Wingding: Readers discuss our dinner-party experiment

 FEATURE, OCTOBER 7, 2010
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A CHICKEN...
She's a believer: Really liked the article ["Tastes Like Chicken," Brooke Foster]. I usually don't have a lot of time to devote to grocery shopping; however, your article did confirm my prior belief that when shopping (for anything) you have to shop around not only to compare price, but quality. It would have also been interesting to see how Sam's Club or Costco would fare in this experiment — especially regarding their meat.
The Great, via the Internet

All we need is food: Wow. Just when I convinced myself that the RFT was just another brain-dead, TV-mentality, lefty rag like the Post and the Globe and the Beacon, a great article like this comes along. Perhaps the only thing the left and the right can agree upon in the post-American world is food. I am going to the farmers' market to try this chicken.
Doctor B, via the Internet

Captain Obvious weighs in: What a shocker — Whole Foods (in many categories) has better food than Schnucks! Is there anyone who has shopped at both that didn't know that? What really blew my socks off was the realization that not everyone can afford to shop at Whole Foods — who knew? You finish (almost) by saying, "The argument becomes not just one of taste, but of health and equality." Where in your article did you test for health? I grant you that a rotten chicken is unhealthy. But you can buy a "non-rotten" (is that a word?) chicken at Schnucks. As for "equality" — your angst seems to have knocked you off the rails there. Oddly enough, I've been told social justice tastes like chicken.
BBF, via the Internet

A starting point: This is a very interesting article, and I would recommend pairing it with the documentary Food, Inc. for a full course on food insight.

However, as interesting as this article is, the experiment isn't a real world depiction of what the average home cook would do. If your tomatoes look icky or you can't find chevre, you modify your menu. If you don't know the baking basics of creaming and measuring, your cake will suck no matter how much your ingredients cost.

Second, in my experience, in order to get the best food at the best price, you have to shop around. I've seen heirloom tomatoes that are bruised and rotting at farmers' markets, and I've gotten unreal hot-house, on-the-vine tomatoes from my local big-box store and Costco. I know that I prefer a particular store brand of Caesar dressing to the national brands. This is the downside of living in a country where we have so many choices.

Finally, I agree with the premise of the article that fresh, local food should be more widely available — both location-wise and cost-wise. It's healthier for consumers (less preservatives, more nutrients), local farmers (more demand for their products) and the environment (less energy used to transport the goods). But this has to start somewhere. My hope is that those who can afford the sometimes higher price of local food will put their money where their mouths are (literally) and ask their chain stores to bring in local food so that eventually, it will be available to everyone at a reasonable price.
I Shop Around, via the Internet

Try doing it on food stamps: I am a dollar-conscious foodie, and have experienced the difficulty of making a delicious and healthy meal on a food-stamp budget. It is complicated to put together the best ingredients when shopping at one place, and it's often impossible to really do a dish justice using ingredients from big chains and any store with "Save" in its name. I have noticed that many grocery stores are offering more international-cuisine ingredients, but the price of shipping included seems to put them into a higher cost category. I have to shop around, and seeing as how I use public transportation, it costs the same to go to Dierbergs for the best organic whole-cane sugar at a reasonable cost as it does to go to Soulard on a Saturday for the best choices in fresh meat and local vegetables. The quality is most important, because nutrition is the best way to maintain health and avoid disease.
Grendl, via the Internet

 
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