Monday, August 21, 2006

"Hi, Pot? This is Kettle. You're Black!"

The Washington Post had an article this weekend regarding Michel Richard, one of the most renowned chefs in the world. It's a tale of his obsession with food and his upbringing in France, plus the limitations of illness and age. It's a good story, and the descriptions of the dishes he creates are enough to make any food lover hungrier than a carnivoire on Vegan Island.

Today, writer April Witt hosted an online chat about the article. For the most part, the questions were normal...until this one.

Rockville, Md: I think the article is disgusting. While plain folk are trying to figure out how to pay for basic utilities and gasoline, both of which are skyrocketing in costs, you are writing about some pie in the sky Rich Chef, who caters to even richer clientele. The idea of a $275 dinner is disgusting. Don't you think those people would be better off giving that money to Charity?

This is coming from Rockville, Maryland. Rockville is the economic core of one of the wealthiest counties in the country, Montgomery. Rockville is next to Potomac, where $10 million dollar homes might be outnumbered by $20 million dollar ones. Try finding a condo or a townhome in Rockville for less than 3/4 of a million dollars.

ANYBODY from Rockville complaining about price needs to get their head out of their ass.

If you're so altruistic, Rockville poster, then why do you live amongst the mansions? Why not live in much-more-affordable Germantown or Frederick, and donate YOUR savings on housing and taxes to the poor? Or, better yet, why not move into Southeast D.C. where it's even cheaper, and you can donate your money to your new neighbors? Why do you even bother to drive, when you could easily ride a bike to work and use that extra cash to donate to the poor?

I think we all already know the answer to those questions.

A meal at Citronelle is not a daily experience. Few can afford to buy a meal that costs as much as a nice iPod every day. It's a once-a-year kind of place for some, or once-a-lifetime for many. For the rare few who can eat there regularly, congratulations on having some cash.

To her credit, Ms. Witt doesn't stoop to that level. Her response:

April Witt: I can certainly understand your response. I don't spend $275 for dinners. The vast majority of Americans can't and don't. I've spent much more of my career writing about poverty, and the suffering of the poor, than I have chronicling the lifestyles of the rich and famous. That said, one of the things that I like best about being a journalist is the opportunity to take readers places they would never go except vicariously through the magic of reading. I don't judge the people or places I go. I just try to understand them so I can accurately show them to readers. I make no apologies for that.

If *I* had the chance, my response would be:

Ray Bradley - You live in Rockville, so, you can't be too bad off. You're obviously sending this question through a computer, so you either own one or work at a job where you use one. Those connote a certain level of wealth. Knowing that wealth or taste, as with all things, are comparable commodities, rather than looking at Citronelle's regular diners with a sense of haughty disdain, try looking at yourself through the eyes of someone less fortunate. To borrow your words, "While plain folk are trying to figure out how to pay for basic utilities and gasoline, both of which are skyrocketing in costs, you are living in one of the richest, safest counties in the region, with plenty of recreational choices, fine communities and wonderful schools. The idea of a $25 dinner at Chili's is disgusting when people are starving."

Simply stop looking at what you don't have and what you do. And savor your next meal, whether it be $270 at Citronelle, $25 at Chili's or $2.50 at 7-11, because no matter what you eat, it's still more than some people will have today. So, rather than gnash our teeth and complain ourselves into inaction over all the worlds' ills, I'm going to avoid guilt, and eat what, and where, I like, and give thanks that I am able to do so.

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