Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The most honest “ask” you will ever get

Dear friend,

Ever really needed to go? You know you have! Especially when it is cold outside? Oh yeah me too. Just this week, I was running along in Central Park when, well…I needed to utilize the facilities. With temperatures hovering in-and-around 15 degrees Fahrenheit, complete with a frosty wind chill making it feel more like negative two, I was worried for any number of reasons.
One: It was really cold and an unheated … facility would have been undesirable.
Two: If it were heated and not clean…also undesirable.
However, thanks to the dedicated and tireless staff of the Central Park Conservancy, I was able to have both a heated and clean facility at 7:30 am. Make a small deposit to ensure we can all use the Park for years to come! Your donation serves to provide warm, clean bathrooms (and other stuff) in Central Park.



Friday, November 12, 2010

We are the believers

Sara of Running New York write in her marathon recap:
There are two important things I’ve taken away from this experience. First, my outlook on life has changed entirely. Spectators will say to you, “I can’t believe you just ran a marathon!” But if you’ve run one, you don’t see what’s so unfathomable about it. No challenge is insurmountable now. Spectators look on in disbelief, but marathoners are believers. That is the difference.
Yup that nails it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some things I learned

There are a number of things I know now that I didn’t know at 4:00 am on November 7, 2010.

1. Fort Wadsworth is COLD in November.
I thought I was really smart with my sleeping bag…and I was. Just not smart enough. With temperatures hovering just above freezing in the pre-dawn hours (in which I spent hours, yes hours) I never really got warm. However this did give many of us waiting in the cold something to talk about besides how nervous we all were for the race. Next year: A small tent, wool stuff and extra socks are a must.

2. Reading digital clocks is difficult (when running a marathon).
I should have used a personal watch to keep pace…I went out super fast over the bridge and went even faster on 4th Ave. Again, a lesson for next year.

3. Lower Level of the Verrazano is pretty neat too.
Initially I was bummed to be on the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. However, the view was spectacular. A crystal clear day, it was as if I could see England if I just looked hard enough. The skyline of Manhattan in the distance emerged from the sparkling water as the FDNY boats shot water into the air and I thought I am really lucky to have the opportunity to run this crazy race.

4. I really hate Brooklyn.
For those of you who know me well, Brooklyn and I have a love hate relationship. I sometimes think living in Brooklyn would be wonderful: more room, hip neighbors, permission to be smug (like I need that). But after running nearly half of the NYC Marathon through the damn borough we are in a hate part of our relationship. (I love you, really, Brooklyn, but you never end.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shut up

Dearest Fellow Democrats,

Shut up.

Yes you read that right. Last night really sucked and it is going to sting all the way until the next time we can figure out a way to nail a significant majority. The Republicans control the House and have significant enough numbers in the Senate to assure nothing is accomplished. So, where does that leave us? Move to Canada? Give up all hope? Take up arms against the country? You sound like Glenn Beck.

So shut up, work hard, lobby your representatives, especially if they are now Republicans and get someone better to run in two or six years.

The major problem we have in this country isn't that what divides us is small in comparison to what unites us or that one party is elitists and the other is anti-intellectual. The real issue here is that every time the other team wins the losers give up and calls the winners names (bigots, socialists, Nazis you name it).

Get over it! There is work to do. Don't give up on your issues but accept that your opposition isn't a a lily-livered, bleeding-heart, liberal, egghead communist or a gun-toting, redneck son-of-a-bitch.

Move on, work hard and shut up.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Go Vote

Well sort of but still! Go vote. You don't vote you can't complain.

Remember to vote for equality and access and economic development and all those good things that support society.

Taxes suck but roads, police, schools, healthcare systems, national defense and park lands are worth it.


Monday, October 11, 2010

On Motivation and Cow Bells

Last week I received an email saying I had hit the minimum contribution line for my marathon fund-raising for the Union Settlement Association (there is still time to give). The email came with a big thank you and promises of a loud cheering section somewhere in between 116th and the Bronx on First Ave. Outside of the major accomplishment of raising the funds from extremely generous people, I was happy to hear that our Union Settlement Team would have an extended support section.

Over the past few months, I have logged over 300 miles and I now can attest to the power of the cheering section. A vast majority of these 300 miles have been covered solo. I had a few running buddies, which makes the time pass a bit faster, but the mythical wall still hits you when running with a friend or two. However, for the races I have run, the cheering sections along the path have helped me over that wall.

Let me tell you, there is something about a cow bell; they, surprisingly, have magical running powers so when you hear them you can keep going past that cramp, slight foot pain or complete and udder (sorry had to) exhaustion.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Freedom isn’t Free

I have spent a significant number of hours on US Interstates that take me through what is considered the “Heartland” of the United States. These areas tend to be significantly more socially conservative than areas where I have lived. The beauty of our great country is that we do have plethora opinions and we are all free to express them.

One such opinion that found its way onto bumper stickers in the aftermath of 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror was “Freedom isn’t Free;” insinuating that Americans must fight and unfortunately die to protect our sacred freedoms.

I was extremely dismayed to read the LA Times headline yesterday that seems to point to deference towards one set of beliefs over another. “Justices appear set to limit funeral protests” was the top story at LATimes.com. This is simply wrong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In addition to my training regimen of distance running four times a week, a massive increase in my caloric intake, accompanied by a very welcome decrease in weight, I have committed to raising $2,500 for the Union Settlement Association. In the past, I have written posts about my training and what goes on when I am running and even why I chose to run one of the hardest open marathons in the world as my first real distance race.

But now, I am only asking for support.

