Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Service of “I Couldn’t Live Without It” Until I Did Post Pandemic

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

There were plenty of things I thought were essential to my happiness and survival that have changed since the pandemic.

Meat

I am not a vegetarian. I usually eat a traditional dinner consisting of a little meat or fish, potato or rice and a vegetable. But I hesitate to pay $6.50-$15/lb for garden variety hamburger. So I will be eating a lot of other things until prices readjust if ever they do.

Photo: seriouseats.com

Unfortunately my diet isn’t healthy if you consider the fettuccine Alfredo and ice cream that lace my dinner menus instead. I sometimes divide a pound of Alaskan salmon into four meals while ignoring the price because I know it’s healthy.

Work Colleagues

Since March I’ve not seen the people who share office space with me. I love going to an office. I enjoy the camaraderie and I’ll miss the banter. Like many who aren’t comfortable sharing closed space these days with others for long periods I’ve just moved my office home.

Large Handbag, Lucky Star

Because I no longer go to an office, a friend’s house, out for a meal or to meetings I don’t need to leave home with the paraphernalia I’ve deemed essential my adult life that required a pounds-heavy handbag to hold makeup, fat wallet, pens and so forth and often a tote bag as well.

I don’t miss a handbag though I’ve run into trouble without it.

  • Early on in the pandemic I pulled out my phone from my jeans pocket with clumsy plastic gloves on and my credit card came out too. The black card fell on the dark brown carpet by the elevator in my apartment. I didn’t notice until I went to pay for groceries. A neighbor returned it. Two weeks ago I was on an empty street and found a $20 bill in the gutter. I am sure that bill came out of the owner’s pocket just as my credit card did.
  • To avoid a reprise I graduated to a small purse [photo above, center] just big enough to hold essentials: credit card, keys and a little cash. You may have read my Facebook posting this week about the wonderful New York Department of Transportation construction workers who returned it to me. I thought I’d slipped it into one of the giant TJ Maxx bags loaded with groceries and planted on my shoulders but instead, it landed on the street. I attribute this mistake to a mask that acts like a horse’s blinders, a sweaty hand in gloves that remove feeling from my fingers and my attention focused on social distancing and what’s going on around me.

 Have you realized that you can live without anything you once thought was imperative?

Photo: Pinterest.com

Service of Food as Art

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Food is missing from too many American tables and in the short-term, between record unemployment and Covid-19’s impact on prices, the appalling situation promises to get worse.

Simultaneously two gallerists attempting to keep an oar in the water while galleries are closed worldwide during the pandemic selected to promote a 1990 installation by Cuban-born visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres involving a cookie.

Hunger in America

According to Thomas Franck of cnbc.com writing in mid-May “The Labor Department reported Tuesday that prices U.S. consumers paid for groceries jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month pop since February 1974. The spike in supermarket prices was broad based and impacted items from broccoli and ham to oatmeal and tuna.

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

“The price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category rose 4.3%, fruits and vegetables climbed 1.5%, cereals and bakery products advanced 2.9%, and dairy goods gained 1.5%.”

Lauren Bauer writing in the brookings.edu blog reported a 460 percent increase in mothers who said the children in their households 12 years and under “were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Interactive Cookie Installation

It is against this background that Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner),” is being installed at 1,000 sites around the globe. It is promoted/resurrected by Andrea Rosen, show curator and director of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation who is partnering with German art dealer David Zwirner. Sarrah Cascone wrote about the exhibitions on artnet.com.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner)” Photo: artnet.com

The original installation had 10 thousand fortune cookies piled up in the corner of a room. Today there will be from 240 to 2,000 cookies featured in the homes, museums or public places that Rosen selected via her choice of participants. Viewers are encouraged to help themselves to a cookie.

Cascone wrote: “The owner needs to follow specific but open-ended parameters in manifesting the work, which can be installed in more than one place at a time—making it perfect for our current moment, when much of the world is under indefinite lockdown.”

The curators, artist’s friends and colleagues invited to participate supply their own cookies. Rosen said “halfway through, everyone has to regenerate it to the original size. So everyone has the opportunity to experience both the potential loss within the piece, and also the notions of rebuilding and regeneration that is a very important part of the work.”

Rosen, told Cascone: “This is one of the only works in the world that can travel and be accessible right now. There’s so many people right now trying to do incredible online projects. Felix can actually afford people a physical experience with an artwork—and not just looking at it, but thinking about it, and their involvement and what it means to them.”

My post isn’t about the validity of the installation: It passed the test within the art community. However the timing strikes a false note for me for involving food in a frivolous way at a time when it is missing from so many tables. What do you think?

Even if the piles were made up of basic comestibles accessible to people needing help, the fact that they would have to reach down on the floor for the food and take only one or two packages lacks respect for the situation’s severity. Your thoughts?

