“A miserable, hypocritical prick–whatever the system of government–is still a prick. I tend to look at the world, still, from the point of view of a restaurant guy–a small business owner. Right? Left? I don’t care. I look at “leaders” as if they were managers of my restaurant. I go away for four years and come back. If my business has gotten inexplicably worse, I have fewer customers, the neighbors are pissed, my employees unhappy and there’s money inexplicably missing from the till, I call that a bad leader. I don’t know if that’s politics or simple good sense.”
Tastykake, manufacturers of numerous kinds of prepackaged snack foods, could be forced to sell or merge after a newly opened factory failed to generate the hoped-for savings. Krimpets, Kandy Kakes, Koffee Kakes, and Kreamies could all be put on the chopping block. And I don’t know if you’re aware, but those kinds of snacks do better in your tummy than on a chopping block.
I consider myself very, very fortunate. I have a great life. I have the best wife anyone could hope for, two beautiful kids, and a nice house to live in. Both my wife and I are gainfully employed, which means we want for nothing. We make enough money to pay the bills… even the unexpected ones… and have some left over so that we can take the kids (or just my wife and I if we need the getaway) on vacation every once in a while. Those of you out there who somewhat resemble my situation need to really repeat the above mantra over and over and over again until it really sinks in, because just how fortunate I am was brought into sharp, laser-beam focused, blazing, crystal clarity yesterday afternoon.
I was deep in the throws of work yesterday when my cell phone rang. It was my wife calling me to ask me if I could pick up our son from school so that she could get my daughter from daycare and then immediately hit the grocery store which was right across the street. I said no problem and then went about finishing my day’s work before leaving to pick him up.
The end of the day rolls around. I’m finishing up the last bit of work on my laptop (I work from home) and my son is finishing up his homework when my wife comes in, arms laden with grocery bags. I help her unload the remainder from the car, and while our kids are playing, she sits down and tells me this story which I will relay to you all as best as I can:
My wife had a pretty big load of groceries to buy as we were out of a lot of stuff, so as she is going down each aisle checking off her list, she keeps coming across this family… a mom (a working mom, she was professionally dressed) and two kids, one seven and one about three. The kids are doing what you and I did when we were little and what all little kids do in the grocery store. Every single sugary breakfast cereal and fruity roll-up snack and Oreo/Chips Ahoy cookie bag is grabbed and the phrase “I WANT THIS! CAN WE PLEASE MOM?” is yelled out. Being a kid myself once, I remember the answer of “No,” or “We already have that at home, so put that back,” coming out of my grandmother’s mouth as I’m grabbing for the economy size box of Count Chocula with the toy prize inside. My wife watches out of the corner of her eye as this mom puts back the boxes on the shelf that the kids have been trying to shovel into the cart as she feverishly carries a running total of what she has on a slip of paper and moves onto the frozen food aisle.
As my wife is loading a box of Klondike bars into the cart, the seven year-old asks mom if they can get Klondike bars as well. Mom proceeds to answer her son’s request…
You know we don’t have a lot of money since daddy lost his job. Your momma lost her job today. You and your brother can get one snack and that’s it. Once you pick, no more buggin’ me and no changin’ your mind. The rest of the money is for only what we need. (She looks at the price of the Klondike bars) These are too much. Go put them back.
My wife stood there stunned at overhearing this and saddened as she watched a dejected little kid put a box of ice cream bars back in the freezer. She looked down into the cart for our family stuffed to almost overflowing with food… and a lot of it could not be characterized as a “need.”
Before the mom could move to the next aisle, my wife did something that I will love her for until the day I die. She grabbed a box of Klondikes and pulled some cash out of her wallet, and handed it to the mom saying, “Please take this if it would make today a little easier.” The mom cried. My wife cried. They hugged, and then both went on to continue their shopping trip.
My wife continued in the frozen food section when footsteps come running around the corner. As if one extraordinary grocery store event wasn’t enough, the 7 year-old comes back to my wife, Klondikes in hand, and gives my wife a big hug and kiss, and proceeds to put the Klondike bars back, grabs another set of chocolate ice cream bars and exclaims…
This is my mom’s favorite snack!
… and runs back to his mom’s cart.
By this time, I am now tearing up at hearing this story. My wife knew this story would affect me somewhat because of the parents being laid off. Before the job I currently have, I had lost a job twice inside of 6 months. The feeling of having to go home and tell your spouse that you have no money coming in and you don’t know if/when you’re going to find another job is a feeling I would have just as soon left a repressed memory. I was lucky enough to find a new job with another company fairly quickly and as a result, we’re still making mortgage payments, still buying groceries, the lights are still on, and the water still runs. I listen to this story my wife tells me and I cannot fathom the feeling of hopelessness that two desperate people will experience staring across the table from each other after they put their two kids to bed going “What are we going to do now?”
