This article was making the rounds last month, and it was just begging for a fisking, but I was up against a deadline and had to concentrate on Getting Paid. But that book has been turned in, so better late than never.
Usually my fisking posts are about writing or politics, but this time the topic is something near and dear to my heart, eating good while being poor. (Full disclosure, I ain’t poor no more. Having tried both, being rich is way cooler)
Oddly enough, it turns out on my Facebook page someone knows the author personally, and said he’s an attention whore (shocking) and that I shouldn’t give him the clicks. But regardless, I always link back to the original so you can see that I’m not cherry picking or taking them out of context. The article is here. http://www.houstonpress.com/restaurants/telling-poor-people-to-just-cook-is-stupid-10102260
The original will be in italics, and my comments will be in bold.
Please Stop Telling Poor People to “Just Cook” to Save Money
JEF ROUNER | JANUARY 9, 2018
That’s Jef with one F, he said haughtily. According to his bio he covers “pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior”. As we will shortly see, his bio does not include economics, shopping skills, or self-awareness.
There’s a meme making the rounds again comparing the amount of food you can get from KFC for $20 and the amount of food you can get from the grocery store for the same price.
If you click the link, it’s actually a whole bunch of memes showing X dollars of fast food or junk food vs. X dollars in grocery store food. It is like basic Home Economics stuff (do they still have that in high school?). Anyways, big whoop. Personally I love junk food, fast food, and drink Coke by the gallon, but you’d have to be a complete dolt to not realize that stuff costs more money.
The implication is that stupid, poor and lazy people are throwing their hard-earned tuppence away on fast food when they could be cooking at home, being healthier and richer in the process.
I suppose if you were easily butt hurt and looking for a reason to get all offended, okay. Regardless, cooking at home is still way cheaper.
Give me an absolute break.
Naw. I’m fresh out of mercy.
The basic premise of the meme is correct, and by basic I mean whoever made it had half a thought and didn’t bother with the rest. It IS cheaper to cook at home than get most take-out… in the long-term.
Thus Jef appointed himself Speaker For The Poor.
The really fun thing here about this article (and why I decided to fisk it) is how stupid Jef thinks poor people must be.
I mean, Jef really thinks poor folks are dumb. Good thing he is here to tell them how hopeless they are.
A recipe is far more than the ingredient list, and things like utensils alone can make what seemed like a simple, cheap dish into something more costly than going by the drive-thru would have been.
Poor people can’t just own utensils! That’s crazy talk.
At this point I realized that I needed back up for this post. I grew up really poor, and I spent a lot of years scraping by, but now that I’ve worked my way into the ranks of the evil 1%, guys like Jef will just dismiss me as being out of touch.
For this post I called in a special guest expert on utensil costs and the shopping habits of poor people. So I called my mom.
Having been married to a dairy farmer, Mom understands cooking while poor (on the bright side, we always had all you can drink milk!) But the reason I called her is that my mom has been the manager of a dollar store in a poor rural area for the last decade. Jef seems unfamiliar with the concept, but a dollar store is a place where you can buy stuff for super cheap. Plus, she retired like a week ago, so I can quote her freely and not get anyone fired. So you’re in trouble now, Jef.
Mom said forks are four for a dollar. Spoons are four for a dollar.
Cooking is not just a trip to a grocery store. You need a basic set of cookware for starters. I’ve been on a $70 Tools of the Trade set for more than a decade, and trust me, it really wants to retire. You’re going to need some knives for chopping, butterflying, mincing, etc. The low-end of those starts at $20, but they are absolutely essential.
Apparently, to cut a tomato in half requires a knife forged by a samurai blade smith, using ore taken from a meteor.
In reality, as a guy who likes to cook, who is married to a woman who actually made her living as a cook, 95% of the time we use the same eight inch knife that we’ve had for the last twenty years. We got it cheap.
Apparently Jef’s hypothetical really stupid poor people have no friends or relatives. My wife is still using a cooking pan that she got from her grandma. It was made in the 70s, and it’s still her favorite pan.
Jef’s hypothetical poor people also live in the only poor neighborhood in America that doesn’t have a thrift store.
Of course, you’ll require a cutting board as well.
And you will require a house to put your cutting board in. Houses cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
These things add up quickly.
Of course expenses add up, you nitwit. You know what adds up even faster? Spending money on restaurant food. Only when you’re done, you’re still poor, only you have no assets to show for it.
