Archive for the ‘People eat’ category

food in the white house

December 18th, 2008

I hadn’t really realized until recently that the First Family actually pays for their own meals. I knew that they had a white house chef who sits with the family and plans their meals (I imagine it might be challenging having tasty snacks available for the President at all hours!).
I understand that our founding father’s did not want the first family eating caviar and sipping on champagne on the taxpayers dollar, but they pay for their own food, and the First lady doesn’t get paid for her work!
I understand in times gone by that the position of First Lady was largely ceremonial, but times are changing and with the advent of dynamic couples in the White house, maybe we should reconsider how we approach the First Family.

The first lady should receive compensation for the scrutiny of her and her children and for the relentless demand on her time.  That’s my 2 cents.

Happy Cornless Turkey day

November 22nd, 2008

So I just started reading this blog post from and thought it interesting…

The ripple effect of corn’s being funneled to ethanol production instead of turkey feed has forced at least four huge turkey-processing plants to shut down this year, the government says.

Things will turn bleaker after the holidays, when the industry nationwide will reduce production dramatically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s bad news for U.S. consumers. In 2007, the average American ate 17.5 pounds of turkey, according to the National Turkey Federation.

And this could be the last holiday season for some processors.

Holiday turkeys enjoy a daily feast of corn and soybeans to plump them up just in time for the table. But even soybeans have fallen prey to the push for ethanol.

Soybean production is down in response to demand for corn to make ethanol, which also drives up soybean prices, the USDA says.


The article goes on to lament President-elect Obama’s ethanol policy in a rather dramatic way.  I do actually agree to some extent, but I think Barack Obama had to concede to subsidized corn to get elected.  I think he understands not only the immorality of using food for fuel when it is unnecessary, but also what a huge waste of resources that could better be allocated.  

Fill in your own enthusiastic plan of getting off petroleum dependancy.

November 19th, 2008

So I launched the website I have been working on.  It took me longer to get this project running than it did for me to graduate from Willamette University.  Now the real work commences.

As I was going through the recipes that I filmed with my dad I realized more fully our culinary background…French and filled with fat.  Butter is such a vital part of a classic kitchen.  Chicken stock and Beef stock and salt.

In order to widen the appeal of the site I need to begin focusing on eating habits and food cultures that are outside my norm.  I need to visit more vegetarian fare, more vegan fare, more gluten free recipes.  Fun stuff!

The recipes they are a changing?

November 4th, 2008

The restaurant paradigm has shifted since the current economic miasma took effect in September. Restaurants have had to adapt or go out of business.  Many restaurants are going out of business.

Previously successful brand statements have seen significant losses and have turned to revamping their identity.  The New York Times recently noted that “even restaurants that say they are doing fine…” have started adding “value meals with phrases that evoke the Great Depression.”  Yet folks are still eating.

The lowest quintile of households spent 37.3% of household income on food while the highest only spent 6.6% (  Married couples are still spending 40% of that dining out.  But where are they going?

Somewhere between man’s fight or flight response lies an oasis.  From the first boulangerie in Paris in 1792 people have sought out restaurants for gustatory meditation.  For peace, for a moment outside the “real” world, to allow the body to enjoy the fruits of the earth.  

People are going to restaurants that make them feel good, and have a high perceived value for the plate.  There is always going to be the need for the human animal to spend a little social time away from home.  

In times of worry folks will go where their money is well earned and where the tradition of celebrating the bounty of the earth is kept alive by folks who understand that a restaurant is not merely a business.

long life and health

October 20th, 2008

It strikes me odd that I often hear folks telling me that they enjoyed a meal, but that it didn’t agree with them internally.  There seems to be a disconnect there.

Luigi Cornaro was an Italian back in the 14th century who lived to be a healthy 102 years old.  He basically had two rules to live by:

1. Eat only what agrees with you (listen to your stomach and not your palate).

2. Eat as little as possible (quit eating while still a little hungry)

It seems this counsel has been forgotten in a nation where obesity is the number one preventable cause of death.  It seems to me we are not listening to our bodies anymore.

For more about Luigi Cornaro check out http.//

World Food Day

October 17th, 2008

Sure, grain prices finally fell last month.  But the price of diesel remains high and the cost of total inputs is very high.  The world bank predicts that the amount of malnourished people will rise to 44 million this year.  That’s nearly 1 billion hungry people.  And we grow enough food to feed all the hungry Americans out there.

Here in the United States the folks  who are in the lowest quintile of  wage earners pay 37% of household income for food.  In other words, the folks who are struggling to make it face the difficult choice of cheap processed food and more nutritional raw food.

It seems to me that our agricultural policy is fundamentally flawed.  Much of the price hikes in grain stem from the congressional mandate to grow corn for ethanol production.  The creation of ethanol from corn is more expensive than gasoline, but because of government subsidies appears to be cheaper.

Not only are we investing hugely in the creation of inefficient fuel, but we are forcing lower income families to struggle even more to put food on the table.  It interests me that agricultural policy has not been discussed much by either candidate.

