Last week there was an article making the rounds that got a lot of people into a tizzy. It took the average amount an American family spends on fast food, and showed how many groceries that money would buy. The point was to demonstrate that it’s cheaper to stay home and cook than to go out or have something delivered.
Of course, this being the 21st century and the internet, someone had to write a rebuttal. I could think of a few fair points that could be made. There are a lot of food deserts in the United States, where fresh meat and produce simply isn’t available or is ridiculously expensive. People work multiple jobs, or have to juggle a job and family responsibilities, or a job and school, and making time to shop, cook, and clean up is difficult. I get that. That wasn’t the point that this person was making, though.
Their focus was on the up-front costs of having to cook. If you wanted to stop going out, or ordering in, and start cooking, you need to buy pots and pans. You need to buy utensils. There is stuff that must be acquired, and that’s expensive. Poor people can’t possibly cook, because they can’t afford to equip their kitchen.
No, seriously, that was their point.
I call shenanigans on this. You can always find reasons not to do something, and as excuses go this one is week. The author of the article went on to explain how much their cheapest cookware cost, and wow, did it show some privilege. Their low-end stuff was more expensive than what I paid for the quality pieces I own. They seem to think that everyone who starts cooking is suddenly going to be a massive foodie or try to become a celebrity home cook.
When we got to Finland, I had nothing. I went to the store and bought a cheap frying pan, a sauce pan, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a plastic cutting board, and a baking sheet. We had cheap flatware, two plates, two bowls, two coffee cups, and two glasses. All of it was pretty crappy, but it got me through until I could slowly begin to acquire better things, and more things. It was not a lot, but I managed. I cooked things that I was able to make with that limited gear.
A friend gave me some other quality pieces. Over time, other friends gave me things that they didn’t use, or handed down their old whatever when they bought a newer one. I hit thrift stores and watched for sales. Even in food deserts there are thrift stores and yard sales. Poor people have friends and relatives and neighbors. Some things can be found in dollar stores. I doesn’t have to be a massive up-front investment. You don’t have to blow a whole paycheck at Williams-Sonoma, or Ikea, or even Target or Walmart.
This also ignores the reality that, unless you’re homeless or among the most destitute people in the country, you probably do have at least a few things.
For eff’s sake, make a sandwich! I suppose I’d get an argument about the up-front cost of buying condiments. Eat fruits and vegetables, assuming you’re not in a food desert. Slap together a salad. Then use the money you didn’t spend on fast food to buy one thing. Just one! Get a pot to make macaroni and cheese! Buy a frying pan to make a hamburger at home! Something! It’s not outrageous!
To this day I make do with a minimalist kitchen. I somehow manage without a microwave, a toaster, a stand mixer, a crock pot, or a rice cooker. My kitchen is small, and have have neither the counter space to display it or the cabinet space to store it. I can still heat up leftovers, make toast, mix things, make stews, and cook rice.
What really bothers me is the attititude that poor people can’t do basic things because they are poor. As if prior to the invention of drive throughs, delivery apps, and frozen food poor people just starved to death. Well, yes, they did. But it was because of ill treatment, classism, and elitist attitudes. It wasn’t because they were incapable of cooking.