If you did as I suggested last week, hired a dance instructor to dance your way into the '80s, this week you're probably broke. It you didn't, perhaps you already were finding yourself down and out in Washington or Bethesda.
Broke is becoming a state with an increasingly large population, so it is time to do as peasants have always done -- put starch in our tummies as well as our backbones.
Spaghetti, beloved of students, is not a meal to be sneered at if it is composed of fresh pasta, a thick, homemade tomato sauce, french bread or bread sticks and a nubbin of Parmesan cheese to grate over everyone's portion. (A nubbin it must be to keep the meal cheap; most places are charging over $11 a pound for Parmesan.)
Buy a bottle or two of light, red Italian wine, a Bardolino or Valpolicella to drink, cover the table with a red-checked tablecloth, stick candles in Chianti bottles and everyone will be so busy being nostalgic they will not notice that you are being thrifty.
Leaving Italy for Switzerland, you can get your starch from rosti, a crusty potato cake topped with crisp slices of bacon. Basically, rosti is hash-brown potatoes that haven't been stirred around in the pan.
Mince a small onion and a garlic clove and cook until translucent. Add them to a bowl of cooked, grated potatoes and season to taste. Melt butter in a frying pan (a small enough size so that the potatoes will fill it to a depth of an inch or more). Cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, until a crust forms on the bottom. Invert the potato cake onto a plate, add more butter to the pan, and slide the potatoes back into the pan to brown the other side.
Decorate with bacon, grated cheese, parsley, or anything that takes your fancy, surround the platter with broccoli flowerets, and serve with an inexpensive Moselle or Rhine wine.
Rice is the mainstay of many countries, and in India it appears as a main course rice pilaf, a dish that can encompass just about anything in the way of spices, vegetables, nuts, etc.
With it, serve bowls of dal, a spiced lentil dish, and yogurt. Beer is a traditional accompaniment for curries and is cheaper than wine.
Fish chowders are not starchy per se, but to make them filling, they are generally served chock full of potato chunks, or with toasted bread.
Fish at the Maine Avenue wharf are among the best buys in town (90 cents a pound for bluefish, $1.10 for croakers, $1.60 for rockfish, $1 a dozen for mussels and steamer clams, etc.). Use the heads and bones for the stock to make your chowder both cheap and tasty. The basic broth can be enriched with canned tomatoes or milk before putting the fish in to poach. Or you can add a dollop of aioli, a garlic mayonnaise, just before serving.
Buy a bottle of jug wine and offer a basket of bread, half of which has been crisped up in the oven.