I was just told by the Union Settlement that, due to many your generous gifts, I am just 18 donations of 18 dollars away from my goal. This weekend I am running 18 miles. Eighteen in the Jewish tradition is equal to the word “Chai” or Life. While I am not a big believer in the numbers aligning for a reason, my mother is, and sometimes you just can’t ignore the numbers in front of your face.

The Union Settlement Association has been serving the East Harlem community since 1895, fostering community leadership and self-sufficiency by helping local residents build better lives for themselves and their families. Over the past few months I have learned that this organization not only does good for the community, it does good well. Their staff is dedicated, their volunteers tireless and their clients are proud of what they have been able to accomplish. I am also proud that I get to pound the pavement and have the opportunity to raise funds to support this important place and its work.

So I ask, if you have not done so already, please consider making a donation to support my run and the lives of so many New Yorkers who will benefit from this marathon effort. Your support, no matter how big or small, will bring me one step closer to the first of two major finish lines…I will take care of the one on November 7 if you help me with the more important one with the Union Settlement.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The New Establishment Looks a lot like the Old Establishment

Vanity Fair published its coveted "New Establishment 100" list today.

Here are some interesting stats based on the 100 listed entities (some were shared) now known as the "new" establishment list:
There are 13 women listed.
The first woman listed was number 23 and is Lady Gaga.
Of the 13 women listed, six shared their spot with at least one man. So nearly 40% of women on this list share their position with men.

Not so new this establishment huh?

Nicely done VF.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Do Fun Stuff - The Charity Album

My lovely wife is a HUGE fan of the beautiful and inspirational blog "Pacing The Panic Room." I am not a regular reader of the blog, however I enjoy it whenever I visit. If you are into people taking good pictures and building a loving, modern and complicated family, you will like this blog. They are also doing this great thing raising money for children with Smith Magenis Syndrome, a developmental disorder that you can read more about at Pacing The Panic Room or here with a new album (info in the sweet graphic below).

Of course it is worthy cause and if posting a neat graphic and some nice kids music can make my wife happy, well this is the least I can do! Enjoy and perhaps buy the album if you have some kids to entertain!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Suppose Saying Respectfully Submitted at the End Doesn't Make it Respectful...

Shockingly The NY Jewish Week did not publish this letter to the editor:

To whom it may concern;

As an “arrogant” defender of the 51 Park development, I expect to be dismissed by right-wing demagogues. I have come to understand that some may feel pain because of the community center. I even come to grasp some of the reprehensible and self-serving excuses Jewish “defense” and “tolerance” organizations are making to ensure continued funding differentiate the bigoted statements of many detractors and the question of respecting others bigoted ideas about Islam as a whole.

However, Jonathan Mark’s recent Route 17 column digresses into simple name calling. On August 8, Mr. Mark explains the need to consult public opinion polls when dealing with rights affirmed by the Constitution. That pesky little document was established a few hundred years ago to protect universal rights that often need to be protected from the mob mentality. You know that freedom of religion and assembly and speech that has supported a vibrant Jewish community in country sometimes does need to be shielded from overzealous “real Americans” trying to “keep America American.”

In addition to his regressive, offensive and down-right sophomoric approach to this issue, he writes: “I'd love to see a poll of shul-going Jews -- the real Jews, not the Chelsea Clinton Jews -- regarding the mosque, its imam, and these [51 Park development supporting] rabbis."

Leaving the horrifyingly ignorant reading of the Constitution aside for a minute, Mr. Mark is insulting for the sake of being insulting. Now, we know that Mr. Mark lives in a world full of tree lined avenues and small town charm, all connected by a Parkway of numbered exits. Things are simpler there. However, as the world continues to change—and we know it will as we have recently seen a non-Jewish former American President, the current non-Jewish Secretary of State and their non-Jewish daughter all raised on chairs, encircled by hora dancing wedding celebrants—perhaps a bit of humility within a racist tirade would go a long way to bring our entire Jewish community together.

While I have never agreed with anything Mr. Mark has said, his approach usually does not include sinat hinam (Baseless Hatred). I suppose we should expect more from the New York Jewish Week, but maybe not from Route 17.

Respectfully submitted,

New York, New York

Friday, August 20, 2010

An Open Letter to My Generation

Dear 20s in their emerging adulthood,

My name is dcc and I have job. It is this thing that gives you money that isn’t a trust fund or a parent. Having a job takes responsibility, sacrifice and time. Often it isn’t much fun but it does have its rewards. These include a sense of accomplishment, ability to stand on your own two feet and very often health insurance. I understand the draw to follow your dreams and discover the best taco cart in the world or write a novel or create the next music trend and even the importance of such aspirations, but at some point you will need to get a job.

Now about five years ago, I finished college and started out in the world. My parents supported me and in many ways still do, but I now bring home enough to very happily live my life, support my family and still have time to for identity exploration and feeling a sense of possibility in my life. The recent article in the New York Times Magazine that seems to be on everyone’s Facebook wall is telling us that your being lazy “finding yourself” is an important developmental state.

This is an excuse. Here are some facts:
- You aren’t over qualified for employment; your ego is too big.
- You can find yourself with a job that pays the bills
- If you want to find yourself full-time, get out of the fully furnished luxury apartment and move your ass to Astoria with a few roommates.
- The sense of possibility is greater when you can actually afford to do those things by yourself.

Shave and Get a Job.

From the article we learn:
That’s the impression you get reading Arnett’s case histories in his books and articles, or the essays in “20 Something Manifesto,” an anthology edited by a Los Angeles writer named Christine Hassler. “It’s somewhat terrifying,” writes a 25-year-old named Jennifer, “to think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition.’ When is there time to just be and enjoy?” Adds a 24-year-old from Virginia: “There is pressure to make decisions that will form the foundation for the rest of your life in your 20s. It’s almost as if having a range of limited options would be easier.”

