There are things I will spend money on and things I won’t and that list has changed over time. For instance BK (before kids) my list of things I would indulge in included items like Peter Fox boots, going to Scotland for the weekend, and getting my hair colored, things that are definitely not on my current list of things I’ll spend my hard earned cash on. In fifty years I’ve come to realize that every person has one of these lists and no two people’s “will spend money on/won’t spend money on” lists are the same. My current list of things I will spend money on includes bees, books, yarn, and glassware.
On my list of things I usually don’t splurge on is going out to eat. While I love having other people cook for me, if my family suggests that we go out to eat I often say no. I’d rather spend the same money towards many more equally delicious meals at home. My favorite local restaurant is definitely way too expensive to frequent on a regular basis and having worked in the food industry for much of my life I am acutely aware of the cost of what your are served when you dine out (both labor and ingredients). This is not to say that I think restaurants make much money from the food they serve (because they don’t for the most part) but I know if I were given the same ingredients and a little time I have all the skills to make the same dish at home, especially since I don’t charge my family for my time.
My two exceptions to this preference of not splurging on casually dining out are Indian and Chinese food. I have a few recipes from each cuisine which I love to make, but they are not things I make with any great frequency as they are time-consuming to prepare. Thinking about preparing an entire meal from those cuisines makes me want to crawl into bed and take a nap. So for those two particular cuisines eating out seems cost-effective (you might totally disagree with me–I’m just talking about my list of things I choose to spend my money on).
Of course there is always an exception with an exception. While I’ll happily go out to eat Indian food for dinner, I detest paying for Mango Lassis. It’s not that I don’t like mango lassis–I love mango lassis. I could drink four of them in one sitting. At $4 a pop. My kids could too. So could my Mom. The only one in my family who doesn’t long to swig Mango Lassis down by the gallon is my husband because he stays away from dairy. In the old days those of us mango lassi lovers used to nurse a single lassi through an Indian meal while dreaming of endless pitchers of the creamy sweet concoction.
Until I found out what exactly was in my favorite Indian restaurant drink–yogurt, pureed mango pulp and ice. That’s it. Some of the fancier Indian restaurants add a splash of rosewater, but I can live without that culinary flourish. Once I realized the trick of making them my challenge became how to track down mango puree. Initially I found a source in little India in New York City. I would go there with a backpack and $30 and stuff eleven cans into my backpack at which point I would proceed to stagger around the city until it was time to get on the train and take my treasure back to Massachusetts (the cost of shipping would have doubled what I paid for them hence my acting like a mango puree pack mule).
Fortunately the days of trekking to Little India are gone because the International Food Market in Hadley carries the main ingredient. It’s easy to load up on mango puree when I decide to cross water (the Connecticut River) on a loop to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target. Now I can have my own pitcher of mango lassi for less than it would cost me for two glasses in a restaurant. Life is sweet!
30 ounces Alphonso sweetened mango pulp (one can)*
16 ounces yogurt–I love Environ Acidophilus Yogurt, but any unsweetened yogurt will do
1 tray’s worth of ice cubes
This recipe makes more than will fit in my blender at one time so I do it in halves. I pour 1/2 the can of mango pulp, half the yogurt, and half the ice cubes into my blender. Push the ice crush button and cover your ears. When the ice cubes are no longer visible pour into glasses or a pitcher and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Note: The last few days have been the first royally brutal day of summer–94ºF and so humid I started to melt as soon as I walked out of our house. For truly hot days or truly hot dishes a mango lassi is a great way to beat the heat. When you eat something super hot you instinctively grab for a glass of water, but that will not help. If you are truly on fire from the inside-out water will not subdue the flames you have ingested–instead you need starch or dairy. So grab a bowl of rice or a mango lassi to quench the burn. A mango lassis also seems to work wonders counteracting those crazy hot days of summer though the same cannot be said of a bowl of rice.
*If I am shopping at an hour when the International Market is not open I will buy a few bags of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe’s, then add some honey to sweeten the lassis as I puree everything in the blender. The texture will not be as creamy as with the alphonso mango pulp from a can, but it’s a respectable alternative.