by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I agreed with Julie Gunlock's article. My mother grew up in an Italian family on the Lower East Side of New York and since they didn't have enough money to buy much meat, their meals consisted of pasta, sauce, soup, salad and occasional seafood - along with peppers & eggs/potatoes & eggs and bread. She made many of these same meals when my brothers and I were growing up and many of them remain family favorites. What is wrong with a bowl of good vegetable soup (minestrone), or a filling bowl of stew? My father always said a meal he dreamed about when hungry was sunny side-up eggs, ham and toast. The above are all good, nutritious, filling and definitely not full of pretentious ingredients; I think any homeless person would be grateful for (and enjoy) any of them.
There is nothing wrong with simple foods, but many "fancy" foods are not very expensive. What is wrong with serving more extravagant food occasionally if the costs are minimal? Another reader sees this:
Gunlock really misses the point. Mushroom risotto is a cheap, easy and healthy meal to make. Pumpkins are most commonly thrown away after halloween or turned into sugary pies. They're cheap and healthy. Adding a few seasonings to cheap food turns it into something special at little cost. Just because some restaurants can charge $30 for it doesn't mean it costs that much to make.
One more reader:
My husband worked many years for a high-end restaurant and has told me time ans again that the smallest part of a restaurant's expenses is the actual food. Most of the money goes to labor - aren't the people working at soup kitchens volunteers? I recently heard about a contest on the radio (NPR) where cooks from 4-star restaurants vied to see who could prepare a meal for a family of 4 for the least amount of money, at least $10 or less. I heard some really astounding entries including entree, main course and dessert, for under $10. And if you're preparing larger quantities, the cost per serving goes down.
Talk about food snobbery. Apparently Ms. Gunlock thinks that soup kitchens have to serve spaghetti and sloppy joes every day to be deserving of government funding. Has she taken into account that healthy, balanced meals help save on health care costs in the long run? And that people are more likely to eat and benefit from healthy food choices when they are presented as attractive, well-prepared meals?