Yup. It isn’t easy and no one should hold your hand. We are supposed to take the risks and work it out. All of our choices cost. They cost either time or money or both. After you emerge into adulthood (like many of us in our 20s have already) you will see that life, love, work and fun are all about figuring out the balance. Putting off this difficult and not fun exercise for later in life only makes you less prepared for your next step.

So, get a job, work hard, figure it out. Stop making excuses. Let me know if you need a resume reference.

All the best,


Monday, August 9, 2010

5:45 AM

Anyone who tells you the city is still at 5:45 AM isn’t paying much attention.

As I train for the upcoming New York City Marathon, I have been hitting the streets in penultimate minutes of darkness. There are trucks buzzing down the streets. There are people walking dogs. There are delivery men banging on store fronts and there are people in suits (both of the Brooks Brothers and jump varieties) on their way to work. Of course there are other runners. But most notably there are human beings waking-up to pack up their belongings and get on the move for the day.

Homelessness is a clearly defined problem in our city; however it seems most acute to me when a homeless person is waking-up from a night’s sleep on my running path.

Running is clearly a leisure activity. Yes, it keeps me healthy and helps me sleep better. But it is something that can only be done if one has access to leisure time. I very much enjoy spending my early mornings listening to my iPod (luxury item) while jogging along in my self-drying shirt and shorts (also luxuries). I have been getting excited to spend my early weekend mornings on runs, mapping these routes out using a number of different websites and free online services (also non-necessities).

The diametric opposite actions comprise the daily lives of people who I often pass on my morning runs.

These men (they are mostly men) pack their beds, if they have them, in shopping charts and get on the move in search of only necessities. In that they are without even shelter, it is clear that these folks will not be joining me on my morning runs through New York.

When I am running in the morning, between dodging delivery trucks and puppies, I have a lot of time to think. I get to wondering about what brought this guy to sleep under the 68th Street pedestrian overpass. Why not further away from the loud and dangerous FDR Drive? What happened in his life that took him from a home and placed him on a concrete slab in Manhattan? But I keep running, listening to my music and keeping pace for my hopefully 9 minute and 30 second miles.

I suppose I feel a little guilty about the situation. However, this gives me a perspective on our city that a vast majority of those with beds to sleep in at night choose not to have. The morning comes a lot earlier for those without beds. Those of us who hit the street in the last vestiges of night make a choice to spend our time on an activity that brings us joy or a sense of accomplishment. But for those we share the pathways with at 5:45 AM, it is not a choice and there is no leisure.

There are countless pathways to homelessness. Many of them traverse the minefield of mental illness and substance abuse. Others navigate physical or sexual abuse. Still others have changed directions to deal with this recession. But the one thing I know for sure is that a strong community infrastructure, with caring families, teachers, social workers and friends, makes the path less direct. There is a safety net. There are hands to hold and places to go for help. By no means is it fool-proof, but it does help.

The Union Settlement Association runs programs that build community, develops leaders and fosters self-sufficiency for its neighbors in East Harlem. For more than 100 years, Union Settlement has taken strides to redirect many of the traditional paths to homelessness towards success, and in the process has built a stronger and more vibrant community for everyone it touches in East Harlem.

I suppose it is fitting that I am running the marathon to support this organization. They gave me the spot and I am running to raise awareness that it isn’t still at 5:45 AM. I am comforted that there are people out there who are listening to the noise and doing something about it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

TheDCC Runs (a lot)

After five years of watching intrepid souls pound their way past our apartment running in the ING NYC Marathon, I am thrilled to report that I am going to join their ranks, strapping on my shoes, short shorts and neat-o running shirt to navigate 26.2 miles of New York City streets. This, like many of my best choices in life (see: "going to Jewish summer camp in Texas and meeting future wife"), was done "just because."

I received an email from the Union Settlement Association about opportunities to run in this year's ING NYC Marathon on Thursday July 8th. I read the email, thought about it over the weekend (even though my mind was made up) and signed up on Monday the 12th. To my surprise and delight, I got my welcome to the team letter this week and am now training like a mad man, including running more than I ever thought I could four days a week.

While I have been making great strides (sorry about that) in my training, I need your help. The Union Settlement Association is an organization that has been serving the East Harlem community since 1895, fostering community leadership and self-sufficiency by helping local residents build better lives for themselves and their families. I first learned of this organization through a partner at my firm about two years ago and have been interested in their work ever since. In signing up to run on the Union Settlement Team, I have pledged to raise $2,500 to support their work.

They have set up a web page to provide donations to your favorite runner (you are going to want to pick me) and ways to learn more about Union Settlement.

The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone, certainly for those who benefit from the work of the Union Settlement. While I realize it’s a tough time to ask for money, I ask that you dig deep and support me in this endeavor. If you are able to make a donation, any donation, regardless of the size, thank you for your generosity on behalf of the thousands of people who benefit from the life changing, sustaining and saving services of the Union Settlement Association. It’s an honor for me to run under the banner of the Union Settlement, and I look forward to reaching the double goal of raising $2,500 and finishing the race!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jessica Lappin Calls Vendors Names

Below please find an passage from City Council Member Lappin's July Community Bulletin.(Commentary in brackets and italics)

Lappin Bill Takes on Vendor Scofflaws [dude, really? Scofflaws?]
Legislation bolsters enforcement of existing laws [all while destroying small businesses in New York]

While food vending trucks enliven the city’s landscape and offer the culinary diversity for which New York is famed [and provide jobs], a few bad actors routinely flout the city’s parking and idling laws. These vendors should feed New Yorkers, not the meter. No one person or business owns a parking spot or piece of the street. That’s why I introduced legislation with Council Member Karen Koslowitz to reclaim public streets and help the city enforce its own laws. [YEAH! Power to the people! Make working New Yorkers pay for crappy over priced food and ensure Upper East Siders don't have deal with the Taco truck. BTW we all know there is a bit of racism at play Ms Lappin, just so you know we didn't miss it.]