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

Little Things Mean A Lot II

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

I recently wrote about personal gifts from friends and family that cheered the recipients during the pandemic in the first “Little Things Mean A Lot” post. I’ve also noticed efforts of citizens who take advantage of their contacts and/or talents to create popup fundraising opportunities. Plugging in to such efforts makes it simple for the rest of us to do a little something that collectively can mean a lot in an otherwise helpless period given strictures of social distancing and increasing sparsity of disposable income. A plus: you know that your donation goes directly to those in need.

It’s not surprising that the initiatives I selected involve donations of food.

The manager of my apartment building and his wife make 100 sandwiches a week for “One Sandwich at a Time” and invited tenants to join them. He also launched a food drive. Tenants drop off shopping bags full of groceries in the lobby. [I took the photo above early the morning after his announcement]. I see a hearty number of different bags every time I go downstairs. The drive is scheduled to last until the end of the month.

Every other Saturday night from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Julian Gordon and Tim O’Hara produce streaming fundraising concerts on Facebook–An Evening with Tim and Julian–to benefit The Sharing Place, a food pantry in Jersey City. They have raised some $2,200 in two concerts. Guests joined them on May 2; some performed songs that Julian wrote. The next concert is scheduled for May 16. Link to their Facebook page for updates.

Do you know of grassroots efforts that support food pantries or other ways people are amplifying what they can give to help those adversely impacted by the pandemic?

Julian Gordon, left, and Tim O’Hara, “An Evening with Tim and Julian.”

Service of New Traditions

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Photo: facebook.com

I wonder how many new personal traditions have begun as a result of sheltering at home and how many will remain when the worst blows over. The most obvious: families connecting weekly via video conference companies such as Zoom.

I had to figure out a way to exercise without exercising, which I despise. New York, like many cities, is a place to walk–and I did in the normal course of a day–but I have cut down on my outdoor time. My solution has been to reserve an hour a day to dance. I say dance but more accurately I walk/march briskly with intermittent stretches in the compact space of my apartment. My first target is 10,000 steps. So far I’m at 9,400+–3.9 miles according to my iPhone. It’s quite a trick, weaving in and out of chairs and tables and down a short, skinny hallway, but when my hour starts, I don’t stop.

Photo: pinterest.com

A friend shared another example: “After breakfast my 3 & 5 year old grandchildren hug their father good bye and wish him a good day as he climbs the stairs to his office.  This helps the separation and they know he’s not available during business hours.”

Another wrote: “Two of my Beagle grandsons visited yesterday. My son brought a hot lunch.  He left my portion on the fender of my car. I picked it up with a disinfectant wipe and cleaned the  container.  He sat more than 10 feet away and I sat in my car. This is having lunch with a loved one in the new normal.”

I’ve begun to make French toast every Sunday as my mother did when I was a kid. Because it took me forever to wake up in the day, my pieces became hard as rocks without a hint of egg. That’s the only way I’ll eat French toast today.

Have you launched any traditions? Do you think any will outlast sheltering at home?

Photo: technologyreview.com

Service of Food: Valuable to Some, Essential to Others

Monday, December 9th, 2019

By Maurizio Cattelan Photo: news.artnet.com

According to United States Department of Agriculture, 40 million Americans face hunger, including 12.5 million children. In this regard two headlines hit me last week.

The first: “Maurizio Cattelan Is Taping Bananas to a Wall at Art Basel Miami Beach and Selling Them for $120,000 Each.”

The second: “Trump administration moves to remove 700,000 people from food stamps.”

Photo: bally.com

Sarah Cascone wrote the first article on artnet.com. She added that the gallery repping Cattelan was upping the price to $150,000 because the banana, affixed with contact tape to the wall, already had two buyers at the original asking price. She also reported that her husband and his college dorm mates had done the same thing with a banana and that he still had what was left of the shriveled fruit somewhere in their home.

I couldn’t tell from the article whether the artist would affix the banana to the buyers’ walls.

Obviously these art buyers have no trouble feeding themselves or their families which isn’t the case for people who need food stamps.

Photo: cnn.com

Tom Polansek wrote on reuters.com: “President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The program provides free food to 36 million Americans.”

Savings to the government over five years is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio described the cutback as “an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets.”

Polansek reported “The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.”

“For those impacted it will mean less nutritious meals, or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Good work if you can get it is my reaction to the $120,000-$150,000 banana with a dash of there’s a sucker born every day. I’m not one bit magnanimous about the food stamp cuts.  If we’re looking for ways to cut the budget why pick on the poorer members of our country who, without food, in addition to suffering, will become sick and cost more? Will taking away food stamps inspire people who need them to get a job when my bet is that many already have a few?

