In yesterday’s NY Times Mark Bittman asked the question, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? Can you really feed a family for less at McDonalds than at your own table filled with home cooked food. In spite of the protestations that a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli and other such, the answer is NO! A meal for a family of four at McDonald’s will come to between $23 and $28. How many groceries can you buy for that amount? Bittman lays out his plan, and his answer to all the objections about the difficulty of cooking a healthy meal at home. One important point he makes is that the alternative to a McDonald’s meal is not an organic farmer’s market meal. It is simply a trip to the supermarket. I”d like to add that supermarkets often have good sales.
I was happy to be a part of the Food Fest at the Charlemont Federated Church this summer. Various cooks chose a topic, beans, eggs, chicken, and set up a table with assorted dishes. I chose the chicken table and talked about taking a chicken from the roasting pan, and then then through other iterations in my famous chicken salad with Moroccan spices to chicken with pasta and peanut sauce and even chicken soup. Recipes complete with nutritional information were available, as well as conversations with excellent cooks. Although we couldn’t eat the samples on the tables (health rules) samples from the church kitchen were passed around all day.
There were cooking demonstrations. I filled in at the last minute to make corn chowder – and ruined it when the top fell off the salt shaker and over over salted the chowder. People got the idea though. Jason Velasquez of Pen and Plow Farm demonstrated making potato pancakes, a great dish in many cuisines.
The goal of the program was to remind us all that a good, economical, nutritious home cooked meal does not need to take hours and certainly doesn’t take more money that a trip to McDonald’s. We are all of a mind with Mark Bittman, and our program proved unequivocally that Junk Food is Not Really Cheaper.