Tim lived in Nashville when I met him, on the first floor of a large, yellow house at the top of a hill. His roommates were his older brother, Nathan, a big-time Bengals fan who looks enough like Tim that strangers still confuse them, and their long-time friend Jared, a red-headed thinker who wears grandpa sweaters and had been with them since before 2007, when they’d all relocated to Tennessee from their Ohio hometown. Both those guys still live in the yellow house today, now with a new roommate. Conveniently, it’s less than three miles from the white brick one Tim and I share, which makes us practically neighbors still. And on Wednesdays, Nathan comes over after work, before the three guys get together to talk and pray and read entire books of the Bible in one sitting, like Hosea or Amos or I Timothy, and we have dinner.
This past Wednesday, over a hodge-podge dinner that featured the day’s disaster of cajun fish (a story for another time), Tim and Nathan and I got talking about their shared bachelor days and the way they ate in them, as 20-something guys who liked real food but, by most people’s standards, couldn’t afford it. Tim was unemployed, Nathan worked for a local nonprofit and Jared only worked part-time—so, while they look back now and see, like Tim and I in our shared life do, their needs always being met, they also remember often feeling like money was tight.
Nathan, 13 months Tim’s senior, is not the kind of guy to hand out recipes (although, I should say, he makes a killer guacamole, dresses salad as well as any Mallon and, when you hand him a fresh-baked cookie, will be able to pick out the unique ingredient you’ve added in just minutes flat). So when Tim asked him Wednesday night, at our table, what we should make in our kitchen next, you can imagine my surprise when, instead of a joke or a pipe dream, he began reciting directions for the meal he and Jared have down pat, the one Tim’s cooked more times than he can count, a meal on regular rotation in their roommate days and since then. It’s a meal familiar to any budget-conscious real-food-eating soul who considers all the grocery options and leaves with what’s most economical.
He started telling me about lentil stew.