We're all poor sometimes. Sometimes we don't have very much money. Sometimes we lack energy. Sometimes we feel uninspired or unqualified. Sometimes we can't imagine a life in which we have everything we need. But we still need to eat.
These recipes are essentially peasant recipes: a few simple, whole ingredients are prepared in straightforward ways to produce delicious, nourishing dishes. In my experience, that equation tends to lead to a pot of something flavorful and mushy, unsuitable for guests or lovers or parents. But that's the genius of these recipes, and of this book: there's very little mush to be found.
If you have enough eggs to make an omelet, you have enough eggs to make a soufflé. If you have a pint of milk and a few eggs and a bit of sugar, you can make a caramel custard. If you have a small chicken and a couple lemons, you can make Greek chicken with lemon, Kotopoulo Lemonato. And if you happen to have some sesame seeds, a bit of soy sauce, and some scallions on hand, you can decide instead to make chicken parcels with lemon and sesame—a really delightful dinner. If you have four onions and an oven, you can make roasted onions, which are fragrant and sweet and can elevate a piece of toast with so little effort it feels like magic.
A friend was recently over at my house, flipping through The Pauper's Cookbook, looking intrigued. I asked him if he knew the book and he said that he didn't, but he was interested because he's "always looking for recipes that don't have very many ingredients or steps." This friend had recently been feeling very poor—in money, in spirit, in options—and in that moment I saw this book as a stepping stone or a rung on a ladder to a better place. To imagine a meal, to cook that meal, to serve it to good people you love who love you back, and to finish by doing the dishes is powerful for the soul, especially when it costs you very little.
It's hard to stop feeling poor, and it's hard to get out of a hole. Other people are a good help. And so are one's own skills and strength.