For Cheap Eats Week 2015, Eater sent hungry stand-up comic David Heti out into Montreal with $10 in his pocket. Here's his report on how it all went down.
At first I thought I’d been asked to spend—to survive on ten dollars for a day, as opposed to just…going out and enjoying ten dollars one day. I was all up for the first challenge, as a creative endeavor, and one not even so far from my everyday experience; but the second one still fails to make sense.
I was all up for the first challenge, as a creative endeavor.
To my mind you have either plenty of ten dollars, or you have few ten dollars. If you have plenty of ten dollars, then you don’t think hard about, agonize over how to enjoy your ten dollars; whereas if you have few ten dollars, then you are never spending that ten dollars on something nice or simply pleasurable; you are simply scraping by, taking in slow calories, hoping for more ten dollars.
But for the sake of an argument/Eater piece, let’s say you’ve only ten dollars, and little time to live: how do you enjoy that ten dollars?
First off, you go to Atwater Market, because it’s summer and there’s a market inside and outside.
First off, you go to Atwater Market, because it’s summer and there’s a market inside and outside, and a canal right there, which to watch and sit by. With all manner of food purveyor—prepared, ready-to-go, un-prepared, pared—you can buy some pleasure time, holding out and imagining for yourself all the things you could eat if you so chose/could afford to. Sample some fine charcuterie on offer to taste, or a little bit of wine; local growers will want you, apparently, to take the fruit from their hand and eat it, in order to buy it. It is that kind of market.
It’s an adventure, though, and so go into one of the little shops, La Fromagerie Atwater, which offers all manner of specialty foods (olives and eggs and yoghurt and cereals), and go to the cheese counter, and pretend to consider which cheese you will buy. Ask if you may please have a taste of, for example, the Pied de vent (lait de vache thermisé, Île de la Madeleine, $52.99/kg), then appear pensive, wait, and then leave that area. Pick up a tiny Pepperette de Scotstown ($49.99/kg), which will set you back $2.60 (note are there taxes en sus or inclus?), because it is quality, not quantity. If you’re going to starve, you might as well have some meat.
Go into the beer room, where you will find easily one of Montreal’s richest selections of regular, imported, and weirdo local beer. Imagine all the beer you could buy, settle on (the) La Fin Du Monde, of Chambly, from Quebec’s most well-loved Unibroue brewer. Remember, though, sometimes it’s also quantity over quality, so at 9% alcohol by volume, you’re doing ok. [$2.99 for a 341 ml bottle, plus tax (what you do with the ten-cent deposit remains undecided. For instance, may one spend $10.10, with the anticipation of the bottle refund?)]
With the taste of lovingly cured meat in your mouth, a little bit of a drunken feel, and $6.14 poorer, you will be hungrier than before. At Marmite su’l feu! you will find actual food. From the Indian Ocean’s île de la Réunion comes ridiculously tender, mouth-watering stewed meats, sitting in weighty, profoundly sober pots of iron right before you.
Normally six or seven of duck, rabbit, chicken, pork, beef, goat, codfish or shrimp will be on offer, in addition to rice, beans, and salad. Posted prices will read $13.50 (one meat), $15.50 (two meats), and $18.50 (three meats), but this is a market, and you are in Montreal, and it is stew. Approach slowly, all conspicuous, tentative, and say, "Hi, I only have three dollars and eighty-six cents. I was wondering, this might be a weird request, but might it please be possible for me to have $3.86-worth of meat? Any meat? Whatever amount you think might be fair?" If you are me that one time, they will be happy to oblige. (In fact, it really is in some ways the purest exchange—the prices of meat and the dollar fluctuating and whatnot.) This is the greatest $10.