The dish in the headline picture is my take on the basic the McCormick Rosemary Chicken and Red Potatoes recipe. It’s cheap enough and easy as pie, but do you have a 5 quart mixing bowl?
Mom says the dollar store does. But if you want a really nice one, it will cost $4 whole dollars. My wife still uses the one we got from a thrift store twenty years ago. I think we got it for 75 cents. Adjusting for inflation, that’s like ten thousand dollars now.
You need one if you don’t want to be chasing escaped potatoes all over the kitchen.
Poor people do not have the fine motor skills necessary to wrangle potatoes, Jef explained patronizingly. In Jef’s mind, poor people are like the helpless schlubs on infomercials, who horrifically fumble the most basic tasks while Voiceover Guy says HAS THIS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
Another question, do you have a 15x10x1-inch baking pan, heavy duty foil, and cooking spray? All this just added another $20 onto the price of a meal if you don’t have them.
I’m betting with his expertise in social justice and video games, Jef skipped those classes explaining the concept of “up front costs”. Do these poor people throw the pan away when they are done or something?
It looks like the foil costs about $2-$3 for FIFTY feet of it.
And cooking spray? Mom can hook you up.
The McCormick’s recipe is at least kind enough to recommend garlic powder rather than fresh garlic. Most recipes not put out by spice companies don’t.
Ha haha ha ha ha. Yes. Even the dollar store has powdered garlic! (Mom’s comment, “what is wrong with this asshole?)
Now personally, we buy our spices in giant containers, better value that way, but Jef has already told us that he thinks poor people are too dumb to think about their future. They’re basically single celled organisms like that.
Better learn the fresh-to-powder ratio or buy a press. That’s another $8.
Because smooshing a piece of garlic with your $5 Walmart knife is basically impossible. Ironically, as a devout capitalist 1%er, I actually own a garlic press (a nearly unachievable dream for most Americans, I know) but I made fresh guacamole yesterday. and I didn’t bother to get out the press. I just diced it with my twenty year old knife, and then smooshed it with some salt in it. It was all very traumatic.
Also, the ratio thing? Everybody who cooks know that’s nonsense. Spices are about taste. Good cooks season until it is right. Any recipe that calls for garlic, I just assume it’s safe to double the amount just to start.
Over time, this even outs,
Yeah, like one trip to KFC worth of time, which is kind of the point, you twit.
but setting up a working kitchen can easily cost as much as a used car depending on where you start from.
You got a lot of $100 cars rolling around your neighborhood, Jef?
As the primary cook and grocery person in the family, I’m very used to poverty substitution games, which I am slavish to even when money isn’t tight because it’s become second nature.
Bitch please, unless you routinely roll your own tortillas you don’t know shit about money being tight.
One of Jef’s problems is that poor is a nebulous term. There are people who are “poor” because they blow their money on stupid shit, want instant gratification, and make bad financial decisions. Then there is “poor poor” where through shitty circumstances, you do what you’ve got to do to squeak by.
Or as mom pointed out, she had lots of regular people struggling to make ends meet, and also lots of people buying piles of garbage and paying with EBT cards.
But either way, Jef is full of crap, and learning to roll your own tortillas is friggin’ awesome (and they taste way better than store bought too!)
You swap vegetable oil for olive oil, water for stock or broth, table salt for sea salt, etc.
My grandma used to run warm water through a chicken and call it chicken soup. I don’t think you’ve got a real strong grasp on what the word “poverty” means.
All of it in an effort to shave just a few more dollars off the grocery total, and all of it produces a slightly lesser version of what you’re hoping for.
Yeah, using table salt instead of sea salt is basically like being water boarded in Gitmo.
That’s if it even comes out good and you’re not forced to order an emergency pizza to cover a cooking goof.
This line tells me Jef wouldn’t know real poverty if it bit him on the ass. When you’re actually poor poor, and dinner gets burned, you shut up and eat your burned dinner. If it is really fucked up to the point that it is inedible, you eat Ramen noodle.
(oh wait, Jef says that the poor can’t make Ramen noodle because they can’t afford a $200 pot to boil bottled natural spring water in. You’ll just have to eat it dry like a big ass cracker)
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That’s some wishful thinking, Houston Press. Nobody in the world liked this story.
