Monday, May 28, 2012

Mario Batali Is Fucking Starving

Jesus said: Feed the poor.
They said: Sorry, Jesus!
We spent $40 million on hate and fear.
“I’m [expletive deleted] starving.”

— Celebrity chef Mario Batali, while discussing his 'Food Stamp' diet, where he and his family are eating on a 'food stamp' budget (an average of $1.48 per meal, or $31 per week) in protest of potential cuts to the federal nutrition assistance program.

Unlike most people on food stamps, Mario Batali has access to a large variety of foods and has both the equipment and education to make the best use of it. This is something we should think about the next time that we're auditing what poor people eat, or their grocery purchases. I mean, this guy prepares food for a living - with every kind of equipment known to man - and he still cannot manage to do this without feeling like he’s going hungry.

The equipment is important. I remember when I was a poor single mom, I had a very limited amount of cooking equipment and the stove in my rental had a range on which only one burner worked, and the oven only worked sporadically. Also, only one spatula and for awhile, no scissors and no can opener. (You will never know how often you use scissors until you don't have any.) Now imagine cooking a healthy meal with two pots, one cookie sheet, and one burner. Are you laughing yet?

Access is incredibly important. So many poor folks live in food deserts, without access to good food. Flat out, there's no fresh food nearby. And the issue is even worse than that because regardless of whether you have a good grocery store nearby, you need transportation. If you're walking or on a bus, you're limited to the amount of food that your family can carry home. If you're in a taxi or cadging a ride with a friend, then you're limited in the number of times that you can go to the grocery store in a month. Either way, it takes alot of time and energy to get to and from the store, which further limits the number of times that you can go, which further limits the amount of fresh foods that you can purchase, even assuming that you can afford them and have the time/equipment to cook them.

Education is just as important. If your own parents weren't home (because they were working, or in prison, or whatever) then they obviously didn't teach you to cook. If you don't have access to the Internet, and are working one or two jobs, you don't have time to teach yourself to cook. At that point, you are limited to boxed and frozen meals, because you lack basic knowledge about cooking and food safety, all pervasive marketing aside.

These are all things to remember the next time that you see someone purchasing 'convenience foods' for their households, of which forty percent are working, or get irrationally angry at benefit recipients, of whom half are children and a tenth are senior citizens. Remember it.

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