Since then, both Mayor Bloomberg and the Daily News Editorial board have agreed that illegally parked food trucks are indeed a problem in our city [but have said your legislation is too punitive]. Here’s the issue. It is already against the law for vendors to idle their engines continuously or feed a parking meter beyond its allowed time.

However, some food vendor trucks around the city commonly do both. My bill applies to these 100 or some odd trucks [Council Member, you are going to put these people out of business, perhaps a bit a research would be required on your part] – and only the trucks – not the vendors who are selling on the sidewalks. The bill would allow the Health Department to suspend or revoke the vending licenses of those who regularly violate the city’s laws.

We had a first hearing on the bill on June 16, 2010. Passionate proponents and opponents weighed in and we will use the testimony we heard to review and amend the bill. [Here is hoping!] I look forward to working with the Administration and those on both sides to tackle this issue.

Monday, June 28, 2010

So we are going to get a budget. Now what?

I have it on good authority that New York State will have a budget, nearly 100 days late, by the end of today. Seems like I was lied to by my good authority.

However, After hundreds of days bickering and looking like imbeciles, will anything get done over the summer before an election? I find it extremely doubtful. With the lackluster leadership we have in Albany we are in for a putrid summer of hand-holding, special interest fund raising and broken campaign promises.

While I do support both of my local state level representatives, I really hope that we see some fresh faces in Albany come January 2011. Silver, Espada, Sampson and the rest of that lot of so-called leaders need to be exposed. Thankfully, the Governor has chosen not to run again.

As my lovely wife likes to say, if anyone else in the world did their job as poorly as these fools, they would be fired. She even said that this craziness has made her consider running for office. I too am almost ready to do that, but like I said before, I support my local representatives.

However, as I noted after my trip to Albany, we really do need some serious leadership changes. Sen. Liz Krueger could lead that change. Her seniority, no-nonsense approach and willingness to work with anyone represent a resounding change from the hissy-fit mentality of our current Senate leaders. Assembly Member Micah Kellner, a friend and neighbor, is still a junior member of the Assembly but he continues to work hard for our community. I still have high hopes that he may one day take on the status quo, but for now he is constrained by the horrific excuse for a leader that occupies Legislative Office Building 932 in Albany.

So we get a budget today…we hope. It is nearly 100 days late. Odds are nothing will change. New York deserves accountable representation in Albany. We are a big state, with a ton of pressing economic and social issues to deal with right now. Jobs will continue to be lost, equality will continue to be ignored and schools will continue to stagnate unless someone stands up and say enough. I am just a schlub with a blog. We need someone with some power to say something AND do something. Who is it going to be?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mayor Changes Tune to Same Song

Some folks are pretty pissed at Mayor Bloomberg because of his apparent flip from pro-Food truck to simply being anti-Introduction 272. Granted I was pretty amped to see the letter from his Office of Legislative Affairs outlining the abject stupidity of this legislation but the letter clearly leaves the door open to other regulation from the city.

Most of the letter states that food trucks must obey the law (including not feeding the meter, which many trucks currently do…) but calls Council Member Lappin’s legislation too punitive. In other words, while Mayor Bloomberg supports greater regulation, he does not support Introduction 272. Got to take your victories where you can.

Now, I can’t say I am surprised that the Mayor’s office provided this clarification. While he has said he won’t run for another term as Mayor (I still am unconvinced that he won’t just do it anyway), Bloomberg does need to keep NYC business happy, most importantly those who pay a majority of the business related taxes: the brick and mortar institutions and start-ups. He may make a run at another office at some point and he will need that support.

The Street Vendor Project asked on its Facebook page yesterday if this legislation is a blessing in disguise providing its membership new-found political standing and yuppie (yeah that would be me) support. However, if this Introduction 272 does become law, which is entirely possible due to the fact that most City Council Members want to get re-elected and need to raise money from local business leaders to do so, this process will all be for not. Jobs lost, creative food gone, our city’s mobile vendor industry decimated. And I won’t get to eat my Schnitzel on Fridays…which is a real bummer.

While many City Council Members clearly have their mind made up, the advocacy must continue. Call, write or walk into your City Council office and speak your mind. Who knows, the Member’s and their staff may actually remember that it is about the people who vote for them who make sure they keep their jobs and not about the people who provide campaign donations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fabulous Israelites and New Yorkers Should Be Able to Get Married

As I have mentioned before, I am a member of the steering committee of the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State. We do lots of progressive social justice type things up in Albany and around the state. We recently launched a major campaign for Marriage Equality. You will notice a nifty little banner ad to the right side of the blog. (look, it is there).

Last weekend, to help launch the campaign, I spoke at Temple Israel of New Rochelle at a rally for marriage equality. Below is my speech.

I thought I would take advantage of my new found web-traffic (Thanks to the always interesting New York City Council for the uptick) and ask you all to take part in this campaign. You don't have to be Jewish (but it helps if you live in New York State). So if you do live in New York, PLEASE visit www.MarriageforAllNY.org and send a note to your State Senator. Every voice counts in this fight for rights and I would be honored to have you take part in this battle.

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaacov, mishcanotecha Yisrael?

How goodly are your tents oh Jacob, your dwelling places Israel?

