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Striking Back at the Food Police


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If we are to take the economic view surely it simply comes down to the middle classes having more time to prepare food nothing to do with education! The families from poorer incomes both HAVE to work or single parents have to, giving them less time for preparation of food.[...]

Yet some of them do, anyway, with pride, which goes back to the personal choice question. But another salient fact is that I could afford to cook my own food much more often but don't, because as a single man, I prefer to eat good, inexpensive restaurant food. It's not as healthful as what I'd cook would be, but it's tasty and I don't find it as rewarding to cook for myself. Things might change if I moved somewhere else or I had a girlfriend who enjoyed eating my food. So there you go.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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In the US, or at least NY and other large cities, there are any number of "latch key kids" among middle class families. With two parents working full time, it's often the kids who are the only ones with time to cook for the familiy. The telephone is often the most important appliance in the kitchen and take out menus ournumber cookbooks. I don't believe the middle class always have the time to think, let alone act intelligently, about what they eat.

I don't find it reasonable for intelligent people to believe that the current state of anti-cholesterlol drugs remove the negative consequences from any food related personal choices. First, they only help lower your cholesterol and do not attack many of the other heath problems. They don't lower the pesticide levels or contaminents and they don't fight other diet related illness. Second, they themselves have a risk of side effects that are equally as threatening, if of lower incidence. There's no free lunch at the pharmacy.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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In the US, or at least NY and other large cities, there are any number of "latch key kids" among middle class families. With two parents working full time, it's often the kids who are the only ones with time to cook for the familiy.[...]

I was a "latch key kid," in that I had my own key by the time I was 9 or so, and once I turned 13 or so, there were some afternoons when I let myself in and spent some time by myself. That didn't mean I cooked for the family all those days. Yes, I did sometimes cook for the family, but most often, my mother or father was home by 5 and cooked up a good meal that we ate around 7:30 or 8. And it wasn't very unpleasant at all to come home to a couple of quiet hours to myself, with a refrigerator stocked with food and drink I could use for an after-school snack. I think whether that works or not has a lot to do with how the parents are when they're there, how old and responsible the child is, and how often it happens. I don't think it would have been good for neither of my parents to have been there until 6 P.M. every weekday, or for me to have been home alone for long periods of time when I was, say, 8 or younger. When I was young, there were babysitters to supervise and play with me when my father was at work and my mother was at school, or when they went out without me.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I don't even know how to jump into this discussion, so many good points have been raised. And many, many points that I take issue with based on my experience. So I'll just throw this stuff out there, do with it what you will...

1) Junk food is not necessarily less expensive than fresh food, in fact, sometimes it is more. However, it has a shelf-life of eons, and is already prepared for you saving you the time/effort/education required to make something from raw ingredients. This makes it cheaper. THis is a key reason why lower-income families often rely heavily, too heavily, on prepared foods. If I don't have to worry about it spoiling, then my $$ won't go down the drain. If I don't have to do anything to it to make it taste good, then I can be fed that much faster.

2) I am a fence-straddling moderate. The conservative side of me says, no, I don't need your stinkin' gov't regulation, give me choices, give me personal responsibility. However, I have worked in an inner-city elementary school. 100% minority, 75% on free breakfast AND lunch program. 2/3 of these children's food during the week came from the government. And that meant that they actually ate twice a day... some of my students didn't eat again. As a public school, they only had to do what the government regulated. The government had to make sure that they got meals, that there was a vegetable... this included french fries. But a low-income school in such a low-income neighborhood didn't have resources - so the kids got hot dogs, french fries, sausage biscuits, chicken wings... I never saw a piece of fruit on a child's tray, never saw anything green. Government regulation might have meant that these kids didn't just get fed, but got fed nutritious food 2 meals a day, and that could have made a huge difference.

3) I can guarantee you that these kids didn't get much more than the most cursory coverage of nutrition information in their classes. And since most of their parents were from the same neighborhood and circumstances, they hadn't learned it in school either. They had bigger issues, like keeping their families together and off the streets. It's a hierarchy of needs, you know?

That's all. I don't know where I come down on this argument for government regulation of the food industry... I don't like it on principle, I HATE that frivolous lawsuits are clogging up the courts. But then I think of those kids...

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The idea of reasonable regulations on government-funded school meals seems totally normal to me. If the government is paying for it, why shouldn't they do their best to make it sufficient, nutritious and palatable? I would like for them to do that, as that would be a good use of funds. I wouldn't like them to force kids to eat a certain way (barring serious medical conditions like diabetes), but I certainly would like for fresh fruits and vegetables to be available and for their consumption to be encouraged. When I was in high school, I sometimes hung out in the lunch room and supplemented my bag lunch with things like Delicious apples, which were a bit pricey ($0.60 apiece in the late 70s/early 80s) for non-meal-plan kids like me, but were certainly plentiful and eaten by many of my friends. High School of Performing Arts wasn't a ghetto school, but many of the students there were poor (though many weren't, too). Did people eat better then? Seems hard to imagine, given how many of my friends were on drugs. :laugh:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I attended high school in rural Appalachia.

For the first three years, there was NO cafeteria. We were allowed to go off campus for lunch - either home or to a restaurant. Many of us ate at a burger joint that was the closest restaurant to school. We still ate there even after folks started to refer to it as "(A name beginning with T)'s Ptomaine Tomb" - because a group of cheerleaders claimed to have contracted food poisoning from eating there.

In my senior year, the gods smiled on us and the school added a "Cafetorium" (cafeteria/stage/auditorium). The cafetorium featured an all-you-can-eat salad bar (cost: $1.40 US). We ate the hell out of that salad bar.

I don't know if the same thing would happen today. Are there salad bars in high school cafeterias nowadays? I don't have any children, so I wouldn't know. But I suspect that a salad bar might go quite idle, since there are Taco Bells and Pizza Huts in a lot of cafeterias...

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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I was a "latch key kid," in that I had my own key by the time I was 9 or so, and one I turned 13 or so, there were some afternoons when I let myself in and spent some time by myself. That didn't mean I cooked for the family all those days. . . . .

Sorry, I wasn't trying to stereotype latch key kid families. I was only trying to point out that plenty of middle class and upper middle class well educated professional families have no more time to cook than poor working class parents.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I was a "latch key kid," in that I had my own key by the time I was 9 or so, and one I turned 13 or so, there were some afternoons when I let myself in and spent some time by myself. That didn't mean I cooked for the family all those days. . . . .

Sorry, I wasn't trying to stereotype latch key kid families. I was only trying to point out that plenty of middle class and upper middle class well educated professional families have no more time to cook than poor working class parents.

Undoubtedly. For the record, I was in no way offended; if anything, it was just a reminder that we're talking about individuals. I think that there's been some tension in this thread between emphasis on personal choice and larger societal issues. The way I see it, that tension essentially mirrors the rivalry between anthropology and sociology methods as applied in the U.S. (not in countries like France, where sociologists do case histories and are in other ways very similar to American anthropologists), and I think it's good, because it's important to deal with things on both the macro and micro levels.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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