Food Costs Keep Rising

Hey, you,  I’m talking to you, that’s right.  Put down the bagel.

Food prices: They are going up:

17% higher on beef in the US compared to last year, according to a recent piece in The NY Times.

10.2% overall in China.

Globally, corn and wheat up 49% compared to 2009, according to the WSJ.

Just look at this:


Yikes, huh?

So while we’re all busy discussing where to eat and what to eat and how to kill animals, etc., supplies are getting costlier.  Honestly, we’re being distracted by taste rather than focusing on the economic sources of that delicious bagel.  (You can have a bite now.)

In the Middle East and North Africa, reports indicate that the unrest stems from many factors; one chief factor is the rising cost of basic foods like bread.  Over here, it’ll be interesting to see the ramifications of grocery bills soaring.  What will happen?

You there, with the bagel, what’s your guess?   What’s that?  You think that the folks who can’t afford the food will be ignored?  Really?  Is that what you think?

Do Fries Go with that Shake?

“What Revolution in food?”  You might well ask.  All over the country, spiffy restaurants open their doors to hawk “tasting menus” of sustainable, organic, local, and humanely raised This-And-That.  I’ve always been a more “That” man than a “This” man, but more about that later.

The big news?

Micky D’s, yo, is hiring.  Hiring to the tune of 50,000 jobs nationally in one day.  TODAY: APRIL 19tTH, MCDONALDS NATIONAL HIRING DAY.  That is a whole lot of fries, shakes, burgers, and secret sauce.  The company has 14,000 restaurants in the United States.  Today’s hiring of 50,000 people will increase their workforce from 650,000 to 700,000 employees.

Average pay: $8.30, compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.35.  A forty-hour week, pre taxes and benefits taken out, yields a gross pay of $330.  Yikes!  A fifty week year yields an annual gross pay of $16,600.  You try living on that.  Go on, see how long you last before you go out on disability.

Yet, that is where we are at in today’s thriving economy.  A job is a job is a job.

Google this information and state by state you see the announcements: “McDonald’s is hiring 1300 in Connecticut!”  “McDonald’s is hiring 500 in Kentucky!”  “McDonald’s is hiring 2200 in Massachusetts!”

Why now?

According to The Boston Globe: “McDonald’s officials say they are in need of so many new employees because of growing demand — comparable US sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 increased 4.4 percent over the year before.”

Look, it’s not a dead end job.  According to The Boston Globe: “More than three-quarters of McDonald’s restaurant managers and half its franchise owners started off as crew members.”  Mind, the company doesn’t say how long that advancement took, nor what happened to the folks who didn’t get promoted, nor whether folks of color or women were adequately represented in the promotions, nor what the figures are like over decades, nor what the employment looks like state by state or level of education of the employee.

As George Clinton said: “Do Fries Go with that Shake?”

Get A Load of Those Tomatoes

Back in the day, the guys would stick up trucks containing electronic equipment, cigarettes, and toys for tots.  Nowadays, it’s tomatoes.  In today’s NYT Business section, there’s a great story about a gang that robbed a transport of Florida tomatoes.  Entrepreneurial, sensing the rise in costs due to the freeze that killed crops, they stole low and will sell high.

Here’s the link: nytimes.com/2011/04/15/business/15bandits.html?ref=business.

Sure, the recession is over: More jobs, more parties, more more.  But lurking amongst us: Tomato Thieves!

Fresh tomatoes on street market for sale Stock Photo - 3339873

News from Japan: A Funny Experience and Then Some

Friends from Tokyo write with news.  Yuko is an editor and writer.  Yumi is an interpreter.

“By the way, when the big earthquake had happened in the evening yesterday, I was in a museum ’21_21′ in Roppongi. I went to see exhibition of Shiro Kuramata and Ettore Sottosass.  Suddenly the announcement told us “Soon the earthquake will come” with a very loud urgent-like sounds, the first in Japanese and the second in English. So I and others thought ‘will come.. so what? how should I do…’ About 30-40 seconds after the announcement, THE earthquake came. Funny experience.”  (Yuko, Tokyo)

“We are very concerned about the development of the nuclear plants.  Information comes from lots of different sides.  If I only listen to the government’s reports, there seems to be little to worry about.But information from anti nuclear power groups say that the information disclosed so far is quite limited or controlled, and the situation is actually more serious than the government says.  So, my e-mail account is flooded with information that comes from different sources.  I end up spending so much time reading those.  My conclusion for now is that:  We should never rely on something which can go out of our control as power source.  Tepco, the utility that runs the nuclear power plant in question is so incompetent in handling a crisis like this.  Apparently, they had never simulated a crisis, or rehearsed what should be done if it happens.  Moreover, there seems to be nobody in their executive members who really knows and can explain what is going on in the plants.  When the organization has grown so big, when so much money has already been spent, people, either in Tepco or in the government, stopped asking simple questions like,  ‘Is it what we wanted?’, ‘Can’t  power be supplied in a safer, and more simple way?,’ ‘Do we really need that much power?’   The only good news here is that, in spite of such a disaster, in spite of so many deaths, in spite of worries of radiation, spring has arrived.  Cherry blossoms have started blooming.  Hopefully, that may inspirit the survivors, or evacuees a bit.”  (Yumi, Tokyo)

I Love My Burka!

