About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooking: Bon appétit!

The movie Julie & Julia hit the box office this past week, and it seems to be getting pretty positive reviews. It made about $20 million in the first weekend. The New York Times likes it, my mother likes it, and this weekend several people I know included "seeing Julie & Julia" in their weekend plans.

Anytime a movie is a hit, it impacts our culture. Julie & Julia is no different.

People are seeing this movie, and it turns out that as a result they are talking more about cooking. The LA Times reported that since the release of Julie & Julia, cookbooks are selling off shelves and cooking academies are experiencing a marked spike in class enrollment. The article interviews people who had never been into cooking in the past, but were inspired by the film to buy a Julia Child cookbook and tie on an apron.

While Julia Child has published numerous cookbooks, her classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking seems to be the most popular right now. In their review of the film, the New York Times addressed the title of this book:

The book is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — not “How To” or “Made Easy” or “For Dummies,” but “Mastering the Art.” In other words, cooking that omelet is part of a demanding, exalted discipline not to be entered into frivolously or casually. But at the same time: You can do it. It is a matter of technique, of skill, of practice.

Suddenly the title of the cookbook and the fact that Amazon.com is selling out of it becomes significant. One of the barriers to accessing healthy, affordable, and nutritious food that I have explored in depth is the whole "cooking" thing.

It is impossible to achieve a healthy diet on $30/week if you are unwilling or unable to cook. Unfortunately, most Americans do not cook. They don't know how to cook, and they do not or cannot make the time to teach themselves. Many would rather hit McDonald's on the way home from work than buy a Julia Child book an start julienning vegetables.

I think one of the largest problems with our food system is that as a culture we Americans are unwilling to devote time or energy to cooking food. It has become ingrained in our thought process that food should be quick, cheap, and easy, that spending time preparing food is a bad thing. Since "quick, cheap, and easy" tend to be in conflict with "healthy" in the American food system, the result is pretty bleak.

My spirits are bolstered by the fact that Julie & Julia is being seen by so many people, and that it is actually motivating people to learn to cook. It is awesome that a pro-cooking message is being shot out to people on a mass level. The revolution continues...

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