Monday, May 11, 2009

The 7 buck dozen eggs

Lately it's occurred to me that my narrative is starting to sound a lot like my grandfather. You know the "When I was your age that cost a nickel!" lecture. The one I always rolled my eyes at and thought, yeah, but that was twenty years ago Gramps, get with the program.

Now, flash forward, as I go about my day to day life, I notice something. Stopping in at a favorite cafe that I've been going to for 15 years and being shocked that a very small amount of Bok Choy, a modest amount of Mac n' Cheese, and an Ice Tea cost $18! Or the other day, at a coffee shop near Gramercy Park, a modest sized chocolate chip cookie cost $3.25! You can sort of dismiss this by saying "oh well it's an expensive neighborhood and their rent must be insane. "

Then it started to dawn on me that for years I bought my eggs at Knoll Crest farms and their eggs, depending on which you buy have hovered in the 3-4'ish buck range (large brown dozen $4.25 ish). And still, when I buy eggs from Saxelby's Cheese they are under $4. At Whole Foods, if you buy organic eggs, they again hover around $4.

So now seemingly all of a sudden I see eggs for 5, 6 or even 7 bucks a dozen! Wow. I'm not sure I have much to say about this other then I can't believe an item that was always "cheap" and the basis for so much baking, like Angel Food cake, ice cream, pasta and more has become almost as expensive as buying a chicken, which would after all be an entire meal. Since when did we all of a sudden start living in a city/economy where our choice, by price, is eat chicken or have an omelet? They used to be two very distinct things, people who ate eggs for dinner were, to my mind, usually old ladies on a budget.

Sure, as Michael Pollen points out in his book "The Omnivores Dilemma" we have to look beyond the price point of any given item and try to suss out what the real cost is. Does the 2 buck dozen in a Styrofoam box really cost less? Given that that dozen supports factory farming and all the pesticides, GMO feed, torture etc that goes with it? If you don't have the money to spend then it's not much of a question, as I think it is hard for anyone living in this country to start thinking about eggs as a luxury item. It's also hard to try and reach those people and explain that in the long term, taxes, health care cost, enviromental costs that those 2 buck eggs aren't maybe such a deal and that you pay for them in other ways.

Ultimately it feels like a shift is happening. All our notions are being challenged about what is affordable and what is of value. The trick is to convince the average consumer that they can buy a cheap piece of steak and a potato for 7 bucks, certainly you could have a feast at a fast food hambuger joint for that, so why buy a dozen eggs?

There is a bunch of answers to which I could proceed, but I think if you are here reading this blog you hardly need to hear me go on about it again. The answer to me is to searchout the best value and buy from the farmer who sells the 4 buck eggs not the 7 buck eggs. Neil and I have all but stopped buying bread as I am making it so often now myself. A thick cut slice of homemade bread, toasted, buttered and salted, and topped with 2 eggs scrambled with some more salt and some pepper is to me preferable to any of the above mentioned alternatives as to how to spend $7 of your food budget. And if you do the math 12 eggs eaten in meals of 2 each gives you 6 meals.

All of this to say I don't really have much of an answer to this conundrum, the economy is in free fall, we live in a very expensive city and the first thing to go up when things are down is food prices.

I never thought I'd say this, but as I age and worry about how I will be able to take care of myself in my old age, should I reach it, I realize that the goal is to live in a way that I am as self sustainable as possible.

Yesterday I spent the better part of my afternoon working on my garden plot at my community garden at La Plaza Cultural. Can I just say it beats any anti depressent I have ever taken for effectiveness in raising my spirits and giving me excercise. If you are ever in the East Village on a weekend, come by! It's a wonderfulplace to hang out. Last year we installed a bunch of public raised beds in a sunny spot and I think it's time for me to think about planting some tomatoes and herbs in one of them, to subsidize our CSA deliveries which start in June.

Now if only I could figure out a way to get me some chickens.

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