Tents. Dwelling places. This is not a blessing just for Jacob, this is about all of our tents and dwelling places; all homes, all congregations. Even in the days of the Israelites wandering in the desert, it was clear that the people of Israel were a diverse group, a group that is beautiful and powerful because of our differences. There were a lot of people following Moses through the desert...odds are at least a few Israelites were just a bit more fabulous than the others.

Every day, Jews around the world utter the words of Balaam to start their morning, by way of reminding themselves that in fact that Jews are a blessed people. Our blessing is multifold. We here today are blessed to live in a free country, a place that allows us to embrace our faith and traditions. We live a place with purple mountains and majesty. A place where the individual and the community are sacrosanct. We live in a country with a history of struggles and civil rights. And we live a state that is willing to listen to our complaints about inequality, if we are willing to speak up about them.

That is why I am here today. My name is the dcc and I am a straight married man who stands for marriage equality. I am also proud to be a Reform Jew who is actively engaged in the mitzvah of pursing justice for our community members who are systematically denied thousands of federal and state protections because of who they are.

I am a member of the Reform Jewish Voice (RJV) of New York State steering committee, co-sponsors of this event. RJV aims to engage congregations as advocates for progressive social and economic policies at the state level. Through conferences, advocacy programs and events like this, RJV interacts with more than 100 Reform congregations in New York State with nearly 100,000 members. RJV brings Reform Jewish values and the spirit of tikkun olam to state policy makers through this extensive network of individuals and congregations. And we want to help bring your voice to our state capital.

Just last week we launched a new campaign for marriage equality in our state. The progressive Jewish community of New York aims to become a key player in the ongoing fight for equality in our state, but we need your help. Please log on today to www.MarriageforAllNY.org and send a letter to your state senator. (don’t worry all you need is an email and a zip code, we take care of the rest.)

We cannot be silent. We may be blessed but we must take part in ensuring our blessing continues and that takes hard work. It takes action. And I thank you for your help as we continue to pursue justice so that we once again can share all our blessings with all the tents and dwelling places of our land.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wow! The Mayor Supports the Food Trucks

This is a great letter, outlining the stupidity of this legislation. Patrick A Wehle, Director of City Legislative Affairs nails the worst aspects of this law and why it is a bad idea.

Thank you very much for the support.

City Testimony Re Intro 272

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another way to stand up to the man and support the food trucks

So, you, like most people have jobs -- like the ones Council Member Jessica Lappin's new legislation will destroy -- and can't just leave said job to attend the New York City Council's Committee on Consumer Affairs meeting that will discuss the aforementioned anti-business legislation introduced by Ms. Lappin.

Well have no fear, the dcc is here to help you voice your concern about the short-sighted, prejudicial, anti-Small Business legislation.

In addition to calling and writing Ms. Lappin's office, call and write all the members of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. How you ask? Well just click on the links below and you will be taken to their pages were you will find email and phone numbers so you can be in touch. Isn't that just so easy? I thought so.

Karen Koslowitz - Queens-D email (Chair and Co-sponsor of the bill...so good luck)
Charles Barron - Brooklyn-D
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. - Queens-D email
Julissa Ferreras - Queens-D email
James F. Gennaro - Queens-D email
G. Oliver Koppell - Bronx-D email
Michael C. Nelson - Brooklyn-D
Remember to be nice, mention the leg by name (Introduction 272) and make sure to say where you live in the city.

We can win this fight, but we need to be vocal.

Get out there and let them know you care about the diversity of our small business and the deliciousness of our food trucks!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Response To Ms. Lappin

Council Member Lappin,

Thank you for your response to my email regarding Introduction 272. From your legislative and administrative priorities, it is clear that the most pressing issues facing our City are the safety of and access to our streets. Below is just a partial list of your work saving our streets for the public. I personally thank you for your ongoing action:

* A three hour “Horn Honking Sting” on December 10th with officers of the 19th Precinct at 63rd and York
* Participation in the East Side Streets Coalition’s open meetings this past March
* The extremely important Trafficstat bill you introduced on April 29th that mandates information about dangerous intersections and traffic accidents be published on the web
* Your ongoing crusade against idling

It is clear that you are a true friend of New York pedestrians and are always willing to overwork New York’s Finest for such meaningful causes. And now with Introduction 272, you are changing the rules to target a small group of innovative business owners, providing exciting and diverse food on the streets of our great City, all in the name of keeping our streets safe and open to the public.

But I must ask, why stop at mobile food vendors? Why not introduce legislation calling for additional Parking Enforcement on all of your constituents who park on the streets illegally. After six tickets (I would give these folks just a few more chances than the food vendors) in a 12 month period, drivers will lose their vehicle registration. This of course would be after a review process. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about our streets being congested with some many illegally parked cars and we could get some of the worst polluters off the street. It really doesn’t matter that some of these drivers make their living by driving, what matters is our streets are free of distractions like cars.

One more piece of legislation that would ensure greater public access to the City’s avenues and boulevards is a bill that would remove the meters. That way no one would pay to park in pay to park places illegally. There will be no meter feeding or even coming back to make sure you don’t get a ticket from an over zealous Parking Enforcement Officer. By removing the regressive tax for parking you will make it much easier for working New Yorkers and those who travel into the City work, to park. It would save a lot of money for individuals. But please remember to post the no parking hours clearly so it is possible to enforce the above outlined six strikes you’re out rule.

As you can see Ms. Lappin, while some measures are appropriate to foster street safety and access, others go way too far. Targeting of a group of small business owners, who for the most part, follow the rules as they are outlined by law, serves only to get your name in the paper while hurting people who don’t vote for you or provide donations. I am disappointed that your next campaign for Public Advocate veiled ever so slightly in the guise of legislative agenda supporting seniors and street access, is taking precedence over smart government. Again, I respectfully ask you to withdraw your support for this legislation.

