Skip to comments.Let Them Eat Arugula: Trendy food snobbery has soup kitchens going off course
Posted on 05/15/2009 2:43:27 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
The $787-billion economic-stimulus plan signed by Pres. Barack Obama contained an often-overlooked section $150 million for food banks and other organizations that provide food to people in need. Responding to reports that food banks were running out of provisions because of rising unemployment and higher food costs, Congress intervened to help stock the shelves. But taxpayers the people paying for Congresss charitable endeavors should know that not all of these organizations are suffering. Some are even able to throw food away.
Last month, Michelle Obama visited Miriams Kitchen, which serves the homeless in Washington, D.C. She ladled out mushroom risotto to the men and women waiting in line, had her picture taken, and talked about the importance of volunteering to meet the growing needs of families around the country. The trip to Miriams Kitchen was received as a very good thing a very first-ladylike thing to do.
But the first ladys visit wasnt just about the needs of the homeless; it was also very much about the food itself. In a Washington Post article covering the visit, one Miriams Kitchen official explained, If anyone brings us donuts, Steve [the chef] throws them away. . . . It is not good food for our guests. We care too much to give them anything but the best. Steve wants our guests to have the same experience as if they were paying $30 for the meal.
There are a lot of things that are not good for the guests of Miriams Kitchen beginning with being homeless, a situation often caused by drug addiction and mental illness. And while eating a donut would seem to be the least of these peoples troubles, it is certainly a worthy goal for food kitchens to endeavor to provide a healthy meal to those they serve. All the same, that dismissal of donuts betrays an expanding food snobbery that once was confined to food magazines and ladies who lunch, but now is showing up in the unlikeliest of places, like food banks and homeless shelters.
This attitude is not limited to the shelters in our nations capital. A recent meal served at the Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) kitchen in Pacoima, Calif., included pumpkin soup seasoned with browned butter and sage, red-wine barbecue beef on handmade puff pastry, artichoke hearts with meatballs marinara, roasted-garlic-and-turnip mashed potatoes, all topped off with fresh blueberries and sour cream. No wonder these places need a bailout.
What is most worrisome is the counterproductive message Miriams Kitchen is sending to those who donate food: it might get thrown away. No one objects to feeding homeless people healthy and tasty food, and no one wants to return to the Dickensian days of giving the poor gruel laced with bugs. But it is shocking to hear that charities are throwing away perfectly good food at a time when stimulus funds that is, American taxpayers dollars are being used to supplement their food stores.
Millions of Americans are out of jobs, and some are inevitably relying on the occasional trip to the food bank. Should they be advised to stay away from food banks because they give out Velveeta, hot dogs, white bread, and (gasp!) canned vegetables food that doesnt meet some gourmet ideal? Is government supposed to step in to make sure not only that every family has enough to eat, but that what theyre eating is pumpkin soup and mushroom risotto?
The economy is changing the way people shop and eat. Consumers are cutting back on food costs, cooking at home rather than heading out to restaurants, and buying generics over more expensive name-brand products. Sales of pasta are up, presumably because it is cheap and versatile. McDonalds is thriving in this economy the dollar menu has become a real draw. New stars are even cropping up, including 93-year-old YouTube sensation Clara Cannucciari, who reminisces about coming of age during the 1930s and demonstrates some of her mothers Depression-era recipes. Even those glossy food magazines are getting in on the cheap-eats movement, featuring stories on pot pies rather than foie gras. (Isnt it adorable that the editors of these magazines think cutting back means cutting out foie gras and truffles?)
Food banks play an important role in helping those in need. Not only do they provide nourishment, but many also run wonderful programs with a focus on food. One project run out of Washingtons Central Kitchen teaches homeless and unemployed adults how to cook so that they might find work in one of the capitals restaurants.
The staff of Miriams Kitchen should be praised for the work that they do every day to help Washingtons homeless, but they should be careful not to forget their mission: to serve the homeless a good meal. I suspect what warms the hearts of the people waiting in line is less the quality of the risotto and more the promise of a decent meal served by friendly people who want to help them get back on their feet. Turning Miriams Kitchen into a place to get a $30 meal for free misses the mark.
Julie Gunlock, a former congressional staffer, is now a stay-at-home mom.
