Our local paper has a weekly section devoted to cuisine and often reviews the plentiful restaurant scene in our city that’s a magnet for tourism.
Last week’s focus was captioned “No more dishes: 13 family-style meals ready for takeout.”
The third paragraph in the article begins, “Some local restaurants have responded to cooking fatigue with carryout family meals.”
“Cooking fatigue”? Is that a new thing?
A pandemic burden? An onerous affliction imposed by the ruthless virus? An encumbrance prompting urgent prayer-petitions for relief from heaven itself?
A Dennis the Menace cartoon came to mind as I read the article. “Can’t we go to a restaurant?” Dennis asks. “I’m tired of eating groceries.”
The first featured food establishment mentioned in the article notes that the cost of a meal for two is a mere $39 – so, $19.50 per person. A veritable steal!
My mind’s council has a variety of voices and opinions that require my consultation on all but the most trivial of choices. One of them is a notorious penny-pincher, so let me share what came to mind as I reflected on the article on ways to ease “cooking fatigue.”
Did you know that a Center on Budget Policy and Priority analysis found that the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program) allowance for a family of two is $246 per month?
At that rate, said family would be able to afford 6.67 of those $39 meals from the aforementioned eatery with their SNAP funds. Not to complicate choices that seem perfectly innocent with facts, but that’s 6.67 meals per month.
Even at the maximum possible monthly benefit of $374, a couple could only purchase 9.6 of the suggested meals to ease their “cooking fatigue.”
As it happens, I have a number of friends in Cuba and, having traveled there frequently enough, I know the struggle to find sufficient food. Their economic pressures caused by COVID-19 are compounded by the 60+ years of the US embargo of that country.
Cuba previously distributed food rations for all of its citizens, which once provided the minimum of calories, but does so no longer.
(The United Nations General Assembly has, for 29 years running, voted all-but-unanimously to condemn the US embargo. But who’s counting, right?)
Yet we, in the world’s wealthiest nation (truly exceptional), with grocery stores and bodegas stacked high with products of every imaginable choice, are experiencing “cooking fatigue.”
And the solution of purchasing nearly $20 per person takeout meals is being proffered while fully one-fourth of children in the US are not sure where tomorrow’s meals are coming from.
Not to mention that U.S. households spend nearly $37 billion annually on pet food alone – which nearly equals Cuba’s gross domestic product.
To put it bluntly, becoming fatigued by cooking nutritious meals for one’s household and being able to address such feelings by purchasing expensive carryout meals is a result of wealth and privilege.
Hopefully, most readers of my local paper are aware of this truth.
Author’s note: A comedic-satire version of this article can be found here.
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action. He was the founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.