Monday, November 24, 2008

The $5 Meal Challenge

Can you make a meal for five bucks?

Of course!
For how many people?
Do spices count?

I have been wondering how students might make the most of $5 at the University of Chicago. So I have been asking around. There seems no question it can be done but lots of questions about how it can be done well.

In trying to answer the question I'm going to be running an experiment of my own, a contest of sorts. Students from any of the schools at U Chicago are welcome to contact me with suggestions for meals that they envision creating for under $5. If your idea gets the nod from me and my panel of experts, we will give you the $5 to make and document it. All the chosen entries will be featured on this blog.

How will we decide?
Creativity will be a big factor. Sure you can make $5 of beans and rice but the question is what can we do beyond the obvious. Or on the other hand how can the obvious be stretched in unpredictable ways? How far can you stretch $5? Can you get fancy? Is it ethnically authentic? What is the best fast food you can buy for a five? What does five buy you in the cafeteria? What if you only do organic? Or try to feed five? We will be choosing those who push the boundaries in these and other ways and hopefully learning a great deal about eating at the University of Chicago.

Already people have suggested that it might be hard to make a vegan meal or kosher meat meal. Many have wondered about the spices. My criteria for spices will be prorating. If you grab a teaspoon of salt from the closet (much cheaper than buying a whole jar of the stuff) then you'll have to estimate how much it costs. On the other hand if someone donates a little pack of the stuff, you might be able to say it was free....

Beneath all of this lies the question, what is a meal? When the issue came before the Senate in 1896, "a number of persons were asked to give their opinions and the answers for the most part declared it impossible to fix on any standard amount of food," according to the New York Times. If all you eat for lunch is Doritos and dip, is that a meal? Whatever you choose to make, you'll have to make a case.

To qualify, you must be a student. Please send me an email via the contact the challahmaven button on the left hand side of the home page. Make a case for your proposal. I'll let you know if you are chosen. Those who are chosen will be making guest appearances throughout the academic year. So check back and see what the U of Chicago is eating for $5!

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