Entitlement and Food: Part One of an 87 Part Series

For a long time now I’ve been meaning to write about something that troubles me in the food community: namely, that sense of entitlement that goes along with fine dining.

I don’t like the fact that when I go out to a nice restaurant and I look around the room everyone looks the same.

I don’t like the fact that poor people in this country eat poorer food and that rich people eat richer food.

I don’t like Rachel Ray. (But that has nothing to do with this essay).

When Jimmy Carter spoke at the law school several months ago, he asked and answered an interesting question. The question was: what about our society, 100 years from now, will seem as repugnant to Americans as slavery does to us today? And he answered: “I think it’s the divide between rich and poor; how rich people keep getting richer while poor people keep getting poorer. It’s a serious problem.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in our food culture.

Think about where and what you eat every day and then think of some place worse. That’s what more people eat every day. Now think of something better. That’s what fewer people eat every day.

What is it that a four star restaurant puts on your plate that a crap restaurant doesn’t?

1) Fresh ingredients;

2) Expertly prepared.

That’s about it. Ambience aside, that’s what you pay for.

So how come we can’t get fresher ingredients to more Americans? That’s half the battle. The expert preparation, that’s a limited resource—only so many people are trained as chefs. But even the worst chef can make a fresh, juicy tomato delicious. Even the most ramshackle kitchen can do wonders with a freshly caught fish. It’s freshness that’s lacking in American cuisine: that’s why the landscape—the McDonalds, the Dairy Queens, the Subways—are so depressing. Everything’s processed, packaged and shipped from God knows where. And what the majority of us are putting in our bodies is a very subtle form of poison—it’s the opposite of God’s bounty. It’s the anti-Eden. It’s corporate America.

What bothers me, you see, is that rich people eat better: plain and simple. They eat better and therefore they live better. I think there’s a connection between what you eat and how you live. Maybe the boon our economy needs is a reinvigoration of the National diet. Maybe I’ll use my internet prowess to start a revolution!

But there’s so much more I want to talk about and it’s already 2:43 am. (I’ve been up all night writing–and finishing!–my 30 page paper). Luckily this is an 87 part series, so I’ll have plenty more opportunity. Just some food for thought. Hopefully it’s fresh.

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