What’s Wrong With America, Lesson #458

A Lesson in Market Economy
Our Budget-Conscious Challenge to a Trio of Cooking Teachers: With $50 for Farm-Fresh Ingredients, Make a Meal for Four

By Jane Black and Bonnie S. Benwick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 5, 2007; F01
It began with a crisis, at least by farmers market standards. Pritha Mehra was planning to make her Cilantro-Mint Chutney, and, at 10 a.m., there was no more regular mint to be found at the Arlington Farmers Market. A small bunch of chocolate mint wouldn’t do. And purple Thai basil, while delicious, wouldn’t create the authentic Indian flavor she was after.
Mehra, who teaches Indian cooking through her part-time business, Mystic Kitchen, took two more turns around the market and at last, to her relief, found a small mint plant to buy that she could snip the leaves from. Her plan was saved.
These days, it’s food heresy not to love the farmers market. But trying to shop local can be stressful. Vendors run out of mint. The chicken guy doesn’t show up. It made us wonder: Even at the height of the summer season, how easy is it to make a meal mostly from market ingredients — and without spending a bundle?
With median American family income at $43,200, Jane and Bonnie stress out over how to squeeze dinner for a family of four into $18,200 yearly.
Doesn’t leave much for breakfast and lunch, particularly if schoolbooks, gas for the car, rent and toothpaste are somewhere in the budget. No mint isn’t much of a disaster in families where there are no eggs (not to mention delightfully fresh Kachoomber Salad).
It might have been interesting to see what three adaptive and creative cooking teachers could have done with nine bucks. Hope someone in your household has a second job, Jane.
But thanks anyway, for making all those struggling single mothers out there feel even more inadequate.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Things That Make Me Nuts, check out Opinion-Columns.com

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