Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why Make Food from Scratch

Jo Hunter Adams

People in the U.S. spend much less on groceries than people in other countries. That said, we can't spend more without trimming expenses elsewhere, because many, many people in the U.S. are also living way beyond their means. This presents many challenges.

I am convinced that buying food as locally and seasonally as possible, and buying food as fresh as possible, is far better for the environment and far better for me and my family. Apart from the time commitment, there's no downside here, because we do not need to spend more money by transitioning towards less processed foods. The process of spending time cooking from scratch and eating is, as proposed by Slow Food, vital for connecting us to the producers of our food.

I'm torn when it comes to organic food. It's expensive, and my taste buds just aren't the most well-developed things on the planet. The challenge presented by some writers is the idea that I could eat less organic food because the food would satisfy me more. Slowly and steadily I'll try it out.

But poor Americans (which we are not) are malnourished because real food is so expensive. The question is whether to make from-scratch food gradually more widely available by being willing to buy very expensive produce that tastes better, or whether it's more important to live as simply as possible (maybe by keeping Whole Foods at a distance) to free up our finances and become more generous. There is a third option-- to buy organic or close to organic by joining CSAs (Community-Based Agriculture) -- for the summer season.

I am attracted to the second and third options, because we're just starting to get out of the restaurant eating mindset, because buying produce from the regular supermarket (Market Basket is the cheapest supermarket in our area) is affordable for us, and because I think if supermarkets become the store of the poorest only, the food there will get even worse. CSAs are valuable for a few months, and because you can plan for the cost ahead of time. Trader Joe's is a great middle ground for a few foods-- they're affordable and fresher than other chains-- so I go there for just a few luxuries, and am planning to start to buy meat there.