I bought a sandwich today. It came on a square roll dotted with poppy and sesame seeds. The roll was crunchy on the outside but fresh and yummy on the inside. I got honey turkey on it. I picked my own accompaniments: tomatoes, lettuce, salt and pepper and mayonnaise. It cost $5.97, which may not seem like much for those who work in or around a large metropolitan city, but here on the Island, where every deli has a $4.99 hero special, that’s a little pricey — especially since it was just a small roll.
I really thought about my purchase. Yes, I could buy a half-pound of turkey, a head of lettuce and a tomato and make it myself. But here’s the thing: It just tastes better when the nice deli guy makes it for me. He uses far more turkey than I’d use. He has a perfect amount of mixed lettuce greens to balance the bright, thinly cut tomatoes. He sprinkles just the right amount of salt and pepper on it, too. The rolls come from the in-house bakery. I’ve often sat there and watched the pastry chef mixing up a new batch of something fluffy, seeing the eggs and the flour go into the large mixing bowl.
You know that cheap $4.99 hero? It’s not as good. The lettuce is iceburg; there are no leafy greens to be seen. The rolls come out of a big bag. They weren’t freshly baked the same morning. Even the turkey seems of a lesser quality.
So, was my sandwich worth the extra $1 or so? Absolutely. I put less food into my body, but the food that went in was high quality. I’m lucky I can make this decision. There are an awful lot of people out there who, because of finances, have to make an even harder choice: buy something off the $.99 menu at some fast food joint or skip lunch all together.
And what’s in that $.99 menu choice? Let’s take a random item off the McDonald’s menu: The 360-calorie McChicken sandwich. Here’s what’s in it:
McChicken Patty: Chicken, water, salt, sodium phosphates. Battered and breaded with: bleached wheat four, water, wheat flour, food starch-modified, salt, spices, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and cottonseed oil with mono -and diglycerides, egg whites, wheat gluten, paprika, dextrose, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium bicarbonate), garlic powder, yeast, natural flavor (plant source), extractives of paprika. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
Regular Bun: Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.
Mayonnaise Dressing: Water, soybean oil, distilled vinegar, maltodextrin, food starch-modified, enzyme modified egg yolk, salt, sugar, xanthan gum, mustard flour, potassium sorbate (preservative), lemon juice concentrate, polysorbate 80, natural flavor (animal source), calcium disodium EDTA to protect flavor, beta carotene (color).
All those ingredients for $.99? And you know they must be making some sort of profit. How can this be? And an even more important question: Why would you want any of that in your body or — even worse — your child’s body. (And, BTW, buying McDonald’s may not even be cheaper. At least that’s what another smart blogger found out when she figured out how much it costs to cook at home versus buying McDonald’s for a family of four. Scroll down past the yummy-sounding recipe if you click through…)
Anyway, digressing as always: I won’t stand here and condemn anyone for eating their McChicken sandwich because that’s all they could afford. (I will make a wish that some day soon everyone will be able to have access to healthy, fresh foods regardless of their income.) But for anyone who can afford to make a different choice I ask: Aren’t you and your health worth the extra couple of bucks?
This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays, an awesome campaign to get people thinking about and eating real food. Would love to hear about your lunch. What did you have? Was it worth the time and effort?