My seven year-old is just now starting to get a bit of a concept of the power that money has, but for the most part, as far as he and his sister are concerned, things like Christmas, birthdays, food on the table, clothes on your back… all that stuff just magically appears. They really don’t have much of an idea of its limitations as there always seems to be enough of it to be comfortable. The two children of this beleaguered mother will be introduced to some very harsh realities about money in the coming months, and probably a year or more if the state of joblessness in this economy is any indication, because this family now has far bigger long-term issues than a $3.00 box of Klondike bars to deal with. Once income stops, the countdown starts. It’s the countdown that determines how long can you rely on other family for help, how long can you rack up debt, how long until they cut off electric, how long until they repossess the car, how long before the first doctor visit with no health care, how long before the bank forecloses, etc.
If there is a bright side to this story at all, it’s in the actions of that 7 year-old boy. My wife did not extend her gesture in order to be mentioned in a blog as a good Samaritan. She did it because she saw somebody who had the rottenest of all rotten days and who needed just one thing to go OK in their life, so she tried to extend that one thing. My wife gave of our resources. The little boy gave of himself and in his little world, he gave till it hurt. He had campaigned for those Klondike bars and once he got them, he gave them up and put his mom’s happiness over his own. This world could learn an awful lot from that kid’s actions. We think we’re such big deals as grown-ups, but some of life’s most valuable lessons that start out as innate get un-learned as we grow up and that’s a damn shame. Self-sacrifice is very much a part of that child’s nature. I hope it stays that way. Just think if those that caused the economic mess we are now in were a little less self-serving and a little more empathetic. I assure you the world would be a different place.
“New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore,” said Tom Colicchio, star of “Top Chef” and owner of Craft.
Eric Ripert said it too. Just with a heavy French accent.
“I have zero problems with blood pressure, zero problems with my health, and I have eaten salt all my life,” said Eric Ripert, chef at world-famous Manhattan restaurant Le Bernardin.
“Cooked food tastes good with salt and it’s bland without it,” said Ripert. “I believe very much that processed food is not good for you. But salt – salt is different. There are zero dishes I prepare that have no salt at all.
I find it hilarious that a bill like this is even being considered. I’m thoroughly convinced that politicians are idiots. Party has nothing to do with it.
I love YO GABBA GABBA. I don’t care what you say, DJ Lance, Muno, Broby, Foofa, Toodie and Plex have taught my daughter many valuable lessons–like the desirability of napping, for one. Not to throw objects at Daddy’s skull. Not biting. The value of “trying again” and “not giving up.” All set to surprisingly weird, offbeat songs which–in another venue and with other lyrics, one might find oneself enjoying at a club. They get good indie bands as guests, and Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO is a regular. I know every song and every lyric by heart.
As a parent myself, I can completely relate to that.
One of the great crimes of this world, and especially in the current economy, is to see a great food joint go under. Consider this review a pre-emptive strike in order to save one such place.
This past fall, I was driving my kids to daycare and school, and on my way, I pass this little food stand. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost 7 years and the place has changed hands 7 times. I remember a burger and hot dog joint, followed by another burger joint, and then… brace yourselves folks… yet another burger and hot dog joint. Clearly nobody got the memo that another burger joint was not needed, and the addition of hot dogs did not sweeten the deal. However, this year, the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and what appeared is Dave’s Take Out Rib Shack.
I like this place for 4 reasons:
If you go into Dave’s Take Out Rib Shack, you’ll actually meet Dave (Nice guy too!).
It’s not another burger and hot dog joint.
The man gave us what we don’t have: a rib joint.
He just doesn’t sell ribs. He celebrates pork.
What I mean by celebrates pork is that his menu includes not only ribs, but bacon, ham, sausage, scrapple, pulled pork, and kielbasa. His doesn’t serve french fries, but what he does serve is actually far better: actual homemade sides. Macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes (nobody serves these), baked beans, cornbread, etc.
The first time I went into Dave’s, I didn’t even get ribs. I went in at about 6:30 in the morning (he opens at 6am) and I got a ham egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.
Best breakfast sandwich I ever ate, and here’s why:
The ham is real ham. Not shitty lunch meat ham. Real ham. Thick ham. Ham like a slice you would get at your grandmother’s Sunday dinner ham.
He used two eggs instead of one. And there were chunks of FRESHLY CRACKED PEPPER on my eggs.
He uses good quality cheese. You can tell good quality cheese by how it melts.
It’s on a soft kaiser roll.
It’s only $3.75.
The man clearly has the attention to detail to get right a simple but really good thing on which most people will automatically lower their expectations because the extent of their experience with the breakfast sandwich is at the low end of the food spectrum: the cookie-cutter corporate fast food joint or the combination gas station/convenience store.
