In keeping with this week’s theme of talking about class and poverty issues, today I want to touch upon the issue of food. I have written on the issue of food in the past, and here is a great tumblr post by a gal who really gets the issues of class.
However despite writing on this in the past, I feel the need to revisit the issue because I am convinced it’s pretty easy to be clueless when wondering why don’t those darn poor folks eat better? Why are they not more adventurous in their eating? Don’t they know fruits and veggies are cheap? And so on, as I tap the ole gray matter to think of some of the seemingly innocent comments I have heard from folks on the matter of food and folks who are financially vulnerable.
Let me tell you something, I was damn near 25 before I decided to get adventurous in my eating, why? Money, plain and simple; sure I could have sprung for some red leaf lettuce beforehand, but what if I hated it? Then I would have been shit out of luck as far as my money and frankly for the earlier part of my adulthood, my dollars were sparse and I could not afford to be wasteful. The reality is for many folks at the lower end of the financial spectrum, dollars are tight and often it’s easier to eat what you know rather than stepping out and being adventurous. Even the ability to be adventurous with something as seemingly small as food is not available to all! Sure the sushi lunch box special is comparable in price to a meal at McDonald’s but if you find it is not to your liking when your budget has no wiggle room, survival dictates taking a step on the wild side is a bad idea.
Next up good ole fruits and veggies and the poor, I especially love the internet flappers who wax poetically about the joys of eating veggies, how good they are for you and all that good stuff. Again another area where frankly I never got very adventurous until I was in a solid financial place with access to decent kitchen equipment and could afford to decide whether or not kohlrabi made for a good slaw or not. For my son’s early years our veggie consumption was limited to corn, potatoes, canned string beans, and one or two other items. When my son was born I relied on food stamps (the real deal in the awkward as hell book where everyone knew you were poor) for the first year of his life and after that I often worked 2-3 jobs to provide for us, so I lacked time to play around in the kitchen as well as the funds to splurge.
Also for many folks at the lower end of the income spectrum the reality is a buying a ton of fruits and veggies is simply not cost effective when it comes to filling folks up. Look, I live in Maine, I have participated in CSA’s, I know all my local farmers but even buying straight from the source isn’t cheap! Even at the farmer’s market tomatoes often run $3 a lb! Yeah, yeah, many CSA’s will offer a working share; you provide them with free labor they give you goodies, sounds great? Except if you are working your hourly wage gig to keep a roof over your head, the free farm gig is not really feasible. One man’s cheap is another man’s expensive as hell and frankly out of reach
I could go on and on but let me say often how we view food is a direct correlation to where we are class wise or where we have been class wise. The fact is it’s real easy to suggest what other people should do but unless you have walked a mile in their shoes, perhaps its best to sit back and keep your thoughts to yourself.
I will be honest and say one of the first experiences I had around realizing food is tied to class and I have shared this before was when I was in graduate school in New Hampshire. I was out at a Japanese place with my colleagues and everyone but me ordered sushi, the only thing I even remotely had any interest in was the tempura. I am sure my classmates didn’t mean any harm but everyone ribbed me for having such blah taste and proclaimed loudly how could I not eat sushi? I went home that day feeling so ashamed because until that point in my life I had never been in a place or position where eating sushi was an option. Then I got pissed the fuck off that I was being judged because I didn’t eat sushi, never mind I started my adult life as a high school dropout, married at 18, a mother at 19, separated at 20. The only thing that these assholes could see was that I didn’t want to eat raw fish? Long story short, I willed myself to eat sushi and to this day I still wonder if I really like it since I will be honest, I would be way happier with some fried catfish, a side of spaghetti and some coleslaw.