In yesterday's Week in Review, Mark Bittman responds to fast food defenders, who claim that people go to McDonald's because it is much cheaper than a home cooked meal. Bittman lines up a roasted chicken dinner with McDonald's for four and finds that the chicken dinner is cheaper, as well as more nutritious. McDonald's costs $27.89 and the chicken dinner costs $13.78.
I think Bittman misses the point here. People go to McDonald's, because it isn't that much more expensive than making a chicken dinner, and it is much, much easier.
The past six months were insanely busy, and where we did we end up at least once a week? At the Wendy's drive through. Other nights it was Boston Market or the local pizza joint or the Greek takeout. In the height of the insanity, I cooked only once a week.
Bittman dismisses the ease of fast food too quickly. He says that people have time to watch an hour of TV every night, so they have time to go to the supermarket and cook dinner. Well, not really. To make a meal that everyone will eat, it requires planning, organizing, food shopping, food sorting, cooking, cleaning up. Doing all that after putting in a 12 hour day is gruesome. A fast food meal can be ordered and eaten in 20 minutes or less.
To really jump start the food revolution, we either need to revamp our lifestyles (No more evenings with triple activities for the kids. Less homework. Less time at the office.) or we need better choices at the fast food restaurants. Better choices at fast food restaurants seems like a more realistic option.
Honestly, the salads at Wendy's and the unsweetened iced tea aren't bad. In my upper class suburb, I can split a Greek salad with Steve for $8 or get a plate of spaghetti and meatballs at the Italian pizza joint for $5. The problem is that these options are only available to those in the Upper West Side or the wealthy suburbs. Let's subsidize healthy fast food, so it can be more available everywhere.