The myth of the $1500 sandwich

The myth of the $1500 sandwich

We are on the road, and post I’m writing is not complete yet. As a teaser, here’s the current opening…

I’m sure a lot of you have seen the project (summary here, and the original video here) where the guy chronicled his adventures in making a sandwich mostly from scratch, and counted the expense as six months and $1500. I say mostly from scratch because while he did things like milk a cow to make his own cheese, he didn’t raise the cow or grow its feed, so he didn’t really do things from first steps. Anyway…

It’s a very interesting project, and I’m a big believer in people understanding how the world works and where food and other things come from. So kudos to him for the education he is providing. However it is sad that the takeaway is that growing and preparing your own food is absurdly impractical and the result is just kind of so-so. With the implied takeaway that we are so fortunate that professionals take care of it all for us, so we can get our sustenance neatly wrapped in plastic at the market.

There is so much missing and mistaken!

First, let’s talk about taste. One of the best reasons to grow and prepare your own food is because that is the only way to have the freshest, best tasting stuff. Imagine a chef dressed in a white apron, with a big old chef’s hat, or a peasant Italian grandmother. Or anyone who to your mind represents the ability to turn ingredients into good food. Not necessarily fancy food, but heartwarming and delicious homemade food.

In your mind, ask this person if they’d like to go to the garden to gather heirloom vegetables, and get a hand-smoked cut of meat from the cellar, or if they want to go shopping. Then ask if they’d like a spice mix or would they rather have fresh herbs? The exercise can be continued with bread fresh out of the oven, a dessert of home-canned peaches, and etc.

Yes it takes some practice to make good food from scratch, but there is nothing magical or difficult about it. If you can follow simple instructions on classic recipes, you can in very little time learn to make very good food.

…and this will continue at a later date…

UPDATE on June 22nd, 2016…

I had intended to go through the video and list out all the ways that this deviated from a realistic situation where people grow and make their own food. But I realized two things: (1) I’m trying to be a more positive person, focusing on how great it is to do things the right way, instead of how wrong it is to do things the wrong way, and (2) there really is just one relevant point, and no need to waste a ton of words elaborating on it.

And so here is the point: if you are just preparing food to make one sandwich, it will be very inefficient, and probably not very good. If you grow and prepare more of your own food you can process in bulk more efficiently, and you will get practiced and be able to do a good job of it.

If you pencil out the cost of buying local, heirloom varieties of sustainably produced food, and look at the time it takes to grow it yourself, it’s not a half bad deal. And if you then consider the time that hobbyist gardeners spend, and the health and spiritual benefits of gardening, the hours of “work” are even more substantially reduced, and then it becomes extremely economical. Just looking at time and money, it makes sense to grow your own food.

And that doesn’t even include the very real financial benefits of increased health.

And of course, not all that glitters is gold. Intangibles glitter, too.

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