Thank you for your time,

the dcc

Ms. Lappin's Form Letter Outlining Her Reasons to Hurt Small Businesses

I got this email just a few minutes ago.

Mr. Cutler,

Thank you for your email in opposition to Introduction 272, a bill which would change the city enforces feeding the meter and idling regulations on mobile food vendors. Food vending trucks are part of our city’s food landscape. I hope that they will remain that way. But they are not exempt from the laws that are already on our books.

My bill does not ban food trucks, but changes the way we enforce two key illegal acts: 1) idling for more than 3 minutes, which pollutes our air; and 2) feeding parking meters. Food trucks have a license to operate as a mobile business. That means, by definition, they are required to be mobile. That’s what they agreed to when they got the permit in the first place. There are trucks that now take a parking spot and use it to vend all day long. They take the same space every day for hours on end. That isn’t legal and it isn’t right.

The city streets belong to the public, not to any one business owner. Food trucks can park somewhere for an hour or two, depending on the regulations, and still sell their wares. They can use twitter and blogs to communicate with their customers. But they are not allowed to take over a parking spot forever for their own use.

Unfortunately, some mobile vendors are doing just that and view tickets as a cost of doing business. My bill seeks to change that.

I’m sorry we could not agree on this issue. Please feel free to contact me should you have additional questions or concerns.


Jessica Lappin

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jessica Lappin Targets Small Businesses…on Wheels

Here is the logic: Getting parking tickets makes your food truck dirty and unhealthy and therefore if you get two tickets in 12 months you lose your vendor license. Say what?

Or at least that is what City Council Member Jessica Lappin (D-Upper East Side) is trying to promote with her new bill before the City Council.

Needless to say the mobile-gourmands took to Twitter and Facebook to fight back against this ill-conceived plan. The boys over at “Schnitzel and Things” put up a petition that attracted hundreds of signatures within a few hours of its publication (I am #27). Nearly every iPhone and Droid on those targeted trucks were a buzzing in the aftermath of the announcements and the people responded to the epicurean call to action.

But Council Member Lappin, my representative to the somewhat lawless body of the New York City Council, has yet to reply to my email or Facebook messages. Granted she is probably busy with the unexpected backlash to this bill, but I would like to know her rationale for this legislation. (I will let all three of you reading this know if she gets back to me.)

What Council Member Lappin is trying to accomplish, besides riding our streets of creative culinary treats and tasty morsels of deep fried goodness, is really beyond me. The cynical side of my political mind says that she is getting pressure from real estate bound restaurants, many of whom would love the viral support of a Wafle & Dinges (haha…dinges) or Rickshaw Dumpling Truck. The restaurant industry, which has been hit so very hard by this recession and employees most of the “aspiring” actors in a town of “aspiring” action, legitimately needs help. But I can’t think of a better way to support local businesses than to change the rules to hurt other small local business. Can you?

New York City would not be the same place if it wasn’t for our diverse and delicious food establishments. There is a reason why New York is the capital of American Food. (Back off LA, you so don’t even come close. Chicago, that is cute but chill out. San Fran, please enjoy your tofu and sit quietly on your organic high horse.) Supporting local industry is an extremely worthwhile goal of local legislation. But this piece of slick, backroom dealings hurts more than it could ever help.

For example, Thomas DeGeest, CEO and Founder of Wafle & Dings (I said dinges again, huhuh) outlines the amount of money the city collects from these mobile business owners. This represents only the parking costs; these numbers are before taxes are collected, before people travel into the city to find these treats and before DeGeest and his other employees spend their hard earned green in New York City establishments:
In my business, Wafels & Dinges, we are relentless and truly obsessive about paying for munimeter receipts and avoiding parking tickets. But sometimes you have a line and you're just 5 minutes late, which is enough to give you a 95% chance on a ticket (thanks to Mr. Bloomberg, who has turned parking tickets into a major revenue source for the city).

We still end up with average 3 tickets per month, but we do pay an average of $36 per day in munimeter receipts (5 days / week, make that $9180 / year). Add the tickets at an average $106 / ea and we pay another $3800 / year in tickets.

I have long been a supporter of the exciting new food trucks and their older, traditional cousins. There are lots of things these guys do, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, that can get on the nerves of other businesses. But there is no reason to create a specialized parking law that targets these entrepreneurial up-starts.

This is a self-serving law that puts the interests of brick and mortar restaurants before those of a group of newer, faster moving, innovative businesses represented by these trucks. Ms Lappin should be fostering all business in our city and not fixing the books to favor one group over another.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Vatican makes it too easy

The Financial Times Reports:
Vatican-backed ethical index given baptism

Europe’s first Christian equity index was launched on Monday in response to increasing demand by investors for so-called ethical stocks in the wake of the financial crisis.

The Stoxx Europe Christian Index comprises 533 European companies that only derive revenues from sources approved “according to the values and principles of the Christian religion”...Only groups that do not make money from pornography, weapons, tobacco, birth control and gambling are allowed to be listed.

I mean where do they get off taking about ethics?

Oh yeah, also, isn't that our sector?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mr. Smith The dcc goes to Washington Albany

A group of Reform Jews from around New York spent yesterday in Albany as a part of the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State's annual Advocacy Day. From the Sages of the Talmud to leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, the Reform Jewish Movement has a long history of and commitment to Social Justice. While I wouldn't put myself in any category with sages or civil rights leaders, I am a member of the Steering Committee of the RJV, so at least I get a cool title.

