This past week a verbal tennis match occurred between two famous food personalities, Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen. Bourdain used some choice words to describe Paula’s not so healthy cooking style and its influence on American families. Paula rebutted with her own case for easy and affordable cooking, at one point stating that not everybody can eat expensive meals; people have bills to pay. One connection I noticed in many comments regarding this argument, including a mention from former New York Times restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni, is this idea that eating well costs a lot of money.
The main reason I started this blog eight months ago was to prove that good food could be easy, inexpensive and still be good for you. I rarely state opinions in my blog, it’s usually just about the food, but this argument has me fired up. If I read one more comment or article about not being able to afford to eat well I am going to explode. Sure, organic does cost more, sure fast food is “fast” and usually cheap, but I’m living proof that good food can be obtained on any budget. It’s all about PLANNING and COOKING. I am a college student that lives on a modest stipend, and I plan my meals out every week. I eat a plethora of delicious eats every day.
My stance in this argument can be summed up with a recipe from Fannie Farmer:
-4 firm large tomatoes
-1 ¼ cups dried bread crumbs
-1 teaspoon fresh basil or ½ teaspoon dried
-2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
-2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
-1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut tops of tomatoes off and scoop out pulp. Save the pulp. Sprinkle inside of tomato with salt and lay inverted on a paper towel to drain for 15 minutes. Squeeze juice out of pulp and chop pulp fine. In a bowl, lightly toss the pulp, green pepper, onion, basil and bread crumbs. Then add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato with this mixture, do not pack. Place on a baking sheet (covered with oil, parchment paper, or foil) and bake for 15-20 minutes.
I made this recipe Thursday for dinner and had leftovers through Sunday. Now let me break it down, the tomatoes were around $5.00, 1 green pepper was $1.00, 1 onion was $1.00, the basil was $1.99 and the olive oil, salt, pepper and bread crumbs were already in my pantry. That adds up to $8.99 total. If you have a garden, you could possibly eliminate the cost of the tomatoes, pepper and basil, creating a new total of $1.00. So, the cost ranges from $1.00 to $8.99! I had my tomato with a side salad. So let’s just say that’s another $3.00 for a big bag of salad. Now we are at $11.99 max. For $11.99 I have a meal for four people or three to four separate meals for one. It’s inexpensive, it’s fast, it’s healthy, it’s easy to make. Try buying a full meal for four from McDonalds, and I guarantee your total is the same if not more than $11.99. Even a family size Stouffers Mac and Cheese runs around $5.00-$6.00, with a salad that’s $8.00-$9.00. It takes times to bake as well.
There are many facets to this issue, and I could write a thousand blogs analyzing each angle. Want some real excuses? Blame lack of cooking skills, lack of food education, commercial food industry advertising, laziness, and poor eating habits. The main point I’m trying to make: You CAN eat well on a dime.
For a great write up on the Bourdain-Deen argument check out this blog by Andrew Zimmern.
PS- I should state my possible bias here; I am a huge Anthony Bourdain fan. That does not affect my strong views on cooking healthy meals, especially during a time when diabetes is on the rise in American children, and the next generation of youth is expected to have shorter life spans because of poor diets.