FOOD FOR A HEALTHY PLANET....THE RUB

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by durangojo, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. durangojo

    durangojo

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    this is a spur thread from a Pro Chef thread about what restaurants and chefs are doing to survive these economic times...not wanting to hijack my own thread, and wanting to open it up for wider discussion to everyone, here goes.....

    as food prices soar beyond reason, what will ultimately happen to the american diet, family eating habits, and the general state of wellness of our society? healthy food choices will be harder to afford for alot of families. when ground beef is $1.80/lb and zucchini is $5/lb, tomatoes $3/lb and so on, what choices will families be forced to make? food choices will be pre made as a result of pricing... sloppy joes, hamburger helper, hot dogs, burger and fries, lots of velveeta( what can you say good about a cheese that needs no refrigeration, and lasts forever?), will be the norm, not fresh fruits, vegetables and good proteins. fresh fruits and vegetables will become a 'special treat'.... diabetes, heart disease, cancers, will be all the more widespread due to diets loaded with refined sugars, carbs, fats and sodium. all illnesses not affordable in many ways.. as always. it will only be people of income who will continuously have a choice, noblesse oblige being what it is....since we can't influence the price of food except to boycott, what can we cook so that we are not promoting a sick society? how do we insure that people on limited budgets can still have healthy choices?

    joey
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    We cannot "insure", we CAN however, strive to educate people on how to make healthy choices and maximize the use of their limited budgets.

    Without exception, IMHO, purchasing food prepared by someone else is ALWAYS more costly than preparing it yourself. Food prepared by someone else not only includes fast food, quick service restaurants, casual dining, or fine dining, but also includes convenience foods, i.e. frozen dinners/pizzas/desserts, deli products such as sandwiches, salads, etc., anything that is packages to "nuke 'n eat" or "ready to eat".

    One step would be to re-institute Home Economics into the public school system but this time, make it gender neutral! Teach students basic survival skills in preparing food beyond how to open a package and set the microwave!

    There is an OLD adage, I cannot recall the source at this moment, that goes something like: Give a wo/man a fish and you feed her/him for a day, teach a wo/man to fish, and you feed them for life!
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    purchasing food prepared by someone else is ALWAYS more costly than preparing it yourself.

    I don't think we can stress that point enough, Pete. Far too many people fail to realize you can always swap time for money. 

    Just had an example of this. A buddy's wife has very persnickity eating habits. So, while he's making one thing for himself, she'll be eating frozen fish sticks. Incredible! Cod is one of the least expensive fish in the market right now. And it doesn't take long to slice a filet into fingers, bread, and fry them. Better quality, fresher food, and lower cost.

    One for sure result of skyrocketing food prices: More people will be putting in home gardens this year, in order to grow all or part of their food. That's not a guess: it's an historically accurate observation. People always turn to vegetable growing when either the general economy tanks or food prices go crazy.

    I also believe we'll see a big swing back to food preservation: canning, dehydrating, etc. While this is a guess on my part, it reflects a growth in "how-do-I-do-it" type questions already appearing on various cooking and gardening lists. What I presume is that folks not only want to produce their own food, they want to assure that as little of it as possible goes to waste.

    Hmmmmmm? Maybe all those Y2K panickers will finally get to put that equipment to use. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif

    how do we insure that people on limited budgets can still have healthy choices?

    Like Pete, I don't believe we can insure it. Unlike Pete, however, I don't think we can even educate most people. It's not that they don't know; they don't care. Survey after survey has shown that people eating at fast foods joints, for instance, mostly know that what they're eating isn't healthy. But they're more concerned with convenience than with quality food.

    Combine that with the on-again/off-again nature of nutritional information (what's the latest word, btw, are eggs good for us or not?), and most people just don't pay attention to what is or is not good for them.

    Another part of the equation: We (that is, North Americans) are used to having protein as the major component of a meal. Food that is both healthy and economical, however, means using protein as a flavor component rather than a main ingredient. How many Americans are going to make that change?
     
  4. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    There is a whole generation that does not know how to cook. The 30 somethings were raised on microwave meals, and this is what they now feed their children.

    One of my neighbors is one of them. She buys pre made mashed potatoes in the deli section of the market, the entire fridge and freezer are filled with processed RTE foods. When she does cook, about half the time she will call and ask how do I?..... I bring leftovers to them on occasion, she can't believe that everything is from scratch.

    I went to a birthday party last week, about 10 people brought food, I made a very simple pasta salad w/ grilled chicken, roasted corn & the usual suspects for a pasta salad w/ a Fire roasted tomato vinaigrette. Everyone that ate it wanted to know how I made this.

    Some of the other not so memorable items were baked beans, w/ ground beef and PINEAPPLE JUICE..... enchiladas, not rolled, just a layer of dried out corn tortillas, burger, canned red enchilada sauce and cheese, baked until it was FUBAR.

