Things are tough all over—except in the food pages. At least that’s the theory of Sara Dickerman (a CHOW contributor), whose essay “The Extravagant Gourmets” in Slate takes the food press to task for ignoring budget cooking information in favor of touting high-end ingredients like pricey olive oils or Iberian ham, and calls for a mainstream voice to “marry the pleasures of the table with the reality of a reduced budget.” (Too bad she didn’t see Tuesday’s Oregonian food section, which was devoted to strategies for cutting your grocery budget.)
Along the way, she entertainingly chronicles the history of budget food writing, from 1890’s Practical Sanitary and Economic Cooking Adapted to Persons of Moderate and Small Means to M. F. K. Fisher’s iconic How to Cook a Wolf, which she notes features, among its subsistence fare, a section of rich, expensive recipes to dream about. That impulse may be one of the reasons why so few food writers want to cover the specifics of cooking with beans and powdered milk: Like the glitzy, Depression-era films of Busby Berkeley, maybe reading about truffled mashed potatoes and redolent French cheeses is providing food for the soul instead of the body.
Still, there are some great resources out there for budding home economists, including several recent cookbooks mentioned in Dickerman’s story, as well as Web wonders like Hillbilly Housewife.