Food Revolution Fridays: What Have We Wrought?

I confess I’m uninspired today.  Tired, burned out, and hastily trying to cram a post in between other important stuff that should (at least by other people’s standards) be priorities.  I’ve been searching aimlessly all day for the one thing that would ignite the spark for writing my Food Revolution Fridays post — not that there’s a shortage of possible material; it’s just that none of the possibilities have yet filled me with a burning desire to write.

It’s a temporary condition, I trust, and I considered just taking the day off.  But then I saw a headline proclaiming that today is the 48th anniversary of Julia Child’s television premiere as the French Chef, and I realized: Julia would be outraged at what we’ve done to ourselves as eaters.  She’d be first in line for Food Revolution Fridays.

Julia Child, above all else, put people at ease in the kitchen.  Her television career was devoted to one thing: convincing Americans that they could cook real food for themselves and their families, fearlessly.  Who among us doesn’t have some mental image (even if it’s from a loving “Saturday Night Live” parody) of Julia dropping a chicken and blithely plopping it back onto a serving platter, or accidentally tearing a hole in a piece of delicate pastry and bashing it back together with the delicacy of a stonemason, declaring that “It’s perfectly all right” or “Nobody will know what happened in the kitchen” or some other breezy declaration of unshakable culinary faith?

Julia Child would want us to be cooking, damn it.  And back in 1963, when her show first aired, I’m sure she and everyone else thought that with the advent of cooking shows, we as a country would become MORE food literate and MORE inclined to the culinary arts.  I suspect that, deep down, Julia hoped she’d be part of the solution to the onset of TV dinners.  I doubt very much that she’d have envisioned the mess we’re in now.  I can only imagine her disappointment in hearing these numbers:

In Nevada, residents spend $939 per capita on fast food.  $939 per capita.  That’s about $2.50 per person, per day on fast food — and with the proliferation of “dollar menus” and 99 cent tacos, you could do some serious caloric damage with less than $3 a day.

In Mississippi, the fast food expenditure is much lower; but they’re making up for it in soda.  Mississippians buy 82 GALLONS of soda per capita each year.  I’m no math whiz, but by my calculations, that comes out to almost a quart of soda per person EVERY SINGLE DAY.  What????  Just as a refresher course in basic measurements, a quart is 4 cups.  No wonder we’re in such a ridiculous public health crisis.

Yes, I think Julia Child would be beside herself if she saw these statistics, and if she could see the many, many abominations in food and the culture of eating in America in 2011.  I think she’d be standing up for Food Revolution Fridays, if not leading parades up and down every Main Street in the country with a bullhorn permanently affixed to her jaws.  And maybe, just maybe, if the call to take action against fake food came to us in Julia’s inimitable warble, we’d all sit up a bit straighter and take a little more notice.

So I’m calling to you, friends and readers, and asking you to take action for the next seven days.  I may not be as tall as Julia, or as famous, or as talented, or as frankly LOUD.  But I know some of you will listen.  For the next week, I challenge you to spend $2.50 per day on REAL food and tell me about it here on the blog.  Here are the guidelines:

1) $2.50 per day — it doesn’t have to be over and above your usual food spending, but it does need to be allocated purposely towards real food.
2) You can spend it day by day, or you can add it all up — $17.50 for the week — and spend it in one trip to the store.  However you want to do it is fine with me; I just want to know what $17.50 worth of real food looks like in your neck of the woods.
3) REAL FOOD only, please.  That means things like fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains; it also means nothing with more than five ingredients, nothing where sugar or a sugar euphemism is listed in the first 3 ingredients, and nothing that contains something your third-grader wouldn’t be able to pronounce and identify.
4) Tell me about it in the comments section of the blog, being as specific as you can.  I want to know if you got a pound of tomatoes or only one tomato; a week’s worth of bulgur wheat or only a serving.

Come on, people.  Let’s see what $2.50 can do, outside of the drive-thru line.


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16 Responses to Food Revolution Fridays: What Have We Wrought?

  1. Erica says:

    I thought this was a good one and sad to say that where I live, if I don’t shop at the farmer’s market to get my fruit, I easily blow my budget on very little produce. And admittedly, I can easily blow a budget at the farmer’s market too if I don’t pay attention to what I put in my bag. But today 2/15 I finally bought my produce for the week at the grocery store.
    4 apples 2.05 lbs $6.12
    1.67lbs red seedless grapes $4.99
    Green leaf lettuce $2.19
    1.02 lb Asparagus $1.83
    2lb. strawberries $6.00
    unbleached flour $3.48
    eggs (they were out of generic) $4.39
    total of this stuff $29.00
    plus six more things,my grand total was $50.82
    Spending $17.50 is easy to do on quality ingredients/fresh foods. But thats the difference isn’t it… Its QUALITY and FRESH!!!!