    Baked spaghetti w/ mushroom soup and cheddar cheese....And these people think this shit is good, and are proud to bring it somewhere that others might enjoy!
     
  5. durangojo

    durangojo

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    well ky, americans are gonna have to make that change, aren't they?...that's the rub ..its up to us to somehow help promote affordable choices..'insure' was not the word i was looking for( i knew i would get busted on that one!), and you my fortunate friend  have the space and knowledge to grow...most people don't...come on, for the most part, most people live in or near big cities with no space or time for growing...i will say, that i would love to be totally un-embilicaled(is that even a word?) ..off the grid, non dependent on our city/state/federal resources...but that is not the norm..yes, education is ultimately the answer, but how do we accomplish that widespread? get home economics programs reinstated in our schools?...does it start grassroots?...while  that sounds great and trendy and cool, it  just doesn't quite seem to 'cut the mustard'...write your congressman/woman?... this is a problem that will affect us all in the end....somehow, we're gonna have to make them care!

    joey
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2011
  6. chefross

    chefross

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    A lot has been said about fruits and vegetables being more expensive than junk and processed food.

    Actually Walmart is starting to lower their prices on fruits and vegetables to help get people to make better choices while shopping.

    But....alas, the fact of the matter is more people given the choice would rather eat the junk food then the healthier stuff.

    News article the other day was about food trends and the reality that the American diet is worse then it has ever been.

    I made a pan of lasagna from scratch to donate to a charity fund raiser a few weeks back. When I got in line to the buffet later that night, I was aghast at the stuff that some people donated.

    Most of the food was convenience frozen and bake stuff you see in the freezer section of the grocery store. Some one made macaroni and cheese and it was inedible.
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    for the most part, most people live in or near big cities with no space or time for growing...

    Joey, I grew up in the biggest of the big cities, and have been gardening since I was 8 years old.

    There is almost always a way if the will is there: A couple of pots on a fire escape (which is how I started, btw); or the expanding trend to roof-top gardens; or in a vacant lot. There are churches, and libraries, and public buildings that often grant people the right to grow veggies on their land. And more and more we're seeing community gardens springing up.

    We tend to say "city" and think only of the inner cities. But most cities actually are composed of neighborhoods, with single-dwelling and duplex housing being the norm. Those homes always have a small yard, often both a front yard and back yard. Condos and apartments have terraces where a few containers can be grown.

    Most of us actually do not live in cities anymore, but in the bedroom communities surrounding them. And those are, primarily, single-family dwellings with relatively large yards. The trick is getting people to convert those yards from grass and roses to veggies. And we're seeing that as a separate movement, hence the growth of concepts like edible landscaping.

    Nor does it really take all that much space to grow a significant part of your own produce needs. Yeah, I happen to have a bunch of land. But the amount devoted to my veggie gardens is only a tiny percentage of it (my largest veggie patch is only 16 x 80 feet). What's more, if I were growing just to feed us, I could do it on about a third of the space I have devoted to veggies, even without turning to any of the intensive-growing techniques.

    It isn't a lack of growing room that stops people.  What's needed is a re-orientation of what constitutes real food. And once you make that change, it's recognizing quality and nutritional differences. Unfortunately, it makes little sense getting people to go more heavily to fresh produce when, due to the nature of the food distribution system, much of that produce is nutritionally void (not to mention tasteless).
     
  8. bigaengus

    bigaengus

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    The issues of cost of goods (good food choices = more $), fresh vs. processed, and consumer education have all been broached.  I would like to suggest also the issues of time and care.

    Background- My wife and I are foodies. Both of us have worked in restaurants and I currently work for a company that manufactures equipment for use in the fast food restaurant industry. All three of our children cook and have very good palates as well as a better than average knowledge of diet and nutrition.

    For a brief period, my wife and I sold seasonings, mixes, sauces and salsas through the Internet and home demonstration parties. During this time, I discovered that the majority of people in the central U.S. have no sense of taste. Some would be content with warm wet cardboard provided it came with plenty of salt or sugar. Things like texture and aroma hold no interest for them. When shown that they could improve their diet or the quality of their meals for that matter, perhaps even decrease the cost of their home made meals, audiences would tune out! “It takes too long”, “You must need a special gadget” (A sharp knife?!), “I’d have to make an extra trip to the store”.  Many hold on to cultural prejudices, so the simple matter of trying to get them to sample a foreign "cuisine" is even a chore. The masses are stuck in a rut and they seem to like it there!

    Nobody really appears to WANT to cook or bake for themselves, but they are happy to throw money at the problem so it will go away. Multiple bread-winners in the home means we are not smart enough to plan out a meal, one or two days in advance. When my wife or I bake items for say a church bake sale, we are constantly met with the sight of people re-plating items purchased from the local bakery or grocery store (picture a box of 6 cupcakes with a price tag of nearly $7 being repackaged and sold for $1 each!?) In another example, I have given a few demonstrations on how to prepare some simple appetizers and the like to various groups. Not everyone wants the recipes, but everyone asks if you cater parties, or can I call you to make ______ for me. Personally I find it flattering but scary.