Over the years we have worked in our congregations and our Nation's Capital to advocate for progress. So yesterday a bunch of us took our message to our State Capital. Joining forces with Interfaith Impact, RJV touched on issues of Marriage Equality, Reproductive Choice, the Role of Good Government and the always imperative pursuit of Economic Justice. You can read about our position papers online.

The event went well and we got to speak with allies, enemies and everyone in between.

But the thing that got my goose was that the New York State budget wasn't finished. Long ago, when RJV was planing this event, we choose not to talk about budgetary issues because the budget should have been done, closed and printed months before our day in the Capital. Oops.

I suppose it makes sense that I love to know how sausages are made, because I feel better knowing how laws are created. However, I don't think I would choose to eat sausage made in the Upper Hudson River Valley at this point.

New York State government is so messed up, I am ashamed to be known as a politically active New Yorker. Not just the scandals (and we sure have plenty of that) but the lack of leadership is just sad. Yesterday, a prominent member of the legislative branch stood up and said that the corruption laws (the weak ass ones on the books) were keeping him from attending evening events, most of which are payed for by lobbyists. He actually told a group of religious activists, that he was not able to connect to his constituents because he couldn't attend black tie dinners bankrolled by special interest groups. And he is one of the good guys!

We need the people who are actually getting stuff done to choose to take a risk. I believe that Senator Liz Krueger (who is my State Senator) could be one of those leaders. I do hope that she continues her active leadership on issues like reproductive rights, marriage equality and economic justice, but perhaps she could also be the leading voice on making Albany work again. In our meeting with her yesterday, her no bullshit attitude was refreshing. While clearly a seasoned politician, she actually believes that the State should work well for the people. Novel as it may be, this point of view should be held by all of our representatives.

I met with lots of people yesterday, all of them nodded and agreed (or looked at me like I was crazy as I asked if their right-wing Republican boss could support marriage equality the next time it comes up for a vote...) Many of the meetings ended with huge thank yous and please come agains but I got to say for the most part, I was just pissed about the budget not being passed.

We were pushing for the promised 10% increase to the basic welfare grant outlined in the 2008-09 FY budget. This clearly was cut and pushed around and made to be the political hot potato we all know welfare can become in an election/economic disaster year. No matter what we said, it always came back to where are we going to find the money. All I know is that without REAL leadership we will won't find the money.

It is disheartening to see such incompetence, but perhaps, just maybe, even a little bit, our work yesterday and our continued efforts in the months and years to come, will start to make a difference in the horrific way our State is run. Maybe we will see true leadership taking risks to make the system work. But if we don't see someone get up and take real risks, we will get no where and we will be stuck.

But rest assured, the RJV and other value based progressives will not stay quiet while Albany sits back and does nothing. As frustrating as it may be, we have a responsibility to speak truth to power. While they might not understand this thing called truth, if you keep at it, after awhile, even New York State politicians may even start to believe it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fish Food

As I attempt to reign in my cholesterol, I have taken to eating more fish. The oils are good for you, the meat is tasty and if you do it right it is it can be extremely sustainable. There has been a big rush of crazy fish stories and in honor of my new pesca-intense diet here is a food clip round up:

Carp-et Tariffs
GAVULT! Israel has levied (not like the like Levy’s) a huge and somewhat prohibitive tariff on the import of Asian carp from the US. Why is this a problem, you ask? In that it is spring time, it is almost Passover, and with so many Jews from European roots in the Middle Eastern state, they need to import the gefilte fish for the Seder. (So you know, gefilte is spell checked to guilt) Oy, but don’t worry so much: the fish you have in the back of the fridge will still be fine. (There is an interesting side environmental story as well about the evil Asian carp screwing up the Mississippi River eco-system as well.) NPR

Give me Lox or Give Me Death
A bunch of nutty ultra-Orthodox Rabbis say that Lox is not kosher. In fairness, the less-nutty Orthodox Union has said this is a dumb ruling, but I have never been happier to be a Reform Jew. New York Post UPDATE: The still nutty ultra-Orthodox say the Lox treif issue was a lie, but I am still happy to be a Reform Jew. JTA

Bumble Bee Tuna? Bumble Bee Tuna…
Japan, well known for its less than stellar environmental record thanks to a soft-ball Oscar-award winning documentary about dolphins (when there were many others films about human suffering in places that no one cares about), has let the international community know they can blow it out their collective blow hole (see below) regarding the proposed blue fin tuna fishing ban. Wall Street Journal

The Free Willy Course
A sushi restaurant in LA got nailed by the same people who were upset about killing dolphins in Japan for serving whale. The story is all 007 meets Berkeley tree people and a touch of Radio Shack nerd. Best part of the article is the part about the vegans eating fish and whale and then putting it into their bags. (Haha vegans had to eat fish and whale!) New York Times

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mohamed the Mench

There was about a full foot of snow on the ground by the time I was ready for my ride to arrive to take me to my 7:30 am meeting. Complete with box of 50 presentations and name-tags, I called the car service to see if my ride was outside.

“Oh no sir, it isn’t outside. We are running two hours behind because of the weather.”

“It is 7am and I called for the car for 7am. Do you think you could have let me know it was two hours behind a few minutes ago?” (NOTE: I didn’t say that but I really wanted to let it rip.)

So, I make a dash for the door, lugging easily 40 pounds of paper, in a clean suit and shined shoes. I run outside into the snow and start doing the time tested New Yorker Cab Dance. Related to other ritualistic dances, the Cab Dance includes jumping with one hand in the air while leaning as far into the street as possible, uttering words phrases like, “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE,” and following it up with statements about the cabby’s mother when the cab does not stop.

By the time three cab drivers look at me, flip on their “Off Duty” lights and drive on it is getting to the point where the blood pressure is heading towards stroke-ville and my face looks something out of a Tim Burton movie.