Today, in France, home of cheese, wine, Vichy, the highest rates of prescribed antidepressants in the world, and a sort of love affair with racism and anti-Semitism that, ironically, produced the great works of Fanon, Sartre, Camus, and Proust, the ban on burkas went into effect.

Arrests, protests, turmoil!

But honestly, and I think we can be honest here, we’re among friends:

1. How many girls grow up wanting to look like sacks of wheat?

2. Isn’t the burka another way for men to try to control women’s bodies?

What’s puzzling here?

Not the answers to the questions above.  No.  (Although for those stumped, the answer to Question #1 is: ZERO.  The answer to Question #2 is: YES.)

What’s puzzling is: Why now?  And: Why in France?

Personally?  Personally, I think the French feel more excited about cheese and their perceived way of life than they do about rescuing women from religious oppression.  So perhaps the ban is an expression of their historical antipathy towards Arabs.  Oui?  C’est vrai?  You see my point?

After all, they allow the nuns, priests, rabbis and their wives, Buddhist monks, and punks to dress any way they like.

So: Should we save the burka?  Or should we just forget all of this and bemoan the sale of Taillevent to an international conglomerate?

This woman can no longer get a table at Taillevent dressed like this:

However, this man?  Table for him and his “nephew”:

Priest With Rosary and Bible

Catch O’ The Day

Once again, the Business section has the best food story.  Not just of the day or month, but of the year: www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/business/06food.html?_r=1&ref=business.

We’re talking here about restaurants bringing radiation detectors into their kitchens to determine if fish they are serving–fish that has already been inspected at the source and cleared U.S. customs–is radioactive.

Apparently, according to the article, 4% of U.S. fish comes from Japan.  To say nothing of the radioactivity that spreads globally through ocean waters.

Even more specifically:

India has banned all fish from Japan for the next three months at which point the situation will be reevaluated.

Eric Ripert, chef  of Le Bernadin, the best seafood/fish restaurant in the country, “has also stopped buying fish from Japan, which means no high-quality, farm-raised hamachi and kampachi for raw seafood dishes.”

How do you say YIKES in Japanese?  I’ll show you: .

Cheap Eats

With a 20 year old in the house–bored and ravenous–I find myself on the road, which is atypical.  Normally, if you calculate the hours, I am right here writing; in a mental hospital; in a kitchen; walking the dog at least five times a day; or, in the gym running two to four miles and lifting weights so I can slam Nick Diaz this June in Vegas.  Be there or see it on Pay-For-View: Haas-Diaz Welterweight Championship Yo-Yo-Yo Fight, June 12th LIVE from Wynn’s.  No Lie.

Anyhow, I was saying, with the 20 year old in the house, I am on the road eating good food.  Places like:

Sullivan’s.  Castle Island, South Boston.  If you can’t “bond” with your family over grilled dogs on toasted rolls with a side of fries while sitting on metal benches here then you need family therapy.

Five Guys.  O-Mi-God, as they say in Japan.  This has got to to be the East Coast version of In and Out Burgers.  We’re talking delicious grilled beef patties, a choice of a bazillion free toppings, good rolls, unlimited refills, and Frenchies to die for. Did I mention that while you wait for  your order that they have free roasted nuts in the shell?  Unbelievable.

Who knows what today will bring?  Such joy in my heart, overflowing with goodness.

Boston’s Best Sandwiches

A good day, a fine day, a day of running three miles, seeing Bello’s puppies, enjoying a Five Guys burger, I mean, honestly, could it be any better?

And to top it off, I had six sandwich write-ups in today’s Boston Globe: Chicken Parm (Russo’s), Meatloaf (Charlie’s), Grilled Ham & Cheese  (Rolly’s), Nat Queen Cool (Hi-Rise), Jerk Chicken (Haley House), and Tuna Club (Red Rock).  Makes me hungry just thinking about it: www.boston.com

What Are They Feeding the Children?

Today’s top story in The Boston Globe: Across the state of Massachusetts, kids are being fed expired food in cafeterias for lunches provided by their schools.  First, it was Boston.  The person responsible?  She was transferred to some other department.

Today?  Today we learn that all across the state, in many schools, food with expired dates is being sent to cafeterias for lunches.

They didn’t say if the food is sustainable, humane, organic, vegan, or, in a new twist on what’s healthy and what’s not, schmoreganic.  I am not sure what schmoreganic means, but, anyhow, it’s less relevant here than the expired dates, which is a serious issue.

People send their kids to private schools or religious schools for all sorts of reasons.  Is feeding them food that won’t make them sick another one to add to the list?

Me? I’m thinking: If this is happening in Massachusetts, what’s happening in poorer states or states where education isn’t as great a priority?

Great reporting in the Globe story.

Does it make you want to home school?