When the New Orleans streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the unemployed workers showed up at a restaurant’s back door. Greeted with the cry, “Here comes another poor boy,” they were given a hunk of crusty bread stuffed with “debris.” This consisted of trimmings of roast beef and gravy, Creole sausage or any other scraps of meat or fried oysters and shrimp from the Gulf.
The times are not changing — much. As we plunge into another real or feared budget crisis we are fast becoming a mighty global heap of po’ folks.
Pendulums swing, but never go back entirely to the way we were. There’ll always be luxury in the midst of plenty. French Laundry workers are dishing up dinners for dapper dudes at a staggering $300, per. This is a huge leap. When Joe Baum opened The Four Seasons in 1958, it was one of the most expensive palaces of gastronomy in Manhattan. On the menu were: Meadow Veal Cutlet with Morels, $5.75, Two Thrush en Brochette, $7.50, Beefsteak Tomato, Carved at the Table, $1.25 (and served with a steak knife,) Baby Pheasant in Golden Sauce, $6.25, Twin Tournedos with Woodland Mushrooms, $7.00, The Youngest Carrots in Butter, $1.25, Nasturtium Leaves .95 cents. At that time the average price of a car was $2,200, gasoline was thirty cents a gallon, and the average annual income was $5,565, with minimum wage set at one dollar an hour. Today the fingerling potatoes cost as much as the roasted chicken.
Recently Navy wives posted this recipe in its entirety on their web site:
2 pkgs Ramen Noodles
I can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can tuna
You’d think we’d be drowning our sorrows in spirited drink. Not so. The restaurant consulting company Technomatic, reports, the awful news that some restaurant goers are skipping emphatic drinks entirely and sales of grown up beverages have plummeted. Yikes. Could it be that we are skidding towards temperance?
Some have an even worse time than the rest of us. $2.52 a day is the total allowance to cover three meals a day in the Federal penitentiary. Today 2,258,983 prisoners are held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails.
So here’s a way to deal with our problems. To save money on the ever-escalating price of gas, let’s ‘free” the offenders (fitted with GPS-monitored anklets.) so they can grow vegetables and plant fruit trees along our highways. All our food will thus be produced locally.
Estimates vary but some suggest there are close to 90,000 students currently enrolled in culinary schools — maybe even more. I’ve found jobs for all of them. In community kitchens, they can cook all the food farmed by felons
As fewer people can afford to go to the gym, they can, instead, get on their bikes and pedal the food by foot — or pick up passengers and deliver them by rickshaw to local eateries where they will dine convivially at communal tables. All wine and beer will be produced locally. We will be encouraged to drink red wine because we all know it is good for us. The most athletic will jog from bar to bar and drink a glass of water.
As you see, we just need to look at the future with a telescope instead of a microscope. Long term, we’ve got to change our policies. This, of course means changing our current form of government. I propose we establish a new jury system. Each new problem will be solved by picking twelve jurors, randomly, just as we do for each new court case. The judges will be chosen democratically too. We’ll qualify them first by requiring them to dance with a star and then have an American Idol-type democratic vote. If the judge and jury are unable to arrive at a decision, there won’t be a problem. It’ll be just the way things are now with this Congress: they’ll boldly stand still and vigorously do nothing at all.
(Just let me know if you have any more problems you’d like me to solve.)