Two things converged in my mind today. One was this comment thread at Querencia, where various people link a perceived decline in hunting culture with Americans' increasing inability to deal with unprocessed foods (meats or vegetables) in the kitchen.
My title quote comes from Holly Heyser's comment, spot-on, as usual.
The second was a Denver Post piece about school menus changing in response to child obesity. Parents complain (!) that they cannot feed their children as high quality food at home as they get at school. Consider this:
Bridget Sandoval, a 30-year-old mother of four in the small farming town of Wiggins, sometimes struggles to throw together healthy meals for a family that's getting by on one income now that she's a full-time nursing student.
"If we have to make something quick, I turn to Hamburger Helper," she said. "It's not that good. The kids don't like it. I don't like it. But sometimes it's nice and quick. If you want a meal to be healthy, it takes time and money."
When I was teaching, I used to hear the same lament from some students: "We can't afford good-quality food."
Yes, you can. But you have to know how to cook. The problem is more one of cultural poverty than financial poverty.
Every traditional culture had its poor people's foods--boring, but nutritious enough to keep you going.
Think of beans and tortillas, rice and stir-fried veggies, oatmeal, cabbage, pea soup -- and a little fish or chicken when you can get it.
It's all still cheaper for the nutrients than Hamburger Helper, which is just an expensive way to buy pasta.
You can fix some of these foods in quantity and eat them for days --
"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold / Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old" -- you think that's just a nursery rhyme? It's a memoir of 17th-century English life!
In the same comment thread, Steve Bodio writes,
last week we were in the two local markets doing our shopping. In one, the cashier asked what a squash was-- then asked how you cook it, having never had one. This is in rural New Mexico. In the second, another asked what CABBAGE was.
Hello!? New Mexico? Three sisters?
Cultural poverty. And neither Barack Obama nor John McCain can fix it.
(Of course, some people have restaurant-grade kitchen appliances and a quarter-mile of granite counter tops -- and they still eat take-out food. Same problem.)