Saturday, August 29, 2009

Crush the fine dining worship!

This is part of the retrospective on pieces I have written in the past that still seems relevant today.  This post was written on March 27, 2006 at 3:38am.  (Interestingly, I also had a pot luck earlier tonight.)

My main motivation for this blog comes from an observation this past weekend while doing grocery shopping.  I greatly enjoy browsing grocery stores, from big box mass market ones to local green grocers.  To prepare for a potluck, I ended up visiting three different grocery stores within a day.  One of them is a bargain grocery store, "every day low price" kind of place.  I was struck by how much pre-processed instant food there is at this bargain store.  Even more amazing is how cheap these boxes of "stuff" are selling for.  It is not that big a stretch to see that these boxes offer not much more than filler to eliminate one's hunger.
So people on a budget do not deserve healthy, nutritious food?  I think the "fine dining" culture in North America is the worst enemy for promoting healthy eating habits.  Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive ... don't most fine dining chefs / restaurants support local suppliers, and some even socially responsible foods (like organic farming)?  It is precisely this type of exposure that leads to an image of healthy food = expensive and laborious.

If you look around the city, many places, especially ethnic ones, offer healthy home cooking at affordable prices.  I am talking about below $10 including taxes & tips for a sit-down, served meal.  For a small household, some of these meals are more affordable than buying the raw ingredients.
And if you want to eat at home?  Ingredients are so very easily available and affordable.  Being Asian, I shop a lot at ethnic grocery stores.  You think health food is a specialty?  Many ethnic groups consider these items basic diet.  Organic soy milk?  Rice crackers?  Pomegranate juice?  Easily 25% or more cheaper at ethnic places.  Stews, soups, even salads can be prepared the night before and be ready to eat coming back from work.  New kitchen appliances like vacuum pots (but no, not microwave) also contribute to home cooked meal with minimal supervision.

I'm sorry ... I can't see why busy schedule & budget can be a reason to eat junk food.  People have to come to a realization that good food is not a privilege of those who can afford.  Being on a budget or in a hurry is not a justification for poor diet.  Only then we as a society can support healthy food production, preparation, and ultimately consumption.

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