If current market price of onions is Rs 100 per kilogram, tomatoes Rs 280 per kg, garlic and ginger each around Rs 70 per quarter of a kg, coriander and mint Rs 10 a bunch, it is a great challenge to meet cost of two meals a day for the hungry and hand-to-mouth poor amid customary alarms of price-hike by the chicken-hearted rich.
While the opulent, despite fashionable alarms of inflation, enjoy lavish cooking through an array of tongue-tilting vegetable, chicken, mutton, veil or beef delicacies, the “have nots” can look for creative ways in cheap buys for two taste buds testing meals a day.
A case study of Faizan Khan, a little boy, whose father is sick and labors on roads, whose mother is an underpaid domestic servant, wonders helplessly about quarter rent and meal woes of a large family. He reveals no sugar, no milk, no tea, no meals as mother invents little watery chutney out of few coriander and mint leaves and just half a roti dipping and sucking in it for each.
Faizan adds even a roti per person is not affordable due to wheat flour price hike of well over Rs 500 per bag of 5 kg. Even dal chana is out of reach for the poor what to talk of “moong, masoor, mash” unless a tit bit of dal (lentil) is added to watery chutney in making of creative gravy.
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For middle-income family of five there is better creativity in planning for a meal. Though dals (moong, masoor, chana, mash, arar range between Rs 100 and Rs 200 per kg, let any dal be Rs 50, using Rs 40 of onions, big spoonful of oil and salt mixing it with Rs 10 of coriander or mint chutney to make it bigger and tastier catering for five with Rs 50 worth of ata for 10 small rotis totaling a meal of Rs. 150 for five.
There is room for diversity for a middle-income family with a different menu for a meal. With current egg cost of Rs. 116 a dozen, let’s take 4 eggs for Rs 40 and add Rs 40 of tomatoes costing Rs 280 per kg with Rs 20 of onions, spoonful of oil and salt as needed to make it a large scrambled anda gutala dish with Rs 50 of ata for 10 small rotis totaling Rs 150 of a delicious meal for five.
The third option for a diversified meal for a middle income family is Rs 20 of onions, Rs 20 of potatoes, Rs 20 of tomatoes, Rs 30 of mixed little carrots, peas, beans, cucumber, Rs 10 of a teaspoonful of oil and salt as required and Rs 50 worth of ata for 10 small rotis totaling Rs 150 of a vegetable dish.
As imminent and amid fashionable alarms of roaring costs, sky is the limit in lavish dining for the upper strata, elite and the opulent. This is true be it gorgeous food delicacies and delights in Desi/Pakistani, Arabic, Turkish, Lebanese, Afghani, Mediterranean, Mexican, South Indian, Indonesian, European, or Chinese for that matter.
Irony of the matter for the common man’s household is when one hand feeds 5-8 mouths or so. Mass awareness through education and media on each family member working suitably, if possible, and contributing a bit each to the family budget, if feasible, is pressing need to meet the challenge of the rocketing inflationary imbroglio.
Spiraling prices are out of control and beyond the means of the common man indeed. It depends on our financial gurus and statesmanship to address this helpless situation. However, public convincing and confidence-building measures need to be pondered in simple and easy, interesting and innovative ways and means in market matters.
Parvez Jamil is an educator, journalist and market analyst.