Getting Gritty with it: the real thing

So here’s a thing. I’ve begun some long overdue editing work. It’s kinda boring, because it’s editing, y’all, but I discovered something. In doing this, I want to start writing again. The editor of the book is a personal friend and writing colleague, and the book is about a particular form of qualitative research called Narrative Inquiry, which is my thing.

Narrative Inquiry methods “story” the data and findings. In lay terms, we make meaning of social science research by putting raw data into a readily readable narrative for humans to connect to. In true terms it’s of course a rather messy and frustrating approach to analyse data but in meaning-making it beats most quantitative studies in the social sciences, because in the end quantitative researchers, with all their numbers, still have to put their discussions of the findings in ways that make it meaningful to humans. In narrative form. Often in the form of storied case studies, that sort of thing. Which Narrative Inquiry does from the get-go. Does it make the research any less rigorous? No, however, there may be ways of interpreting the research that quantitative researchers find using other means. Now, remember folks, I said the SOCIAL SCIENCES. NOT medical or earth sciences, or biotech or any kind of tech, really. Medicine and biological sciences need quantitative data much more than, arguably, the social sciences do.

As I’m sitting here doing the editing (which has to be done in little increments because it’s impossible to focus for more than an hour at a time on the stuff without losing the will to live), I’m all fired up and excited about writing again. I’ve offered to write a chapter in the book – according to my friend the volume’s a little short, so I’ve taken the bait. I had originally offered to write something about 100 years ago but I wasn’t in a good emotional space to be doing that, so I never submitted an abstract. I’ve given myself a 2 week turnaround for a rough draft of 8000 words. This doesn’t seem overly onerous, but there’s a whole heap of extra research and reading to do.

For every article I reference, there’s about 5 I read and discard. So if I include 50 references then I’ll need to read up to 250 articles for this chapter. Luckily I already know the field so more than half of the references are stored away in my brain somewhere, to be dragged out as a hoarder drags out his favourite rusting, teensy doo-dad from under the piles of equally rusting detritus, which he kept just in case. I’m going to send my friend the rough draft in early March and she can make the decision as to whether it’s good enough for inclusion. It’s a tight turn-around but it’s doable. The review process might be problematic because it’s usually very slow but the editors will no doubt send it to someone in the field who is known to do things quickly.

Seriously. It’s not as if I have better things to do with my time.

On the the Live Below the Line thing. I’ve been having another think about my starchy foods, and I’ve taken a little inventory of the food I usually eat on a normal day. Toast, eggs, sandwiches, pasta. I’m thinking I could buy a loaf of day-old bread from the bakery (cheap as chips), and some ready-made pasta, and this will do me just fine for 5 days with the other things. I’ll need to get fighting fit for the challenge. Perhaps a 2-day challenge to see how I cope with no coffee and wine? Not that this will hurt me, as my girth is back to its old chubster state.

I’m thinking on it. As you may have noticed, I’m a problem solver and this problem is rather delicious to play with. Also worthy. And as a cis-heteronormative white woman living near the 1% dream, I have very few excuses to shirk my duty as concerned world citizen. 😉



Weekend Coffee Share (the day after)

If we were having coffee you’d notice me becoming increasingly agitated by my internet service provider’s shit service. Every few weeks the signal goes wonky for up to 5 days. Internet is interrupted and with heavy household usage we can’t send through big files when this happens or watch streaming TV.

F**K you, OPTUS.


So Valentine’s Day, huh? It’s a thing, I guess. I’m determined to train my hubby out of this one because sometimes I think there’s just too much emphasis on TRYING to be romantic when really you just want to eat dinner, go to bed and watch re-runs of The Good Wife.

If we were having coffee you’d notice we actually celebrated the stupid day a whole day earlier, by going out to an afternoon High Tea with Champagne. Which was lovely. And on the ACTUAL day it was negative-romance. In other words, we didn’t make each other breakfast in bed, we didn’t buy each other flowers, we didn’t go for a romantic walk by the sea. DH went to a concert (later reported he never wants to hear a certain type of piano music ever again), and my daughter and I went to see Deadpool. Fully sold out, it was a great movie. Violent, oh, so violent. And funny. Oh, so funny.

Last night I didn’t drink any alcohol. I was jittery. Not in a “oh my god I’ve got the DTs” kind of way, more like “oh. Forgotten to drink. A bit bored. Why am I watching renovation reruns?” kind of way.

If we were having coffee, or any brew, come to think of it, you’d notice I’ve gone and bought more herbs and hanging baskets and potting mix. Possums love certain herbs and I’m trying to work out how to hang them so the little wee beasties don’t eat my parsley, but we might be fighting a losing battle here. Anyway, I’m giving it a shot. It’s been hot as Hades, here in sunny Qld in February. February is long acknowledged to be the hottest month of the year in the southern hemisphere. And it is STINKING hot. I’m about to close all the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. After about 11.30am it’s horrible in the house if I don’t do this.

