02 June 2011

Dollar Stroll and Spinach.

So, I've finally been living on my own in Philadelphia, and I'll be here for another two months with a Mon-Fri 9-5 job. Technically, it's an internship, and I don't get paid much (a lot goes to taxes too. Wonderful.), but it's still nice experience for my future in science.

I'm actually not even living on campus, so I don't go outside after it gets dark (not that I have any need to, since there are no things to study for at libraries). But, it's summer, so it's still light outside at 6pm (as opposed to January)! Today was the Dollar Stroll. A bunch of stores on Baltimore Ave (from 42st St to around 50th...that's how far I walked because it got really empty after 50th) offer smallish portions of food for $1 each. By "smallish portions", I mean one tofu slider, one cupcake, one samosa, one scoop of ice cream, or one brownie. Actually, maybe I take back the "smallish portions" part, because a cupcake certainly costs more than $1 in Philadelphia, and samosas probably cost around $6-$10 for a plate of 3 or 4 at any fine restaurant.
I didn't know that the Dollar Stroll was so popular; I saw lines of people that wound around the block, college kids chatting, slurping ice cream, eating kebabs, drinking juices, and even a woman rollerblading and chatting on her phone in the bike lane. According to college kids here, it's not a good idea to venture to West Philly alone, but there were so many people, it was interesting walking to 50th and back, because I've never gone past 43rd St. before. On the way, though, I realised that I didn't fit in at all; I was ethnically very very part of the minority, I was ignored/left alone, and the scene was just really different; it was exclusive in the sense that you had to know someone at the stores to feel comfortable (or I'm just paranoid). It wasn't like NYC, because NYC is literally lined with shops and stuffed with people everywhere. The reason the Baltimore Dollar Stroll spans some 10 streets is that each street only has one or two restaurants/stores. That's it.

I guess living on my own for the past few days has made me realise that food costs a lot. Okay, let me rephrase; it's made me realise that produce costs a lot. It's not like I didn't know this before, but now I've caught myself wondering how necessary vegetables are. They're vital, of course! But what if I eat Chipotle instead of buying a bag of carrots and celery?
It's kind of weird to be thinking in terms of Calories and % daily values. I think I'm becoming too reductionist in making food choices. However, how else do I make food choices? What if I had bought a samosa, a brownie, a kebab, and an ice cream? $4. A nice cheap dinner, but completely devoid of anything nutritious.

So instead, I went to the farmer's market at Clark Park (it turns out that the actual market is on Saturdays) for the first time, and bought a bag of spinach for $3.75 and I made acquaintances with the two girls who sold me the spinach. I'm not sure how much spinach is, generally speaking, in University City. With taking the reductionist approach, however, $3.75 for 6ish servings of iron and vitamin A etc. vs. $4 for one serving of not-many-nutrients seems to show that the spinach was a better choice.

I'm surprised I actually have 6ish servings of spinach, actually. Okay, I don't know for sure that it's 6 servings, but I took approximately 1/6th of the bag of spinach out today, ripped the huge leaves to smaller pieces, washed it, saw the water turn green due to the chlorophyll, and stuck the leaves with my (already cooked) bean & garlic spaghetti. Dude, this is fresh spinach. You don't eat this spinach cooked!
While I was eating, one of the girls who lives in this house (I'm just renting a room) walked into the kitchen and took a red pill and some coffee to her room. I don't really care what she consumed, but I'm kinda irked that she got a paper coffee cup with plastic lid for her coffee. She totally could have used one of the mugs (they have over a dozen mugs). She probably thought I was really weird eating cooked spaghetti with raw large spinach leaves.

I know that farmer's markets sell local produce (I can now say that this spinach comes from around Lancaster, PA), and it's supposed to be, perhaps, organic, right? The spinach I had today was lighter in colour compared to Costco baby spinach. It was also a different texture and shape. The leaves were huge, and they were definitely not the small dark ovals I'm used to. A Google search of "spinach varieties" yields pictures of the spinach I think I have - thick savoy spinach. I guess I've just been living on baby spinach ever since we moved to the U.S.

OKAY! Taste! It was really crisp. The leaves were thick. It initially was pretty tasteless and reminded me of lettuce, but after a while, that characteristic stay-in-your-mouth spinach taste was really overwhelming. Pretty simple.

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