An interesting article in the NY Times today attempts to answer the question, "is junk food really cheaper than healthy food?".
For what it's worth, the author maintains that the answer is no, although I believe his argument is a little on the shaky side. His logic resides entirely on the notion that FAST FOOD is what is doing everyone in, rather than processed food in general. While I grant that a head of lettuce is in fact cheaper than a bag of potato chips, that is not where I believe the issue lies.
To me, it's a matter of palette (or to be more precise, the lack thereof) and frankly, a bit of laziness. The latter being a point on which the author and I agree.
Regarding the first point, it's been my experience that our food in the United States is somewhat reflective of our personality in a couple of ways. We desire instant gratification for the most part and the idea of breading your own bits of fish pales in comparison to the thought of a guy in a yellow rain slicker making them magically appear before us. (Fair disclosure, I eat these all the time. They're yummy.) And while occasional indulgence is cool, overdoing it can be painful. We get our kids into the act all the time too by caving in and making little fried hot dogs instead of the turkey sandwich we doubt that they'll eat. They normally don't because, ahem, we often give up trying when they complain the first time. We also tune everything up with something that is either syrupy sweet, or horribly salty. By the time we're adults, we'd absolutely kill for a plate of fries covered in ketchup than we would a plate of sushi. Not that everyone needs to love sushi by any means. My point is that we enjoy the bland processed safety of Ore Ida and shun many things that are different. Newsflash: Broccoli isn't better than a plate of chili cheese fries. It just isn't. But I eat it anyway.
As for the second point, cooking is work, man. I get the that more than you know. This is where the author and I agree with the notion, but disagree with the execution. He says that people will just go to McDonalds. I say the decision is made well before you even leave the store. The options you have at the supermarket are not always that great if you are a) poor and b) being a little lazy. It's cheap as hell to bust out the Hamburger Helper or the Tony Chechere's to save a little time. The problem is that you might as well inject some of it directly into your ass cheeks, because that's where it's gonna end up.
I don't want to wax too academic. Mostly because I really want another Bass. Not the fish, the beer. (That's what we call hypocrisy by the way.) But it seems to me like we, as a nation, would be just a bit healthier if we'd do two things: expand our horizons and sacrifice 30 minutes of Dr. Phil to make a decent meal that didn't consist of Ramen Noodle and sliced Slim Jims.
Of course who knows, after a few more beers that might seem like a good idea. I'll make sure to post a review.