Perhaps, but a sweet treat is also probably most appreciated. At the meal program my kids and I worked at the "guests" were fond of the small sugar packets meant for coffee. They would store them in their pockets for quick energy (and probably to stave off the worst of hunger pangs) when necessary.
During my undergrad and grad school days, I kept a crock pot full of soup. All leftover veggies and meat went into the pot, and our apartment was a familiar stop for other equally impoverished students.
Thank the Lord for the Salvation Army. My daughters and I were allowed to stop there on a daily basis and pick up a dozen eggs and all the breads we wanted (yes, we were that poor). Once a month we could go through the food pantry. Most of what we received was out-of-date or generic, but we never got poisoned. My daughters were always fed, and I eventually graduated.
Today, they look back on those days with some fondness and sometimes request one of my unique food pantry creations. To them, it's comfort food.
No, I don’t think donuts are slop. I like donuts. Probably too much actually.
Having said that, my comment was directed to the fact that I find it admirable that the soup kitchen attempts to serve really good meals.
But I do find their comments about throwing away donuts to be snooty. A soup kitchen shouldn’t throw away any edible food.
I’ll bet most of the beggars would prefer the donuts. I would. Pumpkin soup?
In our neighborhood, we just had a letter carrier food drive. Guess which families did not donate to the cause? Yup, the one that had Obama campaign signs in their front yard this past fall. Maybe they donated elsewhere, but I kind of doubt it.
I didn’t read the article. Don’t care. Just want to say I love arugula. I planted some today.
It also makes a great risotto.
The impression, though, is that Steve uses fresh shitake, portobellos, or morels, rather than the common supermarket commerical button mushroom.
I do the same thing with the Angelfood Ministries food. One month was beans, one cooked carrots. I donated them right back. Worked for me!
And I doubt it about the Obama people too!
Read the entire diatribe and didn’t see arugula anywhere, what is it food or something else like road apples???
It’s a green that foodies like. Obama made reference to it during the Iowa campaign, talking about how expensive it is at Whole Foods: There are NO Whole Foods Markets in Iowa, period. I suppose West Des Moines or Iowa City might get one, someday...
Apparently a Chicago getto food!!!
Whenever the trendy "get into" something which was formerly the provenance of the more ordinary folks, look out.
Blue jeans used to be about $5.00 a pair at the co-op, when 'discovered', they went up to $50.00+ a pair and became 'designer' items. The run of the mill, ordinary pair of work jeans did not go up as much, but the price doubled.
If they 'discovered' stone soup, you wouldn't be able to afford a rock... -
That went right by me.
We have a shitake log and my husband gathers morels and chanterelles, so I don’t even think of them as expensive, just as seasonal. I can barely tell the difference between the Baby Bellos and the white mushrooms, so I rarely buy the portobellos. DH doesn’t care for the big ones, anyway.
Perhaps those shitakes and morels are donated, though? They are abundant in our local Farmer’s Market, right now.
I guess the point, for me, is that if people are willing to go to the trouble to prepare good food and to pick up the cost, even by donation, for some gourmet ingredients, it isn’t that big a deal. Right now, not all the folks needing some help are lazy or in this situation only by their own action.
Being somewhat more fortunate, for the time being, at least, I can understand the impulse to add something positive to what must be a really depressive situation for many. I have added fresh coffee beans and large blocks of quality chocolate to my own food pantry donations, at times, if I had extra.
I wonder just how long the lines are at the pro-donuts places vs the pumpkin soup, mushroom risotto, and whole-wheat brownies places.
I think they are considered elitist because they are ‘supposed’ to be better for you, the elites remind you that they are, AND they taste gross. Like unsalted peanut butter and whole wheat brownies.
I think you are seeing a re-action to people being told (by those who profess to know more) what is good for them, what they should eat, what they should NOT eat, what they should feel GUILTY for eating, what kinds of light bulbs they should use, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
I personally believe that God gave us things like wine, coffee, and chocolate (and probably donuts) to help us get through life down here, because it is NOT Heaven.
Agreed. I've heard donuts referred to as "Maine soul food."
There's a reason some things are called comfort food.
I wonder if the homeless hit the library computers to check out the menus at the soap kitchens before they go out to eat?
“...God gave us things like wine, coffee, and chocolate (and probably donuts) to help us get through life down here, because it is NOT Heaven.”
I _love_ this!
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