, but everyone in the room was clearly excited by the prospect of to whom it would be occurring if the law were passed.  It isn’t that they lack compassion, for their own suffering, but more that they hold in disdain any people who remind them that everyone wasn’t born in Westchester or a penthouse somewhere.  These “losers,” or “democratic voters,” as they prefer to be called, are simply viewed as being unable to move on from the past, when the poor were fed, and get over themselves and their hunger and moral objections to poor people starving etc., etc.  Being guaranteed food or shelter, in exchange for honest labor, is over, pricey consultants agree, and the need to eat is a holdover (not a leftover), like the cassette tape, instant coffee ads and S & H Green Stamps™.  The sooner food stamps are eliminated, in their view, the sooner their great, great grandchildren can make a fortune by either selling old, unused food stamps on eBay™ or grinding them into a powder to cut future-earth Columbian Biebercaine™ with.  Well, no help there, obviously.  But how can one actually stretch one’s Food stamp allowance in a healthy way?  Stretching a food stamp is a little bit like trying to bend, or throw, a potato chip…  I’m glad I don’t have to do it for a living.  So I’m putting on my chef’s hat/thinking cap, which is oddly resemblant of Napoleon’s (but more seaworthy). Perhaps a tax credit for those who purchase a dining table covered in mirrors that face each other, reflecting an infinite number of delicious food stamps in every direction, as if your body was slowly shutting down in a satisfying nutritious funhouse, or “fungry house.”  Or, they could print, at very little cost, pictures of healthy, life-sustaining Sunday dinner fixins’ on the stamps so people could pretend they were about to eat well, and therefore not be embarrassed to death (by starvation) from their shameful ability to induce stinginess in absolute strangers worth millions of $$$, right out in front of God, on His special day, when He’s watching everybody.  Something about all that is embarrassing — I just can’t quite put a bony/plump finger on exactly what.  You can definitely extend your food stamps by using them in a smoothie, because they are very high in fiber, being made entirely out of fibers, just in case your scavenged, wilty vegetables and fruit peels have been pre-de-fibered by the Responsibility-Teaching Industrial Complex.  It’s RTICulous, the amount of work those people tirelessly do on behalf of their own good.  I don’t personally see anything wrong with using discontinued food stamps for the occasional indulgent treat, despite the wails of sorrow at any abuses the system may have had before it no longer was allowed to feed the hungry, so why not be naughty and make a S’mores™ out of two food stamps and a marshmallow that fell on the ground near people drinking hot cocoa on a blustery winter afternoon?  And here’s another great tip, straight from John Boehner’s fabulously thin cookbook, Cooking With Crocodile Tears: “Nothing tastes better than the simplest of soups, prepared from two quarts of orange tears, the juice of seven fresh-squeezed Kleenex™, boiled with a bar of gold bullion in the bottom of a big pot, and thickened with shredded food stamps for a silky finish.”  Once the Food Stamp Program, and the people it supported, are dead and gone at last, then those remaining humans on the planet who are still (still!) in a low tax bracket even after everything not done for them by the fortunate will no longer be a drag on the economy.  Any remaining non-eaters out there could get crafty, and make their own food stamps, by delicately carving out the image of a roast turkey or a Flintstones™ vitamin into half a potato, and then print the image on anything handy or edible, like discarded napkins, with ketchup packet ink, and then dig in.  Children of the Eaties Class adore doing this annual activity, though their much less shaky fingers enable them to carve stunning representations of 12 course meals into the pearly flesh of endangered abalones, as will be traditional then, and their renderings are so mouthwateringly accurate they make the tomato daubings of the poor just look pathetic.  Bon Appetite!

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Mrs. Vera, lost.Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere.  She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating.  Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means.  Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!