Eating to Live, Living to Eat

My friend mentioned to me the other day that I put a lot of emotion into a cooking blog. I mentioned to him that he should read the About page. Food is intimately tied to our feelings and everyone has an emotional relationship to food, even if it is just that you didn’t eat a good breakfast this morning and it has made you grumpy. Your stomach is your second brain. I realize my blog also weighs in a bit heavy on the political side. Food is a resource and is therefore inherently political to my mind.

Now this all might seem a bit heavy to some of you who are just looking for a good recipe to make for dinner. (Don’t worry, I added some links at the end.) I won’t lie to you, it is. Because what you choose to make for dinner ultimately affects your life in profound ways that often go unnoticed. It is essential to our being, our well-being, practical, fervid and steeped in mythology.

Before you pull up Google and go visit Rachel Ray or Smitten Kitchen, think about what it is that you really want to eat tonight. Allow me to present to you a modern food myth:

Myth – processed food is cheaper than whole foods.

New York Times: This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

If you are one of those crazy, hard core Conservatives who are so fucking concerned about reducing the federal deficit, maybe you should start in your kitchen. Here is a bit of  the real cost of eating poorly, also from the New York Times:

A study by Y. Claire Wang, an assistant professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, predicted that a penny tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages in New York State would save $3 billion in health care costs over the course of a decade, prevent something like 37,000 cases of diabetes and bring in $1 billion annually. Another study shows that a two-cent tax per ounce in Illinois would reduce obesity in youth by 18 percent, save nearly $350 million and bring in over $800 million taxes annually.

But a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me bring it home for you, from a piece on food disparity at

Spends $2000.28 per month.

Although the German family spent the most on their grocery budget, you might notice that a lot of it went to alcohol. Ok, so we all have to have our priorities. But compare their food stuffs to the family below. How much of this is recognizable as a whole food? I think I see grapes and somethings that might look like tomatoes.

Spends $1367.92 per month

Now compare the number of people and the monthly costs in the picture above to the one below. Hummm. I guess you would actually have to know how to cook to eat like a typical Egyptian family.

Spends $274.12 per month

And in Ecuador – fruit and veggies. Wait, does this look local to you? Compare the packaged food stuff in the photo of the American family to the one below. Uh, yeah. I don’t see a package in here, do you?

Spends $126.20 per month

Don’t get  me wrong, I can certainly be a fan of decadence. I rarely pass up a piece of chocolate or a good bottle of wine. But, I can imagine how those lovely melons in Egypt might taste extra cool and fresh in the hot afternoon sun. I can imagine the crisp flesh on my teeth, the sweet juice rolling down my chin. Maybe I would put on a dash of salt and wipe my lips on my sleeve in satisfaction.

When you make your choice tonight don’t be afraid to let your second brain weigh in. Go with your gut, it can do the math.


One thought on “Eating to Live, Living to Eat

  1. A comment received from Anne Shaw: As a non chef myself, but also a parent responsible for nourishing two small children, you are truly an inspiration. I hope to acquire some cooking skills one of these days!

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