The smell Factor

October 1st, 2008

Ever smell something lovely coming from the kitchen and have long lost memories evoked.  Smell can sometimes trigger memory more so than any of the other senses. Sifting through  the film tapes of my dad cooking I can almost smell those foods bursting through the computer screen.

Dad has gotten old and doesn’t cook much anymore, but the little grand kids running around the house have to have taken in some of those fresh cooked fragrances.  And at least one bite.  Dad’s rule has always been that one must sample at least one bite of whatever we are cooking.

As I develop duckspoon it strikes me that the grand children may never get the chance to eat some of my dad’s cooking.  The only chance they may have is to see the film that I have captured of him cooking his favorite meals for duckspoon, my video recipe encyclopedia.  

If the kids want to, they can cook the meal themselves, coached by my dad from the computer screen. Touching history more intimately than mere reading.  Perhaps then the scent wafting up from the food may trigger old memories and remind them of a kind man who mastered good food.


September 4th, 2008

So this fellow in New York waits tables.  He just published a book explaining that every guest is a dollar sign to him and nothing else.  He mentions that he won’t mess with your food if you don’t mess with him.  Mutually assured destruction, he calls his policy.  Really? Have we gotten so cynical? 

What happened to the sanctity of food and drink.  In arabic the word for blasphemer and someone who withholds water are the same.  I learned a long time ago from a very wise man that any job done well, regardless of its importance, is a job well done.  

It may be as simple as picking up the pancakes in the kitchen window and dropping them off at the table, but I don’t think so.  Every human needs food to survive.  Folks can survive off the processed junk that comes reeling out of the factories, and survival is the lowest common denominator, but isn’t there more to life than survival?   People flourish when eating food made with love.  People enjoy themselves and come away uplifted when eating food served with love.

Sure, some tables don’t want much personality, and some may even be rude.  And that hurts.  Some folks live dirty, mean, closed lives and it hurts to come into contact with those sort of people.  One may receive a crappy tip, which does not help pay for rent or food or electricity, as well as being treated rudely.  But that should not affect the basic, spiritual nature of providing food for another human being.  I may hate you and complain to my associates about what a cheap, low class dog you are, but your food will arrive safely, cooked and served with integrity.  

When you come back next time I will smile and hope that my kindness might elevate the tip from 10% to 11%.

food etiquette

May 29th, 2008

So I am talking to this fellow who I had recently met dining at the restaurant I tend bar at, and he mentions that the liner on the shepherd’s pie intimidated him a little bit.  The shepherd’s pie is served in a crock, or heavy duty bowl, and placed on a dinner plate.  To prevent the crock from slipping around we place a folded white cotton napkin on the plate and the crock rests upon that.

This fellow said the white napkin made him very aware of any spills he committed.  He felt self-conscious.

This fascinated me because, when Adam, the chef/owner, brings food out to pre-shift line up for us to taste, we attack it with fingers, forks and anything handy.  When I am eating with restaurant friends, we eat with our hands as well as the cutlery.  Don’t get me wrong, I know which fork is for dessert and which is for the shellfish, but often times choose not to abide by social eating norms.  I didn’t grow up this way, in fact, my mother taught me and my little brother to eat bannanas with a fork and knife.

I guess it is the appreciation of food that matters: your intimacy to the food.  And maybe it’s the devil-may-care cultural attitude that one gets after working in the food industry for a long time.

good people

May 19th, 2008

I first met Donnie B. while I was waiting tables at Multnomah falls the summers I was home from college.  He was 16 yrs old working on the grounds crew of that high volume tourist destination.  He came inside to the lodge to help out bussing tables on Father’s day.  When he resumed doing grounds work I met with the manager and asked him to move Donnie to the restaurant because he was such a good worker and he would make more money inside.

Donnie B. later came to work with me bussing, then waiting tables at the Black Rabbit at Edgfield with me.  A few years later I asked Donnie to come up to Alaska and tend bar at a restaurant I was managing.  We drove my volkswagon bus back home to Portland together when the partnership crashed and the restaurant was sold.

He has a family now and is doing well managing a restaurant for some local folks.  Donnie’s house recently burned down, and, although I hadn’t seen the kid in years, I felt that something ought to be done.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have kept my connections to the people I worked with at Edgefield back in the mid ’90s.  So I gave a bunch folks notice and we threw Donnie a party and raised some money, gift cards and much needed furniture.  Plus, Donnie was thrilled to see everyone and was touched that so many people cared.

What astonished me about the event was how sincere everyone was when they brought donations and asked if there was more they could do.  It’s not every restaurant I work at that I meet really good people, but at most of them I do.

Something about this sparks my curiosity.  Do computer programmers create relationships with their coworkers? Do nurses?  Do we all create relationships with the people in our career world?  I grew up treasure hunting beneath restaurant booths, and playing fort upstairs in the storeroom with all the banquet chairs and tables.  I easily forget that most people have not been raised in restaurants. Community has always been integrated with my what I do for a living.  Is this unique?