A "poor" diet: The height of luxury?

Irony is a funny thing. Just a generation ago, the height of luxury was to be able to enter a grocery store and buy produce from around the world, and stock up on prepared foods that you needn't cook yourself.

While this still exists (especially in the prepared food section of Whole Foods) a new luxury has emerged. It's the practice of eating as if living in want - the way the struggling class used to eat when food was scarce.

person holding homemade sourdough

How is this a luxury? Some who are comfortable (if not rich) now have the luxury of time. And this time allows them to cultivate foods the slower way. While ironic, there are many benefits to eating this way. It tends to more sustainable, and the food is undoubtedly more fresh.

Below are some examples of a "poor" diet being the height of modern luxury:

home gardener hold a handful of vegetables

Kitchen garden & raising chicken

Some families plant tomatoes, basil and oregano for pizza gardens, which is a great way to teach children where science meets diet. But the time that it takes to cultivate, weed and water the kitchen garden was something that families did long ago out of necessity. Growing your own food saved money, as did raising your own chicken. Fresh eggs delivered daily in your own back yard meant only a small investment in chicks, which would yield fresh eggs for about four years. 

Sticking to foods that are local, and in season

While it is true that we can wander into a grocery store in mid-winter and purchase spongy cubes of watermelon that have been shipped in from god knows where, the trend nowadays is to eat foods that are in season and grown locally. This is the way people were forced to eat long ago, and while it limited their diet in general, you can't beat watermelon that's fresh from a nearby farm. 

chef foraging for food


Endless food articles praise emerging chefs, who forage for local herbs, mushrooms and roots. Incorporated into seasonal dishes, diners make reservations to take advantage of the fleeting flavors. But years ago, poverty drove people to forage for food in order to survive, trekking for days through a forest and sleeping under the stars. 

Preserving and canning

Canning is now a hobby, and we can line our shelves with colorful jars of red pepper and green beans. Years ago, people gardened and canned their foods to get nutrients through a harsh winter. Nowadays, we give them away as presents or pop them open for a charcuterie board, knowing that a fresh-picked version of it sits in a grocery store not too far away. 

person baking bread on a big floured table

Baking bread

Sourdough was the scene-stealing co-star of the pandemic, and our feeds filled up with those baking their own bread. Baking in general has taken off like never before. Years ago, bread was made with more fresh ingredients and not mass-produced in factories. And since it was labor-intensive, it was more costly. Families in need often baked their own bread to save on their bakery bills. 

 backyard gardeningin a greenhouse

Accepting certain restrictions for the greater good is a choice, as is the demand for time and labor to cultivate a more sustainable diet. I'm not sure whether our ancestors would be proud, or think we've lost our minds. After all, life was harder for them. But it is undeniable that it produces a fresher diet and a greater attunement to nature.

Would I do it myself? I'll never know, because I don't have the time. 

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