H.P. Lovecraft on Eating Cheap

“I’m not, however, a heavy eater—take only 2 meals per day, since my digestion raises hell if I try to eat oftener than once in 7 hours. In winter, when it’s too cold for me to go out much, I subsist largely on canned stuff. I always get my own breakfasts, anyway—doughnuts and cheese. I have financial economy in eating worked out to a fine art, and know the self-service lunch rooms where I can get the best bargains. I never spend more than $3.00 per week on food, and often not even nearly that.”
H.P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932 

“Speaking of industrio-economic matters—let me assure you that a 2-or-3-dollar-a-week dietary programme need not involve even a particle of malnutrition of unpalatability if one but knew what to get and where to get it. The tin can and delicatessen conceal marvellous possibilities! Porridge? Mehercule! On the contrary, my tastes call for the most blisteringly high-seasoned materials conceivable, and for desserts as close to 100% C12H22O11 as possible. Indeed, of this latter commodity I never employ less than four teaspoons in an average cup of coffee. Favourite dinners—Italian spaghetti, chili con carne, Hungarian goulash (save when I can get white meat of turkey with highly-seasoned dressing).”

—H.P. Lovecraft to Mrs. Fritz Leiber, 20 December 1936

From Selected Letters, Vol. 5 (first two quotes) and Fritz Lieber and H.B. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark (meal ledger)

 

Jane Hu reads old things. 

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21 Comments / Post A Comment

EvelynGarcia (#849)

I too prefer pie by the quadrant, Mr. Lovecraft.

It’s the only way to eat frozen pizza.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

Doughuts and cheese = Breakfast of Champions.

melis (#42)

H.P. Lovecraft! Kiiiind of imagine him just occasionally gnawing on an abandoned, sinister leaf and drawing sustenance from that somehow.

ElBlynx (#499)

FYI, $3/week in 1932 is $50.17/week in 2012 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The can of $0.10 of Chili would be $1.67 today. This seems pretty doable, no?

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@ElBlynx Maybe I’m a gluttonous whale, but I think I would be a little hungry if all I ate in a day was a can of chili, two slices of bread, some cheese and a doughnut. Oh, and cake. Am I missing something?

ElBlynx (#499)

@WaityKatie Oh no, what I meant was that the amount he’s spending on groceries does not seem particularly frugal (especially for two “meals” a day). According to this USDA report, a single man on a low-cost food budget (above thrifty but below moderate and liberal) spends about $50-54/week on food at home. USDA May 2012
Compared to the recent poverty awareness “food stamp challenge” of eating on $21/week, it’s not a luxurious amount of money but it is still a chunk of money. I was curious about how a person of today would eat on the HP Lovecraft food budget challenge and thought it wasn’t as challenging as he made it sound. Like, you could eat delicious food instead of pure sugar and cans of chili, right?

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@ElBlynx If I could cook…but in reality I’d probably buy 50 cans of Chef Boyardee and eat those.

@ElBlynx $50 is about what I spend on groceries each week, and it’s actually probably a little excessive for one person to be honest. Some weeks I spend a little less and have a few more Starbucks “breakfasts”. I eat pretty dang well on my budget, too.

@ElBlynx For better or worse, this wasn’t exactly in a time where subsidies, supermarkets, trains, airplanes, Freon, HFCS, food additives, chemical pesticides, genetic modification, or globalized economies were an everyday kind of thing. I can’t imagine Lovecraft paid a whole lot for data plans or internet bills either.

So exactly which variety of sugar was Mr. Lovecraft consuming? Maltose? Lactose?

How do I keep seeing things about HP Lovecraft this week?? He’s seeping into my brains! Early this morning I awoke with a start after having a dream that HP Lovecraft and Morrissey got married.

cherrispryte (#19)

In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming of doughnuts and cheese.

Non-anonymous (#1,288)

Happy belated birthday, HPL! For those not familiar with the story: Lovecraft died of intestinal cancer, probably not unrelated to his crappy diet.

Megano! (#124)

@Non-anonymous Or because he didn’t go to the doctor when his gut was acting up, it sounds like to me.

@Megano!, @Non-anonymous : Or both! Because he was basically edge-of-starvation poor a lot of the time.

There’re two lines in Houellebecq’s (brilliant, insane) biography of Lovecraft that still stick with me. After a long description of HPL’s fruitless, self-defeating efforts at job-hunting in New York, Houellebecq writes :

He was inadaptable to the market economy.
And he began to sell his furniture.

Ugh, doesn’t that just sum it up.

Megano! (#124)

I can’t decide whether I think this makes Lovecraft sound like lots of fun (doughtnuts and cheese!) or entirely no fun at all (my digestion acts up if I eat too much).

jimz (#1,463)

A van cut me off last week on the freeway. It had one of those vanity license plate holder things that said “Alumni – Miskatonic University.” I pulled up along side of the van because, dammit, I just had to. Was the driver a cadaverous, impeccably dressed relic? Nah, it was Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

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