Imagine a world where you could walk up to a takeout counter and get a healthy, tasty dinner for four—say, roast chicken and broccoli, fish curry and potatoes, veggie burgers with sweet potato wedges—all for less than $6 a serving, the average per-person cost of a home-cooked meal in America. Would you do it? Would you do it every day? How about three meals a day?
In last week's New York Times Magazine, Mark Bittman explored the growing world of healthy fast food, with an eye toward evaluating its tastiness. But Bittman still looks at fast food—no matter how healthy —in terms of an occasional stopgap snack—something to eat at the airport, a treat after orthodontic surgery.
I say, if we had truly healthy, truly affordable, truly delicious, truly fast fast food, it could be far more than an occasional thing. It could be a major boon to working families, to single parents, to couples who fight about who's going to fix dinner and who's going to watch the squealing, hungry kids. It could help bring a quicker end to the notorious "second shift" of housework done by working women.
If we had healthy, tasty, affordable fast food, why not eat it every day?
Utopian thinkers have long dreamed that the drudgery of the kitchen could one day be outsourced and professionalized, replaced by efficiencies of scale. Feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, she of "The Yellow Wallpaper" fame, also authored "The Home: Its Work and Its Influences," and "Women and Economics," which argued that it was both misery-producing and inefficient to have every woman do all her own household tasks. She envisioned a world of communal kitchens and childcare, where domestic duties would be done by experts particularly suited to the tasks, while others would do whatever they were good at—writing, bridge-building, hat-making.