    • Impressive, I have to say — I think we’re easily well above what you spent most weeks. But your prices look relatively similar to ours, I’ll say, though obviously things like apples are cheaper here on the East Coast than they are in Hawaii. Interesting, isn’t it, that you couldn’t even get your eggs, flour, and a modest amount of produce for $17.50?

  2. Danielle says:

    OK, this will necessarily be rough because of the conversion rates (I think the euro is about $1.35 right now), but here is what I got for about $17.50 at the farmers’ market yesterday in Athens:
    1 kilo vine tomatoes
    1/2 kilo strawberries
    1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
    3 leeks
    2 heads garlic
    4 cubanelle peppers
    1 kilo potatoes

    I bought a few other things too, but that would put me over the price limit. Out of these things I will make potato-leek soup, arrabiata pasta sauce, and stuffed peppers (adding in the feta, chicken broth, extra-virgin olive oil, and pasta that is already in my pantry) – this is 1 week’s worth of dinners for me, but perhaps I am breaking the rules by adding in stuff from the pantry?

    • Theoretically, if I were going to make you EAT on 17.50, you’d be breaking the rules (and I’ve been looking at another challenge that follows a similar theory, which I may write about soon). But since I only wanted to know what you could BUY for 17.50, you’re safe. 🙂 I’m impressed, actually, at the volume you were able to get, unless my estimation of a kilo is way off — which of course is a distinct possibillity. But FYI, great minds think alike, because we’ve just finished off a batch of potato-leek soup that I made the other night. 🙂

  3. Carla Tanner says:

    It’s hard for me to figure out how much I spend per week but I do this as a natural normal thing. We NEVER eat anything out of boxes or anything pre-made. I love this blog because I try to feed my family as healthily as possible and I make everything from fresh normal food. I make all of our bread, I make our pasta, we make our own wine and beer and hard cider as well. We are also getting involved in a CSA in the coming year that should give us lots of good yummy fresh veggies. I love hearing that someone else is trying so hard to do the same kinda thing as I am and actually has some great recipes for adults and kids since I have a two year old little girl who also happens to be really really picky. Keep writing – I love reading it.

    • Oh, Carla, thank you so much for your sweet comment! That’s something I really needed to hear today. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading. I’m really impressed to hear how many steps you’ve taken in making everything yourself; I have to admit that I haven’t even gone the making my own pasta route fully yet! I’m happy that you like the recipes, too. I know there are a lot of kid and food sites out there, and lots of them have recipes, but I have found that it can be challenging because you want to find the ones that match up to your family’s food values as well as tastes (ok, tofu and seaweed salad are great ideas, but not things that are going on the weekly rotation in our house!). I’ll keep writing, and you keep reading. How’s that sound? 😉

  4. TB says:

    I think I made a homemade chicken, mushroom, onion, goat cheese pizza for around 2.50 per person last night. It probably cost about 5 bucks total. From scratch rice and black beans for lunch and it was a cheap eatin’ but hearty day. I am a HUGE advocate for eating nothing with more than 5 ingredients.

    • Ohhh this thread is going to make me hungry! (What have I done?) 🙂 It’s amazing to me how few ingredients are really needed to make something delicious. And of course, if you’re eating at home and cooking from scratch, you can use as many ingredients as you want; but when you’re buying something, you’ve got to figure that any more than 5 ingredients = some stuff you don’t want to put in your body.

  5. Eileen says:

    Have one for you: 3-16 oz. cans garbanzo beans (chick peas) ($.80 X 3 = $2.40). Healthful snack: one-half can beans mixed with 2 teaspoons olive oil, a little ground sea salt, and Cajun seasoning to taste. Yum!!

    • Sounds so good! We also like a chickpea bruschetta that my sister turned me on to: can of chickpeas, mixed with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Spoon over toasted crusty bread. Addictive!

      • Claire says:

        Since you guys brought up chickpeas, I made my first dish with them recently and we didn’t think they came out right. Should they be soft, firm or somewhere in-between? I would like to use them more but really don’t want to eat them the way they came out 😦

      • Oh, good question! They should be somewhere in between — slightly more on the soft side than the firm, I’d say, but not total mush. But if you can’t deal with the texture, I can give you some suggestions for things you can do with them that involve pureeing — that will make them really creamy, so you get all the health benefits but no texture issues!

      • Claire says:

        It was a crock pot recipe with lots of good things and I get the feeling there probably just was not enough liquid, maybe I can give it to you to try and you let me know how to fix it!

      • Yeah, let me look at it, definitely. Also, using dried vs. canned makes a humongous difference. Humongous. However, at some point I’ll also have to give you the recipe I use for falafel, because that uses the chickpea in a totally different way and makes it really child-friendly, so it’s a big bonus!

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