If you time it right, you can not only get your breakfast sandwich, but you can stand there and watch Dave working on getting the day’s rib supply ready for lunch and dinner. And a fine smell it is. The man is clearly proud of what he’s doing, clearly has taken a huge gamble by probably sinking his life savings into this, and is probably one of the hardest working people on the planet as he is there every day from open to close doing everything himself. This place clearly has the ingredients to be successful, but as a lot of business owners and successful restaurateurs will tell you, one of the hardest things is getting the momentum of the first wave of customers that will sing your praises to others.
So consider this the beginning of that wave. here’s the details:
Dave’s Take Out Rib Shack, 1339 E. Philadelphia Avenue, Gilbertsville, PA 19525
7am – 7pm Monday through Friday, 9am – 7pm Saturday and Sunday
I can count on one hand the number of brushes I’ve had with celebrity, and the few that I’ve had have been pretty lackluster. When I was a kid, I met the Philly Phanatic. When I was older, I met Dennis Franks, a guy who is known only to the most diehard Eagles fans as the guy who used to snap the ball to Ron Jaworski. Why I even got an autograph. Things looked up when I got to see Brian Propp and Dave Poulin of the Flyers, but they didn’t see me as it was getting an autograph handed to me by one of the hockey team’s people rather than meeting the players themselves. I saw Jennifer Lopez’ ass (and a fine ass it was; she was doing some photo shoot at the hotel across from mine) from a distance while on a business trip to Chicago. That about sums up my meeting famous people. By contrast, my son, by age 7, met the guy that drives Gravedigger at a monster truck show and got a hug from Curly Neal and has an autographed ball signed by Big Easy Lofton of the Harlem Globetrotters. I suck by comparison.
A couple years ago, I went to a concert at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, NJ. After years of either no meetings or meeting the costumed or the b-list of the athletic world, I finally got to meet somebody who was famous, accomplished, and talented, and to top it off, a group of whom I’m a huge fan. I got to meet Megadeth. Not just Dave Mustaine, the whole band. And it was awesome. Got autographs there as well and actually got to talk to and shake the hand of Dave Mustaine.
After that, I was perfectly content with never meeting another celebrity again. Then I get this email from my wife right after Halloween this year that Thomas Keller is going to be at Williams-Sonoma at the King of Prussia Mall doing a book signing for his latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. You foodies out there who know who Thomas Keller is, know that his cookbooks have two main characteristics: big and expensive. For those of you who have actually cracked the binding on The French Laundry Cookbook and/or Bouchon know that the recipes in them require the skill and steadiness most neurosurgeons possess. So imagine my chagrin when I found that in order to meet chef Keller, I had to shell out the $50.00 for his new book. I figured it would look good on my coffee table at least and I would get one for one of my good friends who actually did go to culinary school.
November 20, 2009 arrives and I head down to the mall so that I can get in line early. When I get there, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that although a crowd is forming, I’m fairly close to the front of the line. I go into buy the book that I’m going to get signed for my friend and as I’m flipping through the pages, I’m seeing recipes that actually look like things I’ve seen my grandmother or my friends’ moms cook before. No peruvian blue potatos or kafir limes… just stuff you can find at any supermarket worth its salt. This motivates me to buy myself one as well. I actually do most of the cooking at my house and found several of these recipes “approachable,” the new hip celebrity chef cookbook author term for “you can actually do this.”
My only real complaint about this book is that it’s so damn huge. My biceps got the workout of their life waiting in line to get these things signed. I really felt sorry for this elderly lady with a cane who was standing three people behind me who bought six… six of these monsters to ship to relatives. I held one of her bags for a while to give her a break. Fortunately, either Keller realizes this, or he was just being nice, because all of a sudden, a waiter shows up with a piping hot cup of absolutely delicious cauliflower soup (and I normally hate cauliflower) prepared by Keller himself. About 20 minutes later, a piece of homemade crispy something-or-other with homemade marmalade comes as well. Also delicious.
Anyway, the time comes to meet chef Keller. I’ll apologize in advance for using the usual platitudes that people say when they meet the famous, but in his case it was actual fact. He really was genuinely warm, engaging, and very easy to talk to. For a guy that is the Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Cal Ripken Jr. of his field, you would never know it from talking to him. He answered far too many questions from me that I’m sure he’s heard a thousand times before, signed my two books (one of which is being sent to a former cook and culinary school graduate who is now a soldier who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and is now in Korea), and took a picture with me, and for that, I am very grateful.
By the way, a week after I got the book, I tried the marinated skirt steak recipe. Turned out fantastic. I can now say that I actually cooked a Thomas Keller recipe, and I look forward to cooking more of them.