Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Cheap" Fast Food and Other Myths


Mark Bittman today eviscerates the myth of "cheap" fast food. In fact, a simple meal at home is cheaper than a McDonald's pig out, he reports.

Why do Americans believe otherwise? The answer is simple: $4.6 billion a year spent by the food industry each year on marketing. 

Some say it's "nannyism" to try to do anything about this. But that ignores the power of modern marketing to manipulate consumer attitudes and undermine fact. Marketers have succeeded in planting all manner of untruths into the American mind: cooking is too hard and too time consuming; hyper-processed products are healthy if they contain a small amount of fiber; it's cheaper to eat out than to cook.

As criticism grows, the food industry is trying to adjust. I see them hawking more and more products used to cook instead of pure, stick-it-in-the-microwave processed foods.  Take this commercial for Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking "Creme" (I love the French touch). Honestly, have you ever seen anything so disgusting?

I love the ending with happy, homey family tucking into their otherwise healthy ingredients coated in cooking goo. 

As Bittman writes, cooking a decent meal is cheap and easy. Buy a chicken, not the fancy floorwalker for tree-huggers, but the standard Purdue bird, roast it, mash some potatoes and steam some vegies.

Re-teaching Americans these basic skills will be a struggle. The powers that be will fight back tooth and nail. Soon, they will be telling Americans that there are dangerous levels of bacteria in unprocessed food and to avoid it. Can't you just hear that rolling off Michele Bachman's tongue?

Cook at home? What are you -- a socialist?

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