Now, these days for me, cooking is absolutely cheaper for virtually anything.
Why do you think you are special, Jef? What makes you better than poor people? Why wouldn’t cooking be absolutely cheaper for them too? Why do you think they are so inferior that they can only live in the now, and not make good financial decisions which will benefit them long term?
By the way, those are rhetorical questions, you smug putz.
I’ve got nearly two decades of pan, utensil and spice acquisition to prep for. If I want to make turkey chili some night, I can probably do so for less than $2 a serving because odds are my spice rack is full and I have everything else I need ready to go.
In reality, when you are actually poor poor, you only need one spice.
Boom. Dinner is done. In my house my kids all refer to Season All as “Portuguese Spices”. I put this stuff on everything. I’ve got tons of spices now, and my wife is a brilliant cook. But for a lot of poverty stricken years, Season All was my best friend.
It’s funny, most of the people I know who’ve been really poor have some seasoning like this that they grew up with that they always fall back on. Every culture has one. The spice varies, but it’s what they put on all their poor people filler food like rice, beans, potatoes, etc. Old Bay, Greek seasoning, lemon pepper, curry powder, mesquite, soy sauce, Sriracha, ranch dressing, whatever it is you love, get one bottle and stick it on all your bland cheap dinners and be happy.
So when Jef insists that you must use saffron, grown from flowers that were tended by Persian virgins, in the secret valley of the Hashashins, and picked during a lunar eclipse, because the recipe called for it, somebody like me–who was actually poor–will sprinkle some Season All on there and call it good.
Again, the chicken pictured at the top? All I had to buy was the meat and potatoes. Everything else was handy because I’ve bought it piecemeal over the course of years.
Again, poor people are incapable of buying things piecemeal today. It’s either Iron Chef right now or nothing.
If you’re observant about sales and coupons, good at meal prep and have a fair-sized freezer, you might not even need to go buy those.
Yes. The concept of having a protein and a carb inside your house already is a totally foreign and mind blowing concept.
Jef can cook because Jef is special. You poor folks can’t, because you’re too stupid. Now, personally, instead of being a defeatist asshole like Jef, I’d say skip a couple fast food meals and eat a bologna sandwich instead (you don’t even need utensils!) then take that money you saved down to Family Dollar, and get set up to cook a couple dishes. Then cook those. Using the money you saved repeat this process until you’ve got all the kitchen stuff you want.
But what do I know? I’m not an expert on social justice like Jef.
Alton Brown has given me a lot of good advice, but the best is still “freeze the ingredients you don’t use.”
Alton Brown is a gentleman and a scholar. It actually saddens me to see his name used in this bullshit. So, like, what did you do before this shocking revelation? Did you just throw your extra ingredients away with your pan and 49 remaining feet of aluminum foil?
But that brings us into a final discussion: time. You know why people go through KFC? Because, in terms of total resources it is the most efficient family meal you can provide in a 20-minute timespan.
No shit, Sherlock. The reason it costs more is because you are paying your money in exchange for someone else’s labor and equipment.
All us business and STEM majors had to take a bunch of stupid liberal arts classes in order to graduate college. Shouldn’t these social justice majors at least have to take some econ and accounting classes? It would spare us a lot of articles like this. Is that really too much to ask?
You pay for convenience? You could say this about most jobs, Jef. It’s more convenient to pay a mechanic to fix your car, and it’s more convenient to pay a CPA to do your taxes. But when you’re poor, and you can’t afford those services, then you learn to fix your own car in the Autozone parking lot, and you muddle through your 1040EZ.
Why in the world would you think someone cooking your food for you would be any different? Once you’ve got money, you can pay the experts for their services, because capitalism is awesome. But when you don’t you suck it up and deal with it.
I have three fried chicken recipes. Most of them require at least an hour or more including store and prep time. Time is, well, not money, exactly, but it is something that is precious and in short supply when you’re coming home at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Holy shit… Time is worth money, dipstick, which is why people pay extra for the convenience of someone else using their time instead. That’s how jobs work.
Your time is worth money. But newsflash, asshole, when my work time was worth $7.15 an hour it did not behoove me to constantly pay $20 for someone else to cook my dinner.
I love eating out. I love good food. I’m a food nerd. I once ate in the fanciest restaurants in Manhattan, London, and Paris in the same week, to see which one had the best sea bass (Paris won that challenge), just because I could.