    I'll get down off my soap box now... Thanks for letting me vent on the topic!
     
  9. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I wouldn't call that a soapbox, BigAengus. Merely an observation about one of the food truths of our time. My only comment would be that what you've run into is not confined to the central part of the country. It's a good reflection of our society as a whole.

    Balancing that, somewhat, are the growing number of people wanting to get into cooking at home. Their problem is not knowing where to turn. After 2 1/2 generations that confuse microwaving with cooking they lack the basic gestalt many of us take for granted. That's why my cooking classes are based on techniques rather than recipes.

    To me, that's the saddest part of the equation. I mentally write-off people who don't want to learn. But I feel deeply for the vast numbers who do want to learn, but have nowhere to turn to.
     
  10. siduri

    siduri

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    KY, yeah, if you're a good gardener i guess it will work.  But most people we're talking about can't fry an egg, and you want to jump several steps ahead and grow their own food on balconies? 

    (On the side, unfortunately I've tried countless times to grow stuff on my actually quite large and sunny terrace, in a climate where you could grow SOMETHING all year and have had a couple of scrawny cucumbers and a couple of dried out tomato plants, at best.  I have a small herb garden, that's about it.  And an apricot tree that produced two apricots a year, and a lemon that gives me five lemons.  I don't have the time or will after a day of work to go out and water every single night (in roman summer, you have to) and haven;t the least knowledge about growing stuff - anything i read always tells you about what kind of soil - mix a little of this and a little of that, but the local nurseries sell bags of  dirt and that;s about it. 

    And, of course, living here, I can get the best vegetables you can imagine at the market down the street. )

    Sure, most fruit and vegetables are not great in the US supermarkets, but even if they were most of these undernourished/badly nourished people have no idea what they are or what to do with them.  Generations of people have not cooked so the young generations think it's an esoteric and refined art.  It can be, but celebrity chef shows and all that make ordinary people think you have to have a huge kitchen with special equipment and all day to work in it to produce good food. 

    This is one reason why i harp constantly about the un-necessity of all those gadgets like instant-read thermometers and digital scales.  It discourages too many people.  Cooking becomes only for the elite. 
    I thoroughly agree, Pete.  But one step before that is to make people know that education is in EVERYONE'S benefit, not just the ones with kids.  Cut budgets to schools and you cut out kitchens and home ec.  along with a lot of other stuff.  (There's always plenty of money for gym equipment though!)

    When i was a kid, we did nutrition in science class in middle school - had to come up with menus for balanced meals with some green, some starch, some protein.  It was normal.  In home ec we cooked things, and they were FUN - EVERYONE loved home ec.  We girls felt lucky we got to cook and the boys didn't.  Now it should be for everyone.  I'm working on a cookbook for study abroad students who, for the first time, find they have to cook for themselves in countries where there are no giant aisles of pre-cooked stuff.  Cooking could be part of college orientations.  It should certainly be taught in high school. 

    Plus all this about the expense of food.  I bought some cheap hamburger at the supermarket here - 7.50 euros a kilo.  that would be $10.30 a kilo, and so about five dollars a pound?  That is CHEAP meat here.  Chicken thighs were 5.78 euros, so a little less, but i bet you get them cheaper there.  Sure pumped up with hormones and antibiotics and genetically modified and all you like, but these were not free range.  And don't think salaries are higher here because food is more expensive! 

    Purple sprouting broccoli at stop and shop  might be expensive, but i'm sure you can get some staples - potatoes, cabbage, spinach, carrots, squash, etc, without spending a fortune. 

    The cooking revolution in the states has made it very appealing to be a foodie, but even more daunting for those who have no time and energy to cook.

    Once there was a person at home who cooked.  Now everyone works and comes home tired.  I do too, I get home at 8.  But i can get a balanced meal on the table in ten minutes. Why aren't the tv shows showing how to do that?  Why aren;t schools showing how to do that? 
     
  11. gareth

    gareth

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    The real problem is not that any of this isn't fixable, its the generation thing. We now have the second generation of adult that has been raised on intensively farmed products. So 2/3 of the developed worlds people don't really know what they are missing. Our parents are rolling in the money that they made by creating intensive business so you've got no chance getting them to change the system even though they know chicken doesn't taste like chicken and that all the beef we consume would be 35% more expensive if we stopped using growth hormones in cattle. 2 generations don't know they are missing it, so they won't begin the change to bring about the change. I was raised on a farm with amasing food and it took 4 months in South America to reset my taste buds....better late than never. Only thing you can do is protect the systems and farmers that have stayed true and hope like hell that they don't go broke.