Here’s what I read on the bus yesterday on the way to “nutrition school.” Excellent, excellent opinion piece in The New York Time’s Sunday Review section by Mark Bittman, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” He rather neatly, and persuasively, shoots down three big food myths:
  1. That a fast food meal is cheaper than a home cooked meal (he rightly compares fast food with standard grocery store ingredients, NOT with organic food purchased from Whole Foods)
  2. That it’s hard to drive to a grocery store (it’s not any harder to drive to a grocery store than it is to a fast food outlet).
  3. That there’s no time to cook! (Anyone who watches a few hours of TV after work has time to cook something quick and easy for dinner.)
He suggests that the underlying problem is that most people see cooking as work, and that they don’t want to do more work when they get home from work. What needs to happen, therefore, is a cultural shift in which more people come to value cooking and see it as something worthwhile.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you know that I’m completely on board with that notion. I never think to myself, “I’ve worked hard today, I deserve to have someone else prepare my food for me.” (Unless I’m married to that person.) I place high value on knowing what I’m eating, what I’m putting into my body. Because I’m worth it.
Sure, sometimes cooking feels like more chore, less fun, even for me. But when I feel that way, I simply step away from anything involving a recipe or multiple bowls or pans. I’ll do something simple like make a salad with tuna, or scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and fruit, or beans (canned) and rice with salsa and plain yogurt, or tomato soup with grilled cheese and a side salad. It requires little mental bandwith, little cleanup, and you can talk on the phone, talk to your spouse, talk to your kids, talk to your dog while you do it. No sweat, and a heck of a lot better for you than fast food.
Bittman also tackles an issue that I’ve been thinking about lately: The old poor people need cheap fast food because they get more calories per dollar that way. Really? In a country where obesity is running rampant across socioeconomic boundaries, are we really concerned about getting “enough” calories. [Obviously, there is going to be a segment of society who is calorie-deficient, but the answer to that problem should be help, not fast food.]
P.S. To understand the title of this post, read the whole Bittman article. Go on, start reading!