On Friday, MNB took note of a WSJ Magazine interview with Dan Barber, chef and co-founder of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the award-winning restaurant in Pocantico Hills, New York. In my commentary, I wrote:
When it comes to food, I'd much rather be driven by pleasure than expediency. It won't always mean having a Dan Barber-style meal, but life is too short to eat crappy food.
Which led one MNB user to write:
In general I enjoy MNB and have been a long time reader, however, it has been striking me more and more over the past months that while not a big surprise, your comments are often right on for people in your demographic and socio economic group or above but are often demeaning to those millions that have fallen out of the middle class or are struggling to remain in it. You said today that live is too short to eat crappy food and I understand your meaning and context but it struck me immediately that for millions of Americans life is too short because they have not enough food or the only food they have access to is crappy food or the only food they can afford or have been taught to eat is crappy food by your definition.
I realize that MNB is a reflection of your own opinions and can go in any direction you wish it to go and I imagine that most of your readers are employed and solidly in the middle class. However I still think such comments which seem to be coming from you more and more often are insensitive to a very large percentage of people in this country that can in no way eat like you eat, shop where you shop, travel like you travel and enjoy the indulgences that you enjoy. NONE OF THAT MAKES YOU A BAD PERSON OR SAYS YOU SHOULDN'T CONTINUE TO ENJOY THOSE OPPORTUNITIES! My point is simply that not everyone is in the same situation and you seem more and more to either not understand that issue or not care about it.
When such attitudes can be seen by others it affects ones relationship with others which should be a business lesson for us all.
I think this is a fair point, but...
Where I guess I would disagree is that I'm not sure it is significantly more expensive to eat tasty and nutritious food than crappy food. I can go out and buy decent hamburger meat, a tomato, onion and a whole grain bun and cook myself a much better hamburger than I'm going to get at McDonald's …or even (gasp!) In-N-Out. It can be a lot more expensive, but does not have to be. I realize that when a refer to "crappy food," whether in a general sense or when talking about some fast food joint that I don't like, it tends to be a little incendiary and overly glib, and that isn't really my intention. (Okay, maybe being incendiary is a little bit on purpose from time to time…)
I guess it is all a matter of priorities, and I do think that in this country, our priorities when it comes to food are a little misaligned. I grew up in a family where my dad was - and pretty much remains - an "eat to live" person, and I don't think my mom was significantly better. Somehow, through a genetic accident, I ended up being a "live to eat" person, so I am passionate about food. I'm not saying everyone has to be like me, and I do think there is a happy medium.
If my comments somehow are coming across as patrician or condescending, then I'm not communicating very well. I don't think that most people who know me would describe me that way (though I'm certainly capable of sarcasm and condescension, and that beast gets out of the cage more often than it should…). For the most part, I'm just a happy guy, the descendant of Irish peasants, reveling in his good luck, taking none of it for granted, and always on the prowl for a really good meal, beer or wine. And if somehow the image of me on my high horse is coming through, then it is entirely fair to knock me down, because that's not how I think of myself or want to be perceived.
One of the things that Dan Barber said in the story was that "true sustainability is about more than just deciding to cook with local ingredients or not allowing your child to have corn syrup. It's about cuisine that's evolved out of what the land is telling you it wants to grow."
Which led one MNB user to write:
That may be the most fatuous quote I've ever read! Not only does the federal government tell us what to eat, but now we have to listen to "the land" as well? I'm marketing-oriented enough to want to tell the land what I want it to grow.
I think there is a difference between a government mandate and being attuned to what the land is best able to grow at specific times.
I understand why some of what Barber says might strike people as being highfalutin or elitist, but I'm not sure that "fatuous" is the best word to describe his attitude. He seems like anything but foolish to me...
Can we all live and eat his way? Of course not. But he makes provocative points about sustainable agriculture and intelligent eating that are worth considering.
Regarding the mistakes made last week by both CNN and Fox News when they reported that the Supreme Court had overturned the Affordable Care Act, one MNB user wrote:
I think for Fox there was probably an element of wishful thinking in their “mistake” . . .
Responding to the story last week that talked about how retailers have to adapt to priorities and shopping habits of Millennials, MNB user Kathleen Whelan wrote:
I don’t see Millennials faithfully trudging up and down the aisles in their local supermarket on Friday night or Saturday afternoon. It’s going to be really interesting when the Boomers are no longer around to keep the tradition going.
Chiming in on the ongoing conversation about what employees are paid, what is appropriate, and how such policies reflect on a company (like Apple), one MNB user wrote:
How can people expect to have it both ways? This is what people seem to be saying:
I want to be paid as much as possible (as much as I think I’m worth). But, I want to pay as little as possible for everything. Don’t bother me with how those prices stay so low. Underpaying young people because they “idolize” a brand. Hiring illegal immigrants because they’ll work for next to nothing. Buying things from other countries regardless of how they treat or pay their workers.
Let me take up the time of a sales consultant at the big box electronics store and then go home and order it online (or maybe I’ll just stand there and order it on my smart phone) But, of course, I’ll crab about it when I go in the next time and there isn’t someone available immediately when I want help or the person who says she wants to help me is poorly trained and uniformed.
My gosh, Apple announces they are going to pay their people in a way that is a little more in line with the what those employees are generating in revenue and profits and folks worry it’s going to increase the costs of their precious techo-gadgets (the ones they are using in the scenario above) and Wall Street might punish Apple, too? This is the beauty of capitalism?
I’m as guilty as the next person for buying things not “Made in the U.S.A.” I do like sales and can’t say I really want to pay $9/lb. for my tomatoes. I do buy some things online. But, I am trying to do better. I try to find American made options, when available (not always easy). I buy from people - go to the store, avoid self-checkout and reward those who spend their time and expertise on me by spending my dollars with them. Yes, I even go to the bank and post office.
Maybe I’m a dinosaur. But, if I want to keep my job, I honestly believe I have to at least try to help others keep theirs. And, I want those jobs in the U.S.
I think the big point here is a good one. And it actually sort of ties into one of the stories above, about new rules putting front-and-center the pay gap between CEOs and front line employees in public companies.
All these things are connected. What people are paid is directly connected to what they are able to spend. And I know there is a lot more involved - companies have to be profitable, have to be productive, and are under consistent pressure from investors to hit the numbers, beat the numbers, and do it again and again. But I think we sometimes lose sight of broader realities.
It is a good point.
Another MNB user wrote:
In reply to the reader who wrote: "It is not any of your business what Apple pays. That is between them and the employee. Only do gooders want to dictate to them. I assume if someone is underpaid they can leave."
And what is wrong with "do-gooders." Would you rather we all be "do-badders?" Should we all just look after ourselves, grab what we can, take more than we give...and call it a day?
If we didn't have do-gooders, we wouldn't have people concerned about food safety, child welfare, humane treatment of animals, protecting the planet and yes - concerned about the financial welfare of others.
Doing the simple math, if more people made a livable wage, there would be less need for government assistance programs and more people paying their taxes. Even our most conservative friends can't argue with this logic!