Photo: wgem.com

Tip Gyp at Doordash

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Photo: cnbc.com

Seven years ago partners chef Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich paid a price–$5.25 million–for stiffing a percentage of the tips of their employees at Batali’s pricey Italian restaurants such as Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono and Esca to pay sommeliers’ salaries.

A chunk of the penalty money went to captains, servers, busboys and others.

Photo: blog.doordash.com

Small potatoes by comparison but “The attorney general of Washington, D.C., is suing food-delivery company DoorDash Inc. for pocketing tips on deliveries,” wrote Allison Prang in The Wall Street Journal. To meet the minimum pay promised deliverymen and women the company applied the tip money customers added electronically. Workers were not given the tip in addition to the minimum.

Karl Racine, DC attorney general, said Doordash also deluded customers who thought they were giving a tip.  Prang wrote: “The attorney general is seeking a court order to force DoorDash to surrender the tips and pay civil penalties.”

Doordash claimed that “the assertions made in the complaint are without merit and we look forward to responding to them through the legal process.”

Why do profitable companies pick on the smallest fries–all of whom are essential to their success–to squeeze them out of their rightful compensation? Is it OK because the owners take the risk and make the investment in their companies or is it wrong under any circumstances?

Photo: newsismybusiness.com

Service of a NJ School District Punishing Kids for Unpaid Lunch Bills

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

Photo: columbustelegram.com

What is it about school systems and children’s lunches that brings out the worst in some? In May, 2017 I wrote “Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming,” exposing administrators in Canonsburg, Pa. who humiliated children whose parents hadn’t paid their lunch fees, not letting the kids eat. Earlier, in a different post, I suggested the NYC school system pay for breakfast and lunch for kids who couldn’t afford it and lower their spending on laptops from the Rolls Royce version they had in mind to a serviceable but cheaper model.

Photo: northersey.com

Recently Ella Torres wrote about a Cherry Hill “New Jersey school district [that] is banning students with school lunch debt from attending extracurricular activities, including prom and field trips” or from buying a yearbook. The ABC news journalist reported “Middle school students who owe $75 or more in school lunch fees will face the same punishment, while elementary school students will be barred from participating in after-school events and attending class trips.”

Torres quoted a grandparent who said: “It is an elitist assumption on the part of this school board that parents are not paying a bill because they don’t want to.”

A senior asked the board ” ‘What are colleges gonna think?’ noting how important extracurricular activities are on applications.”

According to Torres, NJ.com reported that meal debt in the district was over $14,000, counting students of all ages owing $10 or more.

At least the district still feeds kids who owe lunch money.

Photo: impactteachers.com

The school superintendent, Dr. Joseph Meloche, said: “Money is certainly something that we have to deal with. That’s our world, but that’s not the most important thing that we’re addressing in terms of the policy and the work that’s being done. It’s about supporting children and supporting families … sometimes the right thing is not the easy thing to do.”

I haven’t changed my mind: Depriving or punishing kids over issues of food is atrocious. Do you agree? Prom, the yearbook, extracurricular activities and school trips are big deals for kids. Will deprivation cover the debt? Is this an appropriate way to teach kids a lesson–making them pressure their parents to pay up when it’s the school that should be doing so?  Are there jobs kids–especially the young ones–can do to pay off some of the debt? How do other districts handle it–taxes or fundraisers?

Photo: tes.com

Service of Calling a Spade a Spade

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Photo: Steamit.com

I can’t sell a ring with glass in the setting and call it a diamond; I can’t call a synthetic textile cashmere, linen or silk no matter what it looks or feels like.

So why is it OK for the substitute milk producers to call their oat, almond or coconut alternatives milk?  And what about the food fiddlers who use the meat word to ID their plant-based alternatives?

Photo: Nexgrill.com

In “Dairy, Beef Products Fight for Shelf Space with Plant-based Alternatives,” Wall Street Journal reporters Heather Haddon and Jacob Bunge write about what cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are doing about it.

They wrote: “Now, cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are starting to push back. Trade groups representing meat and milk producers said Monday they are ramping up marketing to underscore the difference between their cattle-made products and new rivals made from soy, almonds and peas. Plant-based replacements make up just 1% of the U.S. meat market by volume, Nielsen said.” [Nielsen the polling company.]

Photo: timesunion.com

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “also want legal limits on the ability of plant-based producers to call their products milk or meat. This year 45 bills have been introduced in 27 states that seek to police the labeling of plant-based products and cell-cultured meats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a hearing last month on how to update dozens of labeling standards governing food products, including plant-based meats.”

The FDA is currently reviewing 13,000 comments that chime in on whether meat and milk can appear on packaging. One of the advocates for plant-based substitutes for meat thinks it’s unfair to bring the government into the discussion.

I think it’s simple: if it’s not meat or cow [or goat’s] milk the manufacturer shouldn’t use the words meat or milk in labeling and marketing. Your thoughts?

