This, by Amanda Mull for The Atlantic, is brilliant: Don’t Believe The Salad Millionaire.
It’s about the CEO of a salad chain for affluent customers. Said CEO claimed that the solution to COVID wasn’t masks or vaccinations: it’s salad. Americans are too fat, too lazy, and it’s their fault if they get sick.
As Mull writes:
that salad is the ideal medicine for an incredibly contagious respiratory virus might not be a trustworthy argument coming from a literal salad millionaire.
But there’s a wider point here.
More interesting, though, is how telling Nemanâ€™s salvational ramblings are of a harmful conviction about health that Americaâ€™s wealthiest, most privileged class long ago laundered into common sense: that people who, unlike them, end up sick or poor have simply refused to make the right choices and help themselves. Speculating that Americaâ€™s health-care crisis could be solved if everyone just had to eat some salad is not only lazy and wrong; itâ€™s perpetuating an attitude that is making healthâ€”and the pandemicâ€”worse for millions of people.
Although this is a story about the US, it’s just as relevant here: our media and political class has the same contempt. But despite the constant narrative of the undeserving poor, poor people don’t make bad food choices because they are stupid or greedy. They make bad food choices because they’re forced to. Poor people make bad choices because they’re poor.
Research has shown that poor people know what theyâ€™re missing from their diets, and they want quite badly to have those things.
Food is expensive. It’s expensive to buy good quality ingredients. It’s expensive to buy cookware and kitchenware. It’s expensive to pay for the energy to heat your food. And it’s expensive in terms of time: time spent preparing, time spent cooking, time spent shopping, time spent getting to and from the shops â€“ shops that in many cases are far away from where many poorer people live.
I love to cook, but I’m doing it in a kitchen full of privilege: I can afford to pay my rent, cover my utility bills and still have enough money left to buy good quality ingredients.Â I have enough free time that I can afford to spend hours messing around with recipes I don’t know if I’ll even like, and I can make things for the kids in the knowledge that if they don’t like it I can simply whip up something else or get a takeaway. I can afford to waste food. These things are luxuries denied to many people.
I’m reminded of Terry Pratchett’s story about poor people’s boots:
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
As Mull writes:
The people who benefit most from this belief system tend to be those who have parlayed personal advantages into even more enormous personal wealth; they were born on third base and swear they hit a triple.