There's an old saying that says you can pick any two out of fast, cheap, and good, but never all three. If you've ever ordered fast food, you probably understand what I mean. Today, I'll be starting a new cooking column for TheAtlantic.com based on three slightly altered adjectives: sustainable, cheap, and delicious. Before we head into the kitchen in the next few weeks, I want to talk a little bit about why.
Recently on The Atlantic's Food Channel, Chloé Rossetti described her undergraduate home's answer to the question "How will we eat in a city without a central supermarket?" (Hint: guerrilla grocery trips to scavenge from dumpsters.) Her tale was impressive, but I'm sure that many, many more 20-somethings who have read books by Michael Pollan or watched the documentary Food, Inc. are struggling with a much more basic question: "What will we eat?"
If you aren't familiar with the landscape of sustainable agriculture, here's some basic background. Critics of sustainable eating are quick to condemn organic grocery stores and local farmers' markets as the territory of the affluent: Heirloom tomatoes can go for as high as eight dollars a pound early in the season and most salad greens are four or five dollars per quarter-pound, to say nothing of the budget-breaking price of fruit. And that's not including the price of local eggs, raw milk, organic meat, and on down the grocery list. Even CSAs (for the uninitiated: CSA stands for community supported agriculture, in which you pay a flat fee for deliveries of vegetables over the course of a farmer's season) can require a prohibitively high initial investment. How is a person or a family on a budget to manage this confusing and pricey landscape?