Also, if we were having coffee, you’d notice I’m quite tempted to do some volunteer work. I was thinking refugees. Because both main parties (2 party preferred gov’t system here with smaller independents keeping the bastards honest) are so reprehensively inhumane where our boat people are concerned I want to help in some way. I’m not a good advocate – I can do better things behind the scenes, like type and teach English, that sort of stuff.

Finally, I’m also thinking about doing a charity fundraiser this year: Live Below the Line. The fundraiser is through Oaktree, an Australian-based charity:


Live below the line

The way it works is you only have $10 for food for 5 days. People sponsor you and the money raised goes towards education works in PNG, Timor-Leste and Cambodia. My sister did it for 3 years, and I think it might be my turn. It starts in May.

I’ve done a calculation on what I could live on for 5 days. It’s not pretty! The prices below are in Australian $.

250 grams salted butter $1.30

6 eggs $1.50

1 kg plain flour $1.00

2 onions .60c

1 can tomatoes .59c

1 sweet potato .50c

1 400 gram can tuna in oil $2.50 OR *edit 250 grams bacon $1.87

1 large carrot .30c

1 celery stick .20c

1 lemon .75c

1 packet 2 minute noodles .23c

*edit: 2 cups rice .75c

Discretionary: 1 piece fruit OR 400 grams milk OR 2 single cloves garlic OR spice mix OR 10 Lipton’s tea bags .39c

Total: $10.00 (based on current Aldi prices)

There is no cereal, no tea, no coffee, no sugary thing, no milk or dairy, no green food, no salt. The hardest part of this would be forsaking salt, my 4 coffees a day and my alcohol. I don’t have a very sweet tooth, and I can see how I’d really start to taste the sweetness in the onion and sweet potato.

The lemon is necessary – it adds amazing acidic zing to otherwise bland foods. The butter has to be salted: it’s my only source of added salt, and luckily butter makes everything taste great. The 2 minute noodles really ARE that cheap, and they come with pre-packed flavourings. I think I would be making this meal the lunch meal on the last day, out of sheer desperation for some flavour. Eggs and tuna/bacon are a great source of protein, and at this price, even though they take up 2/5 of the total cost, it’s about right for the amount of protein I’d need over 5 days.

So here’s how my brain is divvying up this meagre food. 1 kg flour (wholemeal, probably) is a good amount for 1 person, right? With the flour I can make egg pasta and some chappatis. For breakfast I can have egg, many ways, including in a wrap or on flatbread, or I can toast the flatbread with butter.

For lunch I can have a tuna wrap, or a sweet potato and fried onion wrap.

For dinner I can make a pasta. There are a couple of ways I can make the pasta sauce: 1 is as a napoletana, using the carrot and celery, and the other is as a tuna sauce. The tuna comes in oil, and is salty, which would save my otherwise tasteless bacon-free food. By buying a 400 gram can, it should feed me for 4 meals. With lemon, it will be a tasty, zingy treat.

Rinse, and repeat. The main difficulty will be finding new ways to prepare the same basic ingredients and managing mid-afternoon snacking.

For example, the sweet potato (which I’m having instead of white potato for added sugar, plus lower GI), could be boiled, roasted, mashed, fried, or prepared as a rissole, a dip, or roesti. It will have to serve at least 2 meals, which is where the dip comes in. The pasta sauces will have to be reused during the lunches for a sauce in the wraps, so I can’t reduce them like I usually do.

For me the cheat’s question is, can I use found food to add flavour to my meals? For example, I grow herbs. After the initial cost of buying the herbs, they are free. I have basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, coriander, chives, oregano, mint, lemongrass, and vietnamese mint. Can I use these to enhance my dishes, or do I need to fling myself round the neighborhood to pinch some herbs hanging willfully over a fence? Rosemary is one herb where this happens a lot. If I’m able to use my herbs it will make a huge difference to the flavour of the food. Also, have you had sage butter pasta sauce lately? Delish.

ANYWAY. I’m just thinking about it, because I can’t afford to give money – I have to find other ways to give for charity. And that’s my Weekend Coffee Share. What are you up to?

*Edit. Last night I reviewed the price of bacon: from Aldi you can get it for $1.87 for 250 grams. That’s 5 pieces of lovely, salty bacon (this is why in the olden days people used to keep their bacon and lard drippings – too expensive to throw out). I’m rethinking my strategy regarding the tuna. Buying bacon I can also get 2 cups of rice, which will provide 4 meals, and still have enough money left over for spices/fruit/peanuts/tea bags. Also, I’m wondering if I can cheat and go into the local uni cafeteria to get me some single packets of salt and sugar. I’m pretty sure that’s what happens in real life.

This is hard. If I’m working this hard now trying to manage food for 5 days, what does this mean for all those poor sods who have to do this all the time?


Hosted by Diane, at Part-Time Monster.