Sunday, September 13, 2009

She may be stingy, she may even be a bitch, but she ain't no SB.

I grew up in a community where the potluck dinner was a fixture in our lives. As a small, rural village, the potluck featured prominently in every kind of fund raising activity and meeting you can imagine. And, more often than not, the ladies of the church would be called upon to contribute to a potluck to help ensure a successful event. And successful they were, for the culinary standards in the Maritimes, where I grew up, were very high. People would go all out and contribute such tasty treats as real, homemade chocolate cake, savory meatballs and rice, and delicious casseroles of every kind imaginable. Being an economically depressed area, I'm sure many of these terrific and generous cooks were SBs in disguise. Perhaps they always made their signature meatballs because their brother gave them a side of beef each year and meatballs were incredible cheap to (for them) compared to a plate of cupcakes. Or maybe they carefully make stock after each meal of chicken, allowing them to easily whip up a delectable vegetable chowder. The tantalizing temptations of the potluck remain a constant calling for me!

But their was one church lady who wasn't quite so clever or inconspicious in her SB attemps. Let's call her Anna, as that's her real name. Anna always contributed the same thing: scalloped potatoes. Now, I love scalloped potatoes, and I'm sure hers were acceptable. However, there's just no hiding how cheap it is to make a batch of scalloped potatoes. Any of the other women would have made a "cheesy potato bake" or "ham and creamed potato casserole". In other words, dishes that would have required only marginal additional expense and effort to take them from ordinary to potluck extraordinary. Not Anna. Same scalloped potatoes. All the time.

It's never good when they church ladies start to notice these things. It was bad enough that Anna didn't put in a good enough showing and was earning a general reputation for cheapness. Far worse, however, is what came after each potluck. These poor, overworked church ladies not only had to contribute to the pot luck, but clean up afterwards. And they were usually too polite to take things home with them. "No, YOU take the lasagna home, Elsie. You have your boys to feed." "No, I won't even hear of it, Elaine. Why don't you put some of these cabbage rolls in your dish.". Anna, however, would commit the horrible sin of volunteering to take things home. "I'll pack up some of these baked pork chops, Willie will be hungry when he gets in from the boat." Or "Willie would love some of this baked salmon".

I'm sure she still does it to this day. And I know that not one of those polite church ladies have ever said anything, although they've been know on occasion to 'hide' a particularly lucrative item (like a pan half-filled with chicken stew), otherwise "Anna will take it all home to Willie". Anna is exhibiting bad form. She makes no effort to really contribute, yet blatantly tries to scoop up all the goods at the end. She probably tells herself "waste not, want not". She and Willie are no more sad and poor than the rest of the community. She was being stingy, she was maybe being a bit of a bitch, but she ain't no SB.

A real SB would have taken those potatoes, made potato salad, and jazzed it up with some tomatoes a friend passed on from their garden, the capers in the fridge from a long lost dinner party, fresh herbs from her own garden, and some great feta cheese dressing, with the cheese coming from the leftovers of an office catered meeting deli tray. A real SB would then say "Elaine, why don't you take home some salad for your lunch tomorrow. Why, yes, I would love to take home a slice of your incredible chocolate cake."

Stingy Bitch - or Office Savior?

I recently had the good fortune to acquire a rather large amount of cereal cups - you know, the individually sealed, single sized portions of Cheerios, Chex, and the like that are good for lunch boxes, travel, and so on. Actually, good fortune had nothing to do with it. I saw them being given out as samples and I simply asked if I could take a case - in charming, gracious, SB fashion. Irregardless, it was free, healthy, and tasty.

Being the proud SB that I am, I knew that while I myself did not really like cereal too much, I quickly realized it's potential. I easily found a great recipe online for homemade Nuts and Bolts (or Bits and Bites, as some of you might know them) at Mennonite Girls Can Cook, which is a fantastic site:
I very quickly turned my free cereal into a great, big, tasty bowl of treats. It was extremely inexpensive, quite easy to make, and overall looks rather impressive.

But an SB takes it one step further - I brought these yummy treats into work. My co-workers went crazy for them!!. I received endless praise for my cooking talents, and everyone remarked that it was just what they needed to get through the difficult day. No cost and full credit - that's the SB way.

And I've set off a chain of events that benefits me even further. Now some co-workers are also starting to bring in treats to share. Not being SBs, they're happily contributing baked goods and savory fare to the office with little regard for cost (like the delicious organic, high end tortilla chips, store made salsa dip, and guacamole). Haven't felt a twing of guilt yet.

Are You A Stingy Bitch?

Everyone knows what a stingy bitch is like. Or at least they think they do. The coffee shop gal who didn't put enough foam on your decaf cap - stingy bitch. The great aunt who always hinted that you would inherit her ruby broach, only to learn your sinister sister-in-law now sports it - stingy bitches. The friend who always suggests dinner but is always just a few dollars short of her share of the tab - short enough that only you will notice - stingy - well, you get the idea.

The truth is, while all these experiences are unpleasant - and you feel everything from mildly ripped off to somewhat violated - the truth is that there is only one stingy bitch here. And baby, that better be you.

To be a stingy bitch, it takes more than just being frugal, cheap, aggressive, or brash. It takes real balls, 'cause there are few labels as mean and unflattering as SB. And yet, the SB life is one of the most rewarding you can live. Few people are as liked and admired as a clever and couth SB. An SB is in fact often generous, kind-hearted, and charitable. She will often pick up the tab at coffee, make something gorgeous for the office bake sale, and go out of her way to support a charity event. But she'll do it on her terms - terms that are smart, cunning, and honed towards success and survival.

Ever present a friend with a birthday gift of flowers - after scrounging through the discount 'n' dying (D'n'D) bin, removing the roughage, and jazzing it up with a bespoke bow? Ever have a barrista remake your latte because they forgot the vanilla in the first one - then take that very same unacceptable (to you!) latte in to a tired co-worker as treat? Do you smile sweetly at their happy surprise and bask in the glow of your somewhat dubious behavior? Congratulation - you're a Stingy Bitch - and it feels great!