Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite enthusiastic about a meal that takes minimal time to prepare and is inexpensive. But as you might have guessed, we avoid fast food restaurants like the plague. Well, maybe not to that extreme. But we do try to plan carefully to avoid having to dine out at a venue whose quick-serve meals come at the expense of quality. (To prove we’re human, I will divulge our once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence: Five Guys Burgers & Fries).
But just because we avoid fast food restaurants doesn’t mean we avoid food that is fast. Case in point: Indian curries. I am loving these micro-batch curries that Disha of Disha’s Kitchen prepares and sells at our local farmer’s market. She lovingly creates a handful of sauces each week in small batches using fresh ingredients, and for $10 you can get a container of curry (in fantastic combinations like cilantro-mint and sweet-and-savory creamy sauce with almonds and raisins), a baggie of basmati rice, and relevant spices and seasonings.
All I have to do is add my own meat and vegetables, follow her cooking instructions, and buh-bam! Fresh, delicious food that is ready in about 30 minutes. Oh, and did I mention it’s affordable? $10 might seem like a lot upfront for a jar of sauce, but when you think about it, Indian curries often contains dozens of ingredients that are carefully slow cooked over several hours. Really, this is a very reasonable price, considering all the things you would need to buy to make a curry from scratch. Let’s take a look at the price breakdown shall we?
Sauce, Rice, Seasonings: $10
1 lb. chicken thighs (our meat of choice): ~$4
TOTAL: $14 divided by 4 (we got 4 servings out of it) = $3.50 per person
…which can be less than the average cost for a meal at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. (And lest I forget to state the obvious: my stomach will be happier with my meal here).
Even if you were really hungry and decided to eat two servings worth, that’s still only $7/person which is comparable to the “nicer” fast food chains like Panera.
Don’t have access to Disha’s great stuff where you are? I’ve also had good success with the Patak’s brand curry sauces in a jar which you may be able to find in the international aisle at your supermarket. Seeds of Change also has a few sauces available in specialty groceries.
Oh, and here are a couple more hints to stretching your dollar to make this your weekly “fast food” fix: First, buy your meats in bulk. I buy the family size packs of chicken thighs (or breasts if there is a sale) which often come with 3-4 pounds of meat. I freeze them in 1-pound portions by wrapping 1-ish pounds of meat in foil and placing in a freezer bag. Second, if you add vegetables to your dish, use veggies that are in season or that you already have on hand. Today I chopped up some of the lovely asparagus I found at the market and threw it into my sauce at the last minute. I usually have onions and potatoes on hand and could easily slice these up to add a bit more substance to the sauce.
I hope you don’t take offense at this post. I don’t want to seem like I’m being judgmental or something. Most of us eat out (yes, even fast food) once in a while. It’s. OH. KAY. But I do wonder sometimes how many people just happen to be in a bit of a fast food rut and are secretly (or not-so-secretly?) looking for something that is equally convenient, but healthier, fresher, and more nourishing. If this describes you, won’t you give Indian curries a try?
Our busy lifestyles today nag us and convince us that we’re too tired to cook or that a convenient meal is just a drive-thru away. (By the way, our version of fast food is ready in less time than it would take me to drive to, through, and from the nearest drive-thru restaurant). Whether you choose to make a small change in your own lifestyle, or be more public about it (Dear Jamie Oliver, I love your passion. For food activism. What did you think I meant?), may my
voice words be one more push urging you to find the strength and confidence to do it yourself. I think your body (and your wallet) will thank you.
Is this a “food justice” topic that is motivating to you? What foods do you cook fast when you just have to get dinner on the table? Are you an experienced Indian curry connoisseur? Or perhaps a newbie? Discuss! Leave a comment with your thoughts on these issues.
Note: Disha didn’t ask me to write this. I’m not sure that she knows who I am beyond an enthusiastic fan who shows up at the market early before she runs out of sauces. I just wanted to give a little shout out to a local foodie who is doing fantastic things. Thanks, Disha!