Mario Batali takes ‘Food Stamp challenge’? What challenge?
posted at 5:00 pm on May 17, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
It’s admirable that Mario Batali, owner of the most expensive restaurant on the planet Earth, cares that everyone has enough to eat. To prove he cares—that he is down with the 1% (the bottom 1% that is)—Batali has carefully lowered himself down into the gutter (actually, for him I believe the gutter is “up”) with the 1 in 7 American families on Food Stamps so that he can walk a mile in their diet.
In a paean to the portly chef and his magnanimity, the Associated Press writes:
The chef, his wife and their two teenage sons are eating for a week on the equivalent of a food stamp budget in protest of potential cuts pending in Congress to the benefit program used by more than 46 million Americans.
That’s $31 per person for the week, or about $1.48 per meal each.
Goodbye restaurants, free nibbles on his talk show ‘The Chew’ and all the luxe offerings at Eataly, the high-end New York City market he co-owns. Hello, Trader Joe‘s, Jack’s Dollar Store, Gristedes and Western Beef, a low-cost supermarket chain.
What a guy! I could mention here that Batali was considerably less charitable to his own employees whose tips he helped himself to (they subsequently sued him and his partner, Joe Bastianich, and won a $3.9 million settlement), but that would be off-topic.
The important thing here is that Batali is, in his own words, “starving.” (Relevant science question: How long does it take a beached whale to starve?) Not only is he finding it difficult to sustain his girth on a buck-and-a-half per meal, but he’s also having to make do without organic and pesticide- and hormone-free food. “The organic word,” he told AP, “slides out and saves you about 50 percent.”
Let’s not forget that he’s dragged his kids into this. So how are the poor little dears holding out? Says their dad:
They’re having more peanut butter and jelly than they’ve had in the last 10 years because bread is inexpensive and peanut butter and jelly, if you buy it at the right place at the right time, is cheap.
I love pb & j and have it for lunch most weekends, even though I earn a decent living. What’s more is we buy extra-virgin olive oil at the aforementioned Trader Joe‘s, do the bulk of our shopping at the aforementioned Gristedes, and my wife frequently brings home some amazing bargains from the aforementioned Jack’s Dollar Store. One of my favorite dishes to cook is arroz com pollo, for which I use whole chicken thighs ($1.99 a pound), a large Spanish onion, a green pepper, a cup of rice, and assorted seasonings. The dish feeds a family of four for around $5, or $1.25 apiece. I don’t do this out of dire necessity but, rather, because I enjoy eating simple, wholesome food most of the time. Anyone who sets his mind to it can do the same.
The article goes on to note that Batali is on the board(!) of Food Bank for New York City, which issued the challenge. Margarette Purvis, who heads the organization, laments:
Nearly 3 million New Yorkers have difficulty paying for the food they need. They live in every single neighborhood. We’re not trying to compare the food stamp challenge to the very real challenges people face. We’re just trying to raise awareness that it’s no longer just the homeless. It’s working families who use the food stamp program. It’s seniors. It’s a lot more children, in every single neighborhood.
I’d be happy to share other recipes with hungry New Yorkers on Food Stamps. All of the meals can be cooked for under $1.48 per person. If these families choose instead to dine at McDonald’s, as so many do, they can expect their expenditure per person to triple or quadruple. Or they can splurge on a single 12-course Collezione Grand Tasting at Batali’s restaurant, but then they will be forced to fast for the entire year following.
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