Mark Bittman Speaks: The Cheaper of the Two, Junk Food or Talk?

By: Saira Malhotra

A few decades ago, a story was created about convenience food and we bought it. We became the poster child of taco nights and Campbell soup, stoking the fire in our belly and bringing our families close together.  A few decades later we were reprimanded for our unhealthy eating habits and that junk food (formerly known as convenience) was destroying us, causing spikes in cancer, heart disease, early puberty and diabetes. We now needed another story and we got one. Junk food is the only option because it is cheap. 

Mark Bittman, in his ongoing quest to transform America in to a healthy nation has called us out yet again. In his recent New York Times piece, he demonstrates how we can home-make nutritious meals to feed our family at a dollar value similar to that of a meal at McDonalds. To get to the bottom of why families opt for fast food, he guides us to consider a few honest questions. After a tiring day at work only to have to do homework with the kids and sort through the mail, are we looking for something instant and gratifying to comfort us? Do we crave those flavors and textures? The harsh reality is that junk food is addictive and we are addicted. It is hard to kick the habit because we have a multitude of justifications for why we make that choice despite its detrimental impact.

Once we remove ourselves from the blame game of media manipulation and slow government intervention (of course they both have a part to play), we are left to realize that perhaps there is a bigger problem at the very root itself. We have become a nation that doesn't like to cook. We avoid it, because it is yet another chore. We watch 'The Biggest Loser' on television and yet have no time in the kitchen. We short change ourselves day after day, excuse after excuse.

The work needs to be done here and we need to be prepared to do it. We need to begin by recreating the context within which we perceive cooking. By doing so, not only to we all have access to a healthier and happier life, but we encourage our kids to celebrate what they eat at home. The key is to keep it simple and not get intimidated by food philosophies of farm to table, organic, wild water harvesting. Let us enjoy getting acquainted with our kitchen and taking ownership of what we are putting in our bellies, whether we are making a roast chicken or a cheese sandwich.  

Photo: TheFoodJunk