Real Cooking

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average American “consumer unit” spends about $38,050 per year on living expenses.

OK, so what the heck is a “consumer unit”? Glad you asked. A consumer unit is defined as a family, a single person who is financially independent, or two adults living together and sharing financial responsibilities.

Since we now have that established, let’s continue. Of the $38,050 we Americans spend, about 14 percent goes toward feeding ourselves. On average, about $5,150 is spent on food, but interestingly enough, only 58 percent of that figure is spent on groceries. The remaining 42 percent is spent at restaurants or for carry-out foods like pizza or dim sum.

Which reminds me-I haven’t had a good dim sum in years.

The words “dim sum” literally means “touches of the heart.” These delectable little morsels are a collection of Chinese, hmm… let’s call them appetizers. Meat-filled dumplings, stuffed wontons, pork buns and spring rolls are just a sampling of the more than 2,000 distinctive dim sum items.

Entire restaurants in Hong Kong and in Chinatowns all over the world specialize in these small treats. Platters of chicken wings, pot stickers, green onion pancakes and the like are brought to the table along with gallons of hot, aromatic tea.

Mmmmm…. Hey, snap out of it. Back to statistics.

Now, I figure that if the average “consumer unit” is spending roughly $5,000 a year on food, it breaks down to about $100 per week spent at the grocery store and at restaurants. Right?

Somehow I get the feeling that this figure doesn’t hold true for my family. It seems to me that I hand out that much money for food “incidentals” alone.

You know, stuff like “Mom, can I have some money for the concession stand at the game tonight?” and “My friends want to know if I can go to Subway with them. Is that OK?” Or “Today’s the school’s ice-skating party. We can bring money for the snack bar-uh, Mom?”

I haven’t kept track of how much we spend for groceries and other food expenditures since Keith and I were newlyweds. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to keep to a budget and maintain a careful eye on our deposits and withdrawals, allotting so much for this and so much for that.

That didn’t last long. I soon learned that a farmer doesn’t receive a steady paycheck every two weeks, so it became virtually impossible to plan on anything. I paid the bills and bought the groceries and gave up on the cost accounting of life.

Oh, to be sure, I still read the ads and clip the coupons, but I’m really not sure just how much we spend on food for a month. There are some weeks when I’m in the grocery store every other day in addition to the big trip that fills the cart on Saturday.

And of course we eat out. And the kids buy their lunches at school. And we had beef processed.

Add it all up and you get…. I really don’t know. So, I can’t tell you if we are average or not.

What I can tell you is that I’m happy to see that Hillsboro is getting two new and improved grocery stores. Supermarkets, they’re calling themselves now. Both Vogt’s IGA and Dale’s Supermarket are entering new territory and will take us along with them.

So I thought I would pass along a few ideas-a sort of grocery-store wish list.

Passable aisles. If you’ve shopped in Hillsboro, you know what I mean.

Produce, produce, produce. And please let it be fresh and of a wide variety.

A bakery where I can get a decorated cake at a decent price.

Fresh seafood. I can dream, can’t I?

A greater variety of international type foods. We need to expand our horizons farther than Marion County.

A good pastrami at the deli counter. And corned beef, too.

Ice cream cakes would be nice. It’s so hard to get one home from Newton or McPherson-especially in the summer when you really want one for a party.

Shopping carts with those built in baby seats designed for a small infant. I’m past that stage, but they’re so handy for moms with babies.

Kooler’s gum in the lemonade flavor.

Free samples on weekends. Hey, it works for Sam’s.

Double coupons-even on sale items. Maybe that’s a corporate decision.

Same friendly staff, same good service.

I certainly wish the owners of both stores the very best, but I do wonder what the future will hold for not only the Vogt and Franz family businesses, but for Hillsboro’s business sector as a whole.

The economy seems so unstable and with the country on the brink of war in Iraq, who knows what the coming days will bring.

And with a Super Wal-mart being built in Newton and another purportedly going in soon in nearby McPherson, one wonders how many local shoppers will be drawn out of town.

But then, with the price of gasoline as it is, who wants to drive unnecessarily?

* * *

Here’s a nice dish to serve for Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter. Use a nice spicy Dijon mustard and a little extra sauce for serving at table.

Baked Dijon Salmon

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

11/2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

4 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

4 (4 oz.) salmon fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon for garnish

In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, mustard and honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, pecans and parsley.

Brush each salmon fillet lightly with the honey-mustard mixture and sprinkle tops of the fillets with the bread-crumb mixture. Bake salmon in a preheated 400-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with lemon.

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