Photo: youtube

Service of Mi Casa es Tu Casa–Come on In!

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Photo: tierrafina.com

Daily we hear of hacking that’s happened either to a friend, big corporation or organization. It’s a form of break-in. I think it may have inured the public to the normalcy of loss of privacy that gorges on volunteer personal intrusions. Think such smart speakers like Alexa and Amazon Echo.

Photo: wired.com

Maybe that’s why Walmart and Amazon have or are about to introduce a new wrinkle to their delivery services. In select markets, both will or do arrange for access to a customer’s home to put food in the fridges of the former and leave packages in a home, garage or car trunk in the latter.

Citizens of Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh and Vero Beach will be the first to officially invite Walmart delivery staff to put perishables in their refrigerators through a program slated for a fall launch called Walmart InHome. [The system was tested in New Jersey.]

Photo: commons.wikipedia.org

In “Walmart Wants to Put Groceries Into Your Fridge,” Sarah Nassauer wrote “The workers will wear a body cameras [sic] clipped to their chests, allowing customers to watch live streams of deliveries being made while they aren’t home.” She reported in her Wall Street Journal article that they’ll have access to homes via a smart lock that connects to the Internet allowing a door to unlock remotely. Wallmart sells the device.

Delivery staff for the service must have worked for the company for at minimum a year. “Not everyone embraces the concept at first, but just as people have gradually accepted renting out rooms in their homes through services like Airbnb Inc, ‘people are very quickly comfortable with it,’ said Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business.”

Photo: gate labs

The Amazon service, Key by Amazon, wrote Nassauer, is for Prime members in 50 cities. Fresh groceries aren’t involved. In another program Via Prime Now customers get orders from Amazon’s Whole Foods division on doorsteps.

Not every delivery business received the mega company’s stamp of approval. Sebastian Herrera reported last week in the Journal that Amazon is deep sixing its restaurant delivery service.

Would you be comfortable inviting strangers into your kitchen or your home, garage or car trunk when you’re not home? Do you think comfort level for this kind of trust may be higher in some parts of the country than others? Have privacy-breaking services like Alexa and Amazon Echo paved the way? What if you’re in a meeting or otherwise inaccessible when you need to unlock your front door remotely with no time to watch while the delivery person with body camera drops off your perishables? Do you think that this person—or the staffer who packs the order–will be trained to leave foods like tomatoes and bananas out of the refrigerator and on the counter?

Photo: orchardestates.com

 

Service of How Sweet it Is: Honey, Ever More Precious and Expensive

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Photo: farmandfleet.com

Whether or not the new tariff against Mexico causes the cost of tomatoes and avocados to increase, we’ll be paying more for honey regardless of where it’s from if we’re not already doing so according to Lucy Craymer of The Wall Street Journal. She wrote “Global honey prices are at their highest levels in years, due to a new wave of consumer demand for natural sweeteners and declining bee populations that are hampering mass production.”

In addition to a delicious topping on toast or a tea sweetner, honey is used, she reported, in commercial food and drink and in beauty products such as shampoo and moisturizer.

Photo: sciencenewsforstudents.com

“Prices have climbed about 25% since 2013, while the cost of sugar has fallen around 30% over the same time frame,” she wrote. The National Honey board data reflects a nine percent increase in price for a pound of honey in just the last year. “Those prices have risen by about two-thirds in the last decade, according to a survey of more than 150 retailers nationwide by Bee Culture magazine, a publication for American beekeepers.”

Photo: serenataflowers.com

Premium honeys have tipped the price scales. According to Craymer a pound jar of Manuka from New Zealand costs $26.49 at Target when its house brand, Simply Balanced organic honey, costs $6.39 for the same size.

Craymer reported that production has been “relatively” stable for the last five years but increasing production is still a challenge between increased beehive colony collapses, a disease that the Varroa mite causes, pesticides, death in winter and “The conversion of large swaths of land to industrial crop farms,” she wrote, that “has also reduced the amount of food—pollen—that is available for bees.”

Photo: iHerb

Bees can’t thrive in any old place. They need wild forage to hunt for pollen. Nearby fields of cotton, corn or soybeans won’t hack it. That’s why Catherine Wolkom takes advantage of every blossom. She owns The Humble Bee Honey Co. in Watertown, Conn. She  won’t mow dandelions which drives her landscape designer husband nuts. [I actually love the shot of yellow dandelions add to a spring lawn.] In addition to dandelions, the nectar from her bees comes from flower, vegetable garden and fruit tree pollen.

Do you substitute honey for sugar? What’s your favorite way to eat honey? Has your consumption increased? Do you try to buy local honey? Are there other foods that may be endangered so that many will no longer be able to afford and enjoy them?

Photo: almanac.com

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