Good Cheap Food & Other Stuff!

Larry 'n NassauI came across an article titled, 8 Ridiculously Cheap Superfoods. First on the list was beans and it made me think about John Steinbeck’s novel, Tortilla Flat. Briefly it is a story about Hispanic cannery workers in Monterey, California during the 1930s. A female character being, a little too free with her favors, ended up with a batch of kids belonging to several men in the barrio. To feed them the woman would glean the nearby bean fields following harvest and her children lived on a diet of mostly re-fried beans and corn tortillas.

For reasons I don’t recall the barrio men decided it was their paternal duty to see that the kids got better fed and they figured out a way to get large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. While their intentions were pure the children’s digestive tracts were not ready for these strange foods and they quickly fell victim to acute diarrhea. Good health returned just as quick when the kids returned to eating beans and cornbread.

Another thing this list of wonder foods made me think about was feeding the nation’s hungry. Our SNAP (food stamps) recipient list is near record numbers and becoming a major burden on government resources. While I never want to see anyone in America go hungry I do question the wisdom of permitting those in need to buy prepared foods. Like most people I’ve frequently stood in the check out line and watched people ahead of me buy frozen prepared foods that are high in price but of questionable nutritional value.

If I could wave my magic wand I’d proclaim that all those in need would be allotted a certain quantity of staple groceries and raw meats per month. Depending on family size the head of household, or individual, would be given so many pounds of raw potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, dried beans, legumes, rice and other dried cereals, celery, fresh salad vegetables and fruits, seasoning spices, sugar, tea, coffee, milk and cheeses, along with enough raw meat to ensure adequate protein intake.

Right now I’m betting that most reading this are in agreement. But before you email your congress person give this a thought, how many of today’s poor have the physical means and/or knowledge to prepare raw, staple, foods for their families? Don’t forget, we don’t teach home economics in most of our schools any longer. And in those who do, enrollment is not required and is plummeting. We have a couple of generations of Americans who know little about preparing food other than taking it out of the box and placing it in the toaster oven or microwave, assuming they have such.

So, regardless of how good providing staple groceries sounds and how much cheaper it would be, the savings may be more than offset by having to create an army of social working home economist to invade the poverty pockets of America to teach people what our great grandparents all knew how to do.

Another obstacle to this idea would be the food industry itself. The SNAP program is big business for the nation’s makers of processed and frozen foods and I can’t see those corporate interest being threatened without lots of lobbyist dollars being pumped onto Capitol Hill.

In the meantime do yourself a favor and take a close look at the Eight Wonders of Cheap Food List and make it work for you.

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