Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bittman and Cooking

Sunday NYTimes columnist Mark Bittman had a misleading article entitled "Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?"  His answer is "no", but he cheats, hence my "misleading". What he compares is junk food/fast food to meals cooked at home.  Buying the ingredients and cooking at home is cheaper.  An economist would object, however, that he fails to account for the cost of the cook's labor. You answer: but my wife isn't paid?  Makes no difference, you need to include the value of her time, which is more than minimum wage. Do that and I suspect you'll find a fast food meal is cheaper than home cooking.  Throw in home delivered pizzas or TV dinners and the good old days of home cooking really lose out.

He briefly considers a calorie versus calorie comparison, but avoids carrying through with the comparison.

I can agree with his point that Americans generally, even those on food stamps, have enough money to eat well if they cook, and cook wisely.  USDA even has recipes for such diets.

But that "if" is a big one.  Few people really like to cook, not on a regular basis.  It's a chore, like milking cows or gathering eggs. Bittman recognizes this: "The core problem is that cooking is defined as work, and fast food is both a pleasure and a crutch." He goes further by saying fast food is addictive..

His penultimate paragraphs:
To make changes like [returning to home-cooked meals] this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.
Political action would mean agitating to limit the marketing of junk; forcing its makers to pay the true costs of production; recognizing that advertising for fast food is not the exercise of free speech but behavior manipulation of addictive substances; and making certain that real food is affordable and available to everyone. The political challenge is the more difficult one, but it cannot be ignored.
 Of course, the real answer is for women (or their spouses) to leave the workplace and return to the kitchen.  Good luck to Mr. Bittman to push that!

No comments: