Category Archives: food

Eating cheaply, eating healthy

In high school, I thought home economics classes were a waste of time; they seemed to be vestigial remnants from the days when women could be homemakers, reduced to providing easy credits to dull students.

That I only discovered last year the function of the broil setting suggests my judgement was rash.

I mostly don’t mind cooking, but my everyday meals (as opposed to the occasional meals which double as recreational or social activities) are pretty spartan. Eggs, sandwiches, pasta, and ground beef are the staple of my diet. I can come up with any number of excuses (some lamer than others),  but I want to share some that are relevant to discussions of health/obesity and social justice – after the break.

Continue reading

The High Price of Fresh Veggies

Here’s an interesting question: Why do veggies cost more than meat?

I like this question. After all, it takes a lot fewer resources to grow onions than to raise cattle. Among other things:

2. Quality matters a lot. Meat is often of pretty poor quality (think McDonalds), and people seem fine with that. Low quality vegetables turns everyone off.

3. Meat can be stored for longer periods of time, making it easier to ship and optimize distribution.

The delivery, storage, and quality issues don’t end at the point of purchase either. Vegetables in any significant quantity (we’re not talking about the pickles on your hamburger) are only available at limited locations relative to meat. The cost of getting to a supermarket, farmer’s market, or veggie-friendly restaurant can be greater than the cost of getting to Taco Bell. If you manage to get to the supermarket, you can freeze the meat but fresh veggies can only be refrigerated at best, which means you have to buy small quantities frequently.

(via Chris Blattman)

Hot dogs

Watching so many raw hot dogs handled so roughly made me squirm. Even more than the liquefied meat sludge.

How hot dogs are made, via Kottke:

If it hasn’t already been done, somebody needs to put this footage to some evil-sounding music. Or this.

Dinner Reservations

Have you ever thought about how dinner reservations work?

Restaurants are businesses: They are in the business of making money by serving food. When making reservations, everyone wants to eat at 7:30 on a Friday or Saturday night.

But the average Toronto restaurant is open for dinner between 5:30 and 10 p.m. Torontonians will not, by nature, eat before 6 unless they are going to a show, or after 10 unless they are Spanish.

With such a small window of operation, a restaurant needs to maximize that time period. Empty seats are holes in their gas tank, draining fuel. If a table is booked for 7:30, it’s next to impossible to use that table earlier or later. This is called a single seating.

When we call and ask for a 7:30 reservation and the manager says, “I’ve got a 6:15,” what they’re saying is, “I would prefer not to lose hundreds of dollars. Please come earlier.”

Romance in Aisle 4

After nearly four months in my new house, I should have figured out the grocery store’s hours by now. Thanks to Google, I don’t have to remember anything anymore.

Also thanks to Google, I stumbled across this short record of love at first sight. My favourite bit:

you put the little separator thing between your groceries and mine.

It’s almost poetry.

Krugman Jumps on the Grain Train, Falls Off

\"tea crop\" by angela7dreams

Back in December, The Economist led with an analysis of the challenges and posibilities presented by rising global food prices. Its case was that the likely long-term rise in food prices means government support for farmers in rich countries can be drawn down without putting those farmers out of business. Developing countries and their rural poor are poised to benefit from these changes, and the prosperity that comes with increased food production will boost the import of other goods from rich countries. Everybody wins (except for the urban poor, but they are already less poor than their rural compatriots).

And now Paul Krugman is writing about the “food crisis“.

I’m glad Krugman has written about the rising cost of food. His audience is probably wider and less exclusive than The Economist’s. General knowledge of the trend and its origins is necessary for political change in a country like the US. Here, he does quite well. Krugman outlines the rapidly-developing world’s growing taste for meat, and he points out the folly of turning corn grown with oil-based machines and fertilizers into “green” ethanol.

His excellent exposition is followed by an unsatisfying conclusion:

“What should be done? The most immediate need is more aid to people in distress: the U.N.’s World Food Program put out a desperate appeal for more funds.

We also need a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake.

But it’s not clear how much can be done. Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past.”

Yes, feed the starving. Yes, end the silly, counterproductive ethanol subsidies. But The Economist presented a much more complete and satisfying answer: Export value-added goods to developing countries instead of cheap grains, and let those countries grow their own food at realistic prices.

[photo] “tea crop” by angela7dreams

[mp3] “The Cost” by The Frames