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    Entries in Locally Sourced (1)

    Wednesday
    Aug012018

    Chefs Not Included

    I don’t understand what’s going on in the marketing world of restaurants. Times have really, really changed. I mean, back in the days when I was in that field - Weiner King in Flemington, NJ, to be precise, we bought our vegetables from Williams Brothers Produce in town. You know, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and the like. You ordered a hot dog with onions or a burger with tomatoes, we slapped it on the bun, and not one single customer ever asked us where any of it came from. Of course, New Jersey was known to grow the best tomatoes in the Solanum lycopersicum universe, and I recall New York City delis bragging that they served “Fresh Jersey Tomatoes,” plucked from directly across the Hudson River. My guess is that those NYC restaurants were the first to come close to using the newfangled term: Locally Sourced.

    “Locally Sourced” seems to be in vogue these days, as if it somehow makes the food we eat better, but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, one could readily surmise that the more local it is, the fresher it is, but it doesn’t make it tastier. One of the problems is that produce is seasonal. During winter months, the sign in that NY deli offering fresh Jersey tomatoes would have to be tucked away because they don’t grow that time of year. Not there. Florida has good tomatoes, but they don’t hold a candle to New Jersey’s. It’s the rich soil that makes the difference. Regardless, off-season produce would have to come from other parts of the country or }])SHUDDER([{ the world, jetted in daily. Or the restaurant would have to stop serving salads; salads as they should be according to Panera. Unless they grow hydroponic produce, but I’m not going to go there. You’d think they have gardens out back.

    New Jersey is not known as the onion capital of the northeast. Granted, it’s not called the Garden State for no reason, but I vividly remember the days when Jack Little, my boss, practically filled the back room with bag-after-bag of Vidalia onions, one of the best in the world. Vidalia is exclusive to the state of Georgia. Jack hoarded them because they were (and still are) the gold standard, and they have a long shelf life. Meats, on the other hand, are altogether different. I question them. What difference does it make where it comes from when the locally sourced steak you’re eating is aged beef anyway? Some states aren’t cattle producers. Should that mean that restaurants in those states shouldn’t serve what’s not “Locally Gathered,” another term du jour?

    I don’t know, nor do I care. I have no problem with fare coming from local sources or from far away, like Kobi beef. I’m more inclined to support all farmers, preferably American, not just ones down the street. Like everyone else, I want it to be fresh and tasty, but I’m not going to give one place a higher standing because it’s locally sourced, which is, to me, superfluous fluff – the marketing phase we’re going through right now. You want to know what else is superfluous fluff?

    Do you remember the days when Subway referred to their employees as Sandwich Artists? I got the biggest kick out of it because I was a genuine artist; the kind that made a living at it. Real art. Artists create art, and a sandwich is simply something you eat, not art. (Cake decorators are artists.) Today, restaurants claim that they serve you HANDCRAFTED SANDWICHES and meals. What the hay? Are robots now making sandwiches? No, and anyone can slice a locally gathered tomato. Anyone can chop a locally gathered onion. For as long as I can remember, I could slap mustard on bread. What’s so handcrafted about that? It’s just a simple sandwich! Calling this type of worker an artist is demeaning to me. It’s used to make it seem as if your sandwich was gently created from scratch in a backroom somewhere, fresh bread just brought out of the oven, where food artisans fastidiously design your meal while listening to New Age music. It’s pure Zen. Have you ever been in a restaurant kitchen in the middle of a huge lunch rush? The only thing that’s artistic about it is their use of colorful language.

    Anyway, what’s next? Just like everything else, we are equal, right? That means we are all artists. There’s no difference between Van Gogh and the Reuben you were just served. It means that the person working on my car… Well, let me just say this and you decide whether it’s ridiculous or not:

    “I went to a locally sourced mechanic, where he handcrafted new front brakes on my artisanal automobile. My mechanic is a repair artist!”

    Does it sound… Well, it is ridiculous, and that’s precisely my point. It’s food for thought written by a genuine lexicon artist.