31 January 2011

Why I don't really care about how Chick-fil-A hates gay people

My god, I must be seriously out of touch with the way most Americans eat. I was reading that article about how Chick-fil-A hates gay people, and it mentioned people who eat there weekly or used to eat there almost daily, and it occurs to me that I have not eaten a fast-food meal in years. Maybe even 10 years. And by "fast-food meal" I mean burger + fries + Coke, or a chicken or breakfast sandwich variation of some kind.

Part of it is the question of the money-nutrition equation. Fast food calories are inexpensive, this is true. But you don't get much nutrition for your buck, and you get so little fiber and protein that you feel hungry way too soon afterward for the number of calories you've taken in. So while I can't beat KFC's price if I make a home-made fried chicken meal box on my own, certainly I can make something more filling and more nutritious for that amount of money. And really, I can feed myself for two or even three meals for the price of one KFC box.

The other part of it is what I'll call the question of Fast Food Nation or Food, Inc. And by "question," I mean "really big, multi-faceted issue including but not limited to unsafe meat production, factory farms, globalization, multinational corporations, the FDA, the USDA, OSHA, HHS, the USPTO, and Karl Marx." I've distilled it for myself and my daughter into two things: One, I'll go out on a limb here and express my distaste for worker exploitation, agricultural animal abuse, environmental degradation, government corruption, untested and undeclared GMOs, and unhealthy food. And two, I want to put my money where my mouth is. One way to do that is to opt out. That is, opt out of Big Food. Skip convenience foods like shelf-stable boxed meals (except as emergency supplies in the pantry), baby foods, ready-to-eat cereals, frozen vegetable medleys, fruit cups, pre-sliced anything, and so on. Skip junk foods, which by definition don't provide much nutrition per dollar. Skip restaurants, from diners to upscale chains and everything in between, that serve pre-prepared, frozen foodservice dishes or components, reheated and assembled for your plate. And for the love of christ, skip corn syrup, the easiest way of doing so being to quit drinking sodapop.

I've been baking my own bread for a while now, because my local supermarket quit carrying the kind of bread I like (the family size all whole-wheat loaf, which is the same weight but has more slices -- and so more sandwiches and pieces of breakfast toast -- than the all whole-wheat loaves they continue to carry). I prepare just about all of my meals from scratch, starting with whole ingredients, a variety of fruits and vegetables and grains, and a good knife.

I have a crockpot and I'm not afraid to use it.

Households in so-called "food deserts" have a problem. A lot of socioeconomically disadvantaged people live in neighborhoods where there is no supermarket. At the risk of sounding like Scrooge -- "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" -- where do these people go to work or school? Why not pick up groceries on the way home? Why not include transit fare to a supermarket in their shopping budgets? Why not spend some part of the weekend going food shopping and then preparing or planning meals for the coming week?

Some households in food deserts are truly stuck, I understand that. They're getting minimal welfare benefits and other assistance, and the money simply runs out mid-month. It is impossible to live with a good pantry when you don't have the initial capital to stock the pantry in the first place. I don't know how to solve that problem. This is where I start to sound libertarian, because I've lived on very little money at various times in my life but have still managed to eat healthily and cheap. I think a very, very large number of people in food deserts could at least partially address the problem themselves through education and working on making their households less chaotic. And by using the following principles that I adopted when I had food security issues:

  • Brown rice and beans is cheap. Start from dry beans and a $15 crockpot and it's even cheaper.
  • An orange a day keeps you regular and wards off scurvy. Even the corner markets sell oranges.
  • Here in Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market produce vendors and the farmer's market vendors take SNAP (food stamps) and WIC. You can get to the Reading Terminal Market from just about anywhere within the city limits on a single trip plus a transfer, if not a single trip without a transfer.
  • It is OK to eat the same damn thing several days in a row.
  • It is OK to feel hungry, and then really hungry, for a while before you put more food in your mouth.
  • It is OK to feel not completely satisfied at the end of a meal, or downright hungry because you had to skip a meal, unless of course you're diabetic or something.
  • Fast food is not your friend. It is not truly inexpensive, it is not truly filling, and it is absolutely not healthy.

But my point, and I had one when I started, is that honestly I would care more about the "Chick-fil-A hates gay people" controversy if I cared at all about fast food. Gay people and their supporters should vote with their dollars, of course -- but more importantly, really nobody should be eating Chick-fil-A or any kind of fast food. It's no good for you and it's expensive and it's destroying the planet. Go bake some bread, instead.

No comments: