A few weeks ago I received this terrific memoir by Caitlin Shetterly and I just had to share it with all of you. It is her very personal memoir of traveling across country with her husband, going broke and returning home with their new baby. In her book Caitlin shares several recipes and tips on how she and her husband ate on a budget. Despite their lack of income they still found ways to eat delicious, nourishing meals that fed both their hearts and souls during their ordeal. I found her ideas uniquely interesting and asked her to share some of her approach to simple eating with all of you. Please welcome Caitlin Shetterly to The Family Kitchen and see the bottom of this post for ways you can win your very own copy of Caitlin’s great book:
Guest Post: By Caitlin Shetterly,
author of Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home
When I became pregnant with my son, one unexpected physical change cut to the core
of my self-esteem: I was suddenly a terrible cook. Now, pre-child I had thought I was a
really good cook and that this knack or talent or whatever was innate to my being. I’m
not so silly as to think I was Daniel Boulud or even Martha Stewart, but I was pretty
damn good. I had a way with ingredients and could visualize how they would smell, feel
and taste. Then, when I got pregnant I developed a rare condition called hyperemesis
gravidurum, which means, in Latin: Lady, you will now puke for nine months! And I
did. Even worse, nothing tasted good to me. I couldn’t even read about anything that
tasted good. Forget driving by a restaurant that smelled of garlic—I’d have to pull over
immediately. I subsisted for nine long months on toast with butter, strawberry yogurt,
“turkey roll ups” (which were just a tortilla—corn or flour—with cheddar and a piece of
luncheon turkey heated up in the microwave), and salads with ONLY olive oil and salt as
I anticipated, somehow, that once my son popped out, along with the pleasure of
becoming a new mother, I would enjoy a rebirth of my culinary ambitions. Instead, a
week after my son was born in January of 2009, my husband, a freelance photographer,
lost every job he had booked up through May. We were stranded in Los Angeles,
California—one of the most expensive cities in America—with no income and a new
baby. And, although we were broke, I was suddenly ravenous. I needed food to sustain
not only me but my nursing child, but I had to figure out a way to do so cheaply.
During my pregnancy, I had reread all of the Little House on the Prairie Books. I
remember being moved by the way Ma made do with so little food. In The Long Winter
she grinds wheat in her coffee grinder and bakes bread; she stretches a rare piece of meat
into “flavoring” that lasts for many meals. With my own family’s funds dwindling, I set
out to make the simplest foods for as little money as possible. One thing I made quite
often was turkey chili. I’d buy a big bag of dry pinto beans at the Santa Monica Co-Op
and soak them overnight. Then I’d cook them with a little salt. When they were done, I’d
strain them and in a big soup pot I’d sauté a little onion and garlic. To that I’d add only
a little turkey—about 1/8th of what you’d normally add—think of it as a condiment, not
the main attraction! Then I’d add the beans and a jar of tomato puree, a bay leaf, some
salt and pepper and a little chopped parsley. I’d make a big enough amount that we could
eat this soup with some homemade baked bread for both lunch and dinner every day. For
variety, I sometimes made a big pot of lentil soup, using tomato puree and dried bullion
as the base, and I made it heartier by adding carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and parsley.
During our long winter, we ate a lot of vegetables because they’re cheaper than meat. Our
effort was to try to eat all organic—because I was nursing—and so eating very little meat
made that possible (indeed I got our weekly grocery bill for two adults and two animals
to just under $100 a week). One of the vegetables that we ate quite often was okra.
Before I had learned to cook okra I thought it was a slimy, disgusting mess. But when
I was in my twenties and living in New York City, I had started bringing it home from
the farmer’s market where I worked. I came up with a recipe where I sliced the okra into
thin, coin sized rounds and fried it in hot olive oil with a generous pinch of salt and some
chopped, fresh, Serrano pepper. I loved to serve these crispy morsels with a nice piece
of seared flank steak and a crusty piece of bread. When my husband and I had no money
and a new baby, many years later, I made piles of my favorite okra because it’s cheap and
full of fiber, which fills you up, but it also tastes great. Because eggs are a cheap source
of protein I’d make fried eggs to go with it for dinner (who doesn’t love breakfast at
dinner time?) and place the eggs on top of the mounds of okra coins. I’d serve this meal
with some Tabasco and a nice piece of fresh bread with butter.
Eventually my husband, Dan and I and our two-month -old son were forced to pack up
and leave Los Angeles to travel back across the country to move in with my mother in
Maine. When we got there it was Easter. Easter has always been my favorite holiday,
and after our epic trip across the country, the earth’s renewal felt especially fulfilling.
Although we were not, by any stretch, out of the weeds, a stone had been rolled off our
shoulders. That morning, to celebrate, we made a huge brunch of eggs cooked with a
medley of herbs (fresh rosemary from the plant in the window of my mother’s bathroom,
fresh basil sitting on the living room table, chives and dill) and we baked some scones.
The wonderful thing about scones is they take almost no time and seem to make any meal
more special, somehow. Throw in a few raisins or currants and with a nice cup of tea,
you feel like you’re having afternoon tea in one of the drawings rooms of “The King’s
That spring, while home with Mom, Dan and my mother put in the garden and because
my money was tight for all of us, we tried to come up with tasty recipes that could feed
three mouths for relatively little. On Friday nights, we made veggie pizzas, starting the
dough in the afternoon and letting it rise on the counter. On Sundays we often wanted
fish and, since we were on the coast of Maine, this was rarely a problem to procure. I
especially liked to make Maine shrimp (frozen since the winter’s shrimping season)
which I doused with a generous amount of olive oil, lemon juice, and an intoxicating
mixture of herbs: red pepper flakes, fresh rosemary, fresh chives, fresh thyme and garlic.
I’d pile the shrimp on top of white basmati rice and serve it with a fresh spring lovage
salad. This combination of crisp, celery-ish, herbaceous lovage and tiny Maine shrimp
(though you can use any old shrimp) tasted, I felt, like spring itself.
At the end of the summer, Dan finally got a job and we moved out of my mother’s home
and into our own apartment in Portland, Maine, down the coast. But we did not forget the
lessons of eating simply and making our own food. We realized that simplicity was not
only cost-effective; it actually tasted better. And for me, after nine long months of frozen
waffles, to have my culinary taste buds come back—to enjoy the pungency of garlic and
pepper, spices and onions—was an unforeseen pleasure with which I felt graced during a
If you want to read Made For You & Me click here to buy it on Amazon!
To win your own copy of Made For You & Me:
1) Leave a comment of your favorite simple meal.
2) Like “The Naptime Chef” on Facebook
3) Contest runs from April 18th at 10:45am through April 25th through 9:00am.
4) Winner will be chosen by Random.org, winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize or it will be awarded to another person.