Saturday, November 13, 2010

give me $5 and I'll feed the world

Okay, that might be a little ambitious.  Why don't we start with the city or a very large family?

I would like to start by saying I hate McDonald's.  I hope I live to see the day they go bankrupt.  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I would have to break all kinds of records (like the ones in the genealogy records of the Old Testament) to accomplish that, but a girl can dream, right?  I merely dislike Burger King - at least they don't cook their fries with natural beef flavoring and they do have a veggie burger on the menu.

McDonald's has been spending a bit of time in the ol' Limelight lately, for both good and bad reasons (although which one is which will be determined by the witness).  San Francisco has successfully begun a legally enforceable ban on including toys in children's meals (Happy Meals) that don't meet certain nutritional guidelines, although the mayor is poised to veto anything that would get in the way of a parent's right to poison their offspring.  In the opposite vein, in a mind-boggling move, the United Kingdom is going to let McDonald's help draft the national health policy, with help from other nutritional giants like PepsiCo, Mars, and other pushers of packaged crap.

In Skinny Bitch, Rory and Kim point out the tremendous conflict of interest involved in our own nation's USDA being steered by big players from the various industries protected by the USDA.  I'd like to believe the UK is involving Junk Food Giants in the composition of a policy aimed at ensuring good health as a way to proactively direct them to choose on their own a more healthful course.  Unfortunately, I think it's just the money.

The money.  That is ultimately what the problem boils down to.  Money, or lack of money, must be one of the reasons McDonald's, Burger King, and other fast food tycoons are so successful.  When I go to Essene's food bar and create my own little "value meal," I'll pay a not-so-pretty price.  The hot bar at Whole Foods is around $14/lb and you don't know how easy it is to put a pound of food into a takeaway container until you're forking over $20 for lunch.  Can I afford this?  Most of the time, yes, but I would still find a way to afford it over a $6 Value Meal at Burger King consisting of a microwaved veggie patty on a bleached white bun and an order of oil- and salt-drenched fries.  Have I eaten that?  Absolutely, and I've been quite happy to drown in my occasional puddle of fried food.  The reason I can occasionally indulge in crap like that is because it is occasional.  A "special treat" if you will, although sometimes I think the only thing about it that's "special" is my irrational desire to let all the carcinogens involved infiltrate the body I try so hard to keep healthy.

As I was walking home from the train station tonight, I passed Burger King.  Sitting outside of Burger King were two separate, homeless men, begging for money.  They may have thought they were strategically positioned, since most people would see them outside of a food-serving establishment and draw the obvious connection that they intend to use whatever money you give them to buy food.  However, if I'm going to give a hungry person money for food, I'd rather actually give them food.  Real food - not deep-fried poison.  I've been successful and I've failed, but I'll never give someone money when they're sitting in front of a place I think is trying to kill people.

Walking past those men made me sad, though.  It's easy to judge the long lines of people inside the McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts I also pass on my nightly walking-commute from the train, but what I really see when I look at the people in line and the men begging outside of BK is an indictment of our country and values.  Would people like to eat good food?  Yes, probably if given the chance, but can people afford good food?  Most marketing, in any case, would tell us NO.  Fast food places have Dollar Menus.  At a west coast chain restaurant called Del Taco, you could probably feed a family of 20 for about $5.  Why is this stuff so cheap?  Because it's just barely food - and when I say food, I mean it's edible and won't kill you immediately.

It isn't that "good food" is prohibitively expensive, but there is something to be said for covering operating costs as well as food supply.  Could I open a veggie fast food stand with prices that rival McDonald's?  Absolutely.  Could I do that for a year?  Doubtful.  My guess is that I would go out of business in 6 months or fewer, because the present paradigm of fast food is so far ingrained into our minds at this point.  Mister recently shared with me that years ago, a friend/colleague shared his "get rich quick" scheme one day: a Spaghetti cart.  It was sound logic - dried pasta costs next-to-nothing, and if you do it right, sauce costs only nominally more.  The biggest costs that could be incurred would be the actual cart and corresponding licenses and utilities.  The City would put you out of business before you boiled your first pot - it would probably take months to recoup the start up fees.  Additionally, I think the carb-crazed brainwashing that has occurred in the last decade would prevent a pasta cart from having a huge amount of success. 

Enough rambling - anyone who's still with me deserves a picture:

Can you believe all of that built up to Pasta e Fagioli?  Tonight, I opened up The Urban Vegan and made this delightful and substantial dish - after Mister and I each had two servings that would make the homeless men outside of BK blush, we still had 9.5 cups of leftovers. 

The scent of the garlic sauteing, the simple but rich taste of a sauce made with canned tomatoes, dried herbs, and broth, poured over a box of dried macaroni is the connection.  This dinner was high-quality and high-taste.  I would happily eat this any day over beef-flavored fries and bleached McNuggets, even if they are going to give me a toy with it.

Follow me on a quick cost comparison before I go all paradoxical and end my evening with relatively expensive chocolate:

1 lb of Barilla macaroni - $1.50
28 oz can of Hunt's crushed tomatoes - $1.50
2 - 15 oz cans of store-brand cannellini beans - $.79 each ($1.58)
a few cents worth of olive oil and dried herbs

For less than $5, I made a nutritious meal with quality ingredients.  I provided my husband and I with an adequate amount of protein with a moderate amount of heart-healthy fat, as well as cancer-fighting lycopene and fiber-rich unrefined carbohydrate.  Not only did we eat until we were full, but when we got to that point, we still have enough leftover to eat it for lunch tomorrow and share those leftovers with my buddies outside of Burger King.

1 comment:

  1. Really great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter--it's so important that we continue to get the message out.