The Five Factors of Fabulous Food

imageIt occurs to me, as I consider the possible topics for a Food Friday entry, that I should spend a few moments considering the criteria for inclusion. After considerable thought–perhaps 20 to 30 seconds at least–I’ve arrived at five factors that allow food to make the cut here.

Cost

Unless you are a trust-fund baby, you probably think sometimes about your grocery budget. That’s why I have been known to buy those $1 Michaelina frozen meals ($.80 with a coupon) that have virtually no redeeming value other than an entire chemistry set of preservatives.

Truly good food–that is, food that will do what you want it to do in your body–is going to cost something. It won’t be the cheapest way you can eat. It’s like when you buy the “cheapest” dog food that your store offers. It might fill up the dog’s bowl, but most of that food winds up lying in piles around your yard rather than nourishing Bowser.

We cannot be afraid to spend good money for good food, but we do, as stewards, need to seek out the most economical ways to eat well. Every Food Friday nominee should be reasonably priced–that is, you should get a lot of bang for your buck. That bang will be found in the other factors.

Upside

Good food isn’t just cheap food. Even though I keep track of my calories to avoid gaining weight, I recognize that calories alone are not the whole story. Food is not a single-dimensional thing. We don’t simply eat calories. We eat fats, carbs, and proteins that all carry calories.

Food worthy of my attention here will be food that has a lot of those positive nutritional elements for a reasonable price. I could eat 500 calories of greasy potato chips or a 500-calorie grilled chicken salad. Obviously the latter has a lot more to recommend it, a lot more upside.

Downside

At the same time that food has a reasonable price and some positive nutritional upside, it can be fouled up by the downside, the negative nutritional factors. Take an example. Today, I ate a footlong Subway Black Forest Ham sub. With banana peppers, onions, spinach, and pickles on it, I felt pretty righteous in my food selection. That sub, even with cheese, comes in at about 620 calories.

Had that sub been what I’d have really preferred, a Spicy Italian, the calorie count would have exceeded 1,000. I would have bumped the protein up from 36g to 40g but at the cost of going from 1600 to 3000mg of sodium and 9 to 48g of fat. Even though that Spicy Italian has a lot of the same upside, it comes at too high a downside for my preference.

Practicality

Maybe you are a devoted foodie, the sort of person who will keep thirteen different types of vinegar in the cabinet to make all the exotic recipes that appear in Food and Wine. That’s all fine, but my assumption is that if food is too difficult, too complicated, or too time intensive, I’m probably not going to make it.

A food could be the most economical, nutritionally ideal, and delicious fare possible. If I don’t ever get it on my plate, then it will do me no benefit at all.

Food Friday items need to be reasonably simple to prepare with ingredients that are easily located and stored. The skills and tools involved in the preparation need to be within the reach of anybody with a kitchen.

If you want to prepare fabulous, exotic recipes, I respect that, and there are plenty of cooking sites online to provide you with ways to use cassava flour and halloumi cheese. Sorry, but this isn’t one of those.

Taste

I’ve scoured the New Testament, and never did I find Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who eat bland and tasteless food.” God gave us taste buds for a reason.

The foods that Penny and I present here in Friday Food entries might not be your cup of tea (or plate of porridge), but they will definitely be something that we enjoy eating.

Food should taste good. If it doesn’t, then we’re writing ourselves off as something less than fully human.