I paid a lot of money for that privilege. It was awesome (and delicious). But I can do that now because my labor is worth hundreds of dollars an hour, and I didn’t go into debt to eat Long John Silvers when I was making $10 an hour.
And I love how you picked fried chicken, one of the most time consuming meals to prep. If time is your biggest concern then pick a recipe that’s quicker. Make a friggin’ sandwich. Save that grueling fried chicken death march for your day off.
You even included STORE TIME in your calculation!? Are you fucking kidding me? Oh poor me! I just got home from working a 16 hour shift in the coal mine, the children are starving, but I’m going to stop by the store on the way home and buy a 20 pound frozen turkey for dinner.
Seriously, Jef? Straw harder, jack ass.
Let me make something very clear. I love to cook, and it is a handy way to save money.
Again, friggin’ duh. I think that’s like the 3rd “duh” you’ve rated. When you have to keep restating the obvious facts that diverge from your thesis, then that should be a clue that your thesis is shit.
That said, one of the ways we make that happen is that I work from home within hiking distance of the grocery store. I can pull myself away from an assignment and go get whatever we need for a spinach quiche whenever I want. If my wife, who works 12-hour shifts at the hospital and often doesn’t get home until 8 p.m., were doing this without me, I imagine there would be a lot more KFC in my daughter’s diet.
Whoa… so what you are saying is that human beings are all distinct individuals who have unique circumstances? MIND BLOWN.
Your problem, Jef, is that you switch from specifics to bitch about generalities, and then switch back when it suits you. So when people say, “Hey, poor folks, you’d save a ton of money and be way better off if you learned to cook” you start pulling extreme examples out of your ass why they can’t. And that’s just disingenuous, because in general, it’s absolutely true.
Whenever I argue about any lifestyle choices with a liberal, and I say if you do X in general you will be better off, you guys always trot out poor Sally Born Without Hands, who can’t possible cook, because she has no hands. You always want to build general policy based upon outliers.
Bell curve, Jef. Learn it, live it, love it. And most of the bell curve is clever enough to BUY FORKS.
Everyone should learn to cook. It’s an essential skill, but the answer is way more complicated than “just cook, you lazy poor!”
What a weak ass straw man.
I’ve yet to buy a single recipe book that didn’t take at least one $20 purchase for granted as they casually told me to run something through a food processor.
Improvise, adapt, overcome, you chuckle head. It’s chopping up food, not building a nuclear reactor. Oh woe is me! I can’t cook this recipe because I lack this specific tool! Then skip that recipe and use one of the other 500 that you friggin’ can.
That’s like saying, poor people can’t possibly get jobs unless they can buy a new BMW to drive to work in.
Cooking costs, and that’s one of the reasons some tired parent working two jobs stops by McDonald’s on the way home for the cheapest, most nutritious food in human history.
I’ve got nothing against McDonald’s (once a year my family celebrates Nuggetpalooza) but your entire premise is defeatist dreck.
You should be ashamed of yourself, Jef. First off, poor people aren’t stupid. The most insulting thing here is that you assume they must be.
When I called my mom to price check, and I told her your premise and read her your headline, she laughed at you. Because not all poor people are the same, Jef. Some are poor because of circumstances beyond their control and some are poor because they made bad decisions. The ladies at the dollar store grasp that a lot faster than you do, they hook poor folks up with fifty cent spice bottles and affordable pans, yet none of them were self proclaimed experts on social justice. Go figure.
Your hypothetical helpless, poor folks don’t need to cook the most complex recipe in the book. Pick a few and run with those. Pick ANY and they’re better off. Hell, start with one pan and a spatula. With just those two things off the top of my head I can think of a slew of dishes I can make. I’m a master of omelets, because back in college eggs were cheap and I needed the protein (with weight training I needed 6500 calories a day just to maintain my weight, but I was poor and creative). With that same spatula and pan, my other favorite dish was cheap ass potatoes fried with whatever animal meat was on sale that day. Add Season All. Party.
But not Jef, oh no. No omelets for you! For his smug ass there is no wiggle room between Michelin starred restaurants and bologna sandwiches, so you might as well just give up.
Quit making lame ass excuses for people who are making bad decisions, Jeff (screw it, I can’t stand looking at it spelled goofy any more). Learning to cook will save them money. Quit holding people back, you smug son of a bitch.