Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Cost of Calories and Kitchen Remodels

My writings about food this week have put me in mind of an earlier poem about people who remodel their kitchens, but don't really cook in them. I've posted it below.

I wonder if this poem still works, now that the economy is in tatters. People probably can't get those loans necessary to do a glamorous kitchen remodel. Many people are returning to their kitchens, since they can't afford to eat out.

Or are they? Maybe people aren't eating at fancy restaurants as much, but a fast food meal is still astonishingly cheap. It's no wonder that so many of us have gained weight. One time, I thought about those value meals, which were around $6 at the time and contained 1,000-2,000 calories in one tasty meal. I thought about my farming ancestors (of just a few generations ago) and how much work it would take them to end up with a meal of 2,000 calories: the planting, the animal husbandry, the cooking, the clean up. Think about the effort to make french fries, for example. No, not the french fries that start with a bag from the freezer, but the kind that start with a pile of potatoes. Most of us would never eat french fries if we had to make them ourselves from potatoes.

And fast food is still cheap, and I can't make that food for that low price myself. If I'm looking simply at cost, it makes sense to abandon my kitchen and eat in the car. But as we know, there's more to food and meals than cost.

So, here's my poem. It was first published in Willow Review in 2007, and it will also be part of my new chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents.

Kitchen Remodels

In a culture that doesn’t cook,
homeowners remodel their kitchens.

Their budget for appliances
would feed a third world country for at least
a week. They need restaurant capacity
refrigerators, freezers, and stoves,
even though they won’t stock
any food. They will pay for a forest’s
worth of cabinets. Granite countertops gleam,
then gather dust.

They’ll store designer
china, along with stoneware for every day,
while every day they eat off of paper
plates, or out of wrappers, greasy
papers cluttering the car.

They’ll gather in the blue gloom
of their individual televisions to eat fast food
while watching celebrity chefs
on distant food networks.

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