Then finally, a Limo-style SUV pulls up and asks me where I am heading.

I tell him and ask how much.

“I can’t take you there but I can get you to the subway,” said the driver.

I reply with many thank yous in rapid succession, the traditional end of the ritualized New Yorker Cab Dance, and ask again about the cost of the trip.

Mohamed “Mo” Mahdy, driver and general good guy, ignores my ask again to tell me that he is waiting for his boss to be done with a meeting and he just needs to be in the neighborhood, so he can take me to the subway. Then he drops some serious wisdom on me:

“When you see your fellow human beings dying in the streets, you know you have to help other people out when you can.”

What do you say to something like this? I was standing shin deep in snow, with a heavy box, cursing passing cars and he stops and gives me a lift to 77th and Lex and shares what could possibly be the essences of every religion and cultural norm in the world: Be good to the people around you if you can, because life can be short and cruel.

We talked for the trip. I got out at the subway and took the train getting there in time for the 7:30 meeting. I sent him a thank you note and mentioned that I would let my office, family and friends know that if they ever needed a car service to pick them up for an airport run or meeting or anything else that they should get in touch with him.

I am sure he doesn’t know the impact he had on me personally and my day, but it was a profound experience at 7:10 am on that snowy Friday morning. There are good people all around us and we all have the power to be good; my friend Mo proved that by giving me a ride to the subway, saving my sanity, my presentations and my shoes. But I suppose, as he said, you know you have to help out when you can.

Mohamed Mahdy
Certified Professional Chauffeur
Times Limo
917.337.4173 or 917.415.5847

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tall Latte, No Whip and a Side of Smith and Wesson

I support the people who say the Second Amendment gives them the right to carry guns. I really do. Law abiding citizens should be permitted to exercise their rights as outlined by the Constitution and the subsequent Amendments to said document.

Granted, there need to be limits. I can’t really see much of a need for a Howitzer in say, anywhere in the United States, but a hand gun use for legitimate protection purposes, while not for me and I believe counterproductive to the goal of safety, makes some sense.

Now…how does said gun protect you without bullets?

There seem to be some crazies out in California (shocking I know) who think they should be tucking their pistols into their belts before going out for a day of errands and lunch with the girls (but really most like the boys). The law states that one can carry an unregistered weapon as long as it isn’t loaded. So as these activists go out on the town, they make sure to grab the keys (to get into the car or back home), their cell phone (complete with batteries), sunglasses (with tinted glass) and their gun (without the active ingredient of bullets…).

AP is reporting that Peet’s Coffee and California Pizza Kitchen have banned the gun toting activists, you know so they don’t get shot by mistake…cause that can happen, even without bullets. Starbucks, described by the non-biased University of Mississippi political science professor, John Bruce as “a special target [of the activism] because it’s from the hippie West Coast, and a lot of dedicated consumers who pay $4 for coffee have expectations that Starbucks would ban guns …and here they aren’t,” didn’t ban the gun activists. They are sticking with, we are going to follow the law and keep our safety measures up.

I understand activism, trying to get media attention and doing things that may seem like pushing the envelope to prove your point…but this is stupid.

Come on California! Don’t let people carry unlicensed fire arms, you need the revenue. Call for all guns to be registered. You make people do that with cars, boats, pets and electricians, you would think that guns could also get checked in by the state. Put the money you get from that registration drive to emergency room doctors, because the longer these wackos walk around with their “unloaded” guns in their pants the more visits we are going to see to the state’s over run ERs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Los Angeles Times' Entertainment Section

Well done LA Times for calling it like it is:

While it is clear that this particular article was placed in this particular section for the content of the piece, it is pretty clear to me that the editors of the Times did this with a smile on their faces.

So on this President's Day, I leave you with this: These so-called presidential candidates are the jesters in the court of our nation's real leaders.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Omnivore Faces Hypocrisy

All of the dilemmas aside, I am an omnivore. I love eating all sorts of stuff; from the finest meats to the cheapest offal, from complex French baked goods to fruit from the garden and even “fruit” from the candy store, I eat it all.

And I don’t intend to stop.

But after my yearly physical I learned that my once stable and very good cholesterol numbers were not what they once were and something had to change. I do work out (a little less than I tell my doctor I work out) and I do tend to eat a balanced diet (albeit more than I should of most items.) This less-than-stellar news comes on the heels of my dismay regarding the lack of affordable, social conscience meat products in my local grocery stores. Chicken from organic, free range and other make-you-feel-better labeled farms they have; forget about cows, lambs or other fun little barnyard creatures for your dinner plate.

So now I am faced with a big dilemma. Tell me what to do Michael Pollan!

Ok, fine, I know what to do.

Moving forward, I will not eat meat during the work week and will enjoy limited amounts of meat on weekends and special occasions.

I have just started and have been doing alright, but I know it is going to be difficult if not somewhat hypocritical. I have long made fun of the vegetarian lifestyle and find the flexetarian movement to be somewhat silly. I guess, as a foodie, my food choices have also supported a lifestyle. Religious food restrictions support religious movements. So what is different about these flexetarians or veggies?

I suppose the world that is controlled by crazy restrictions (read: Kosher wine) or diminished by lack-luster substitutions (read: veggie burgers) doesn’t really speak to me as a person or as an eater. But what about all those people who say their lives are better without meat? (Clearly they haven’t had the seared Foie Gras on pan toasted brioche, with mango ginger chutney, Persian pistachios & bee pollen at Alta.)

Now that is a perfect transition to the issues at hand, thanks Alta you are great for so many things! So I have the high cholesterol and I also want to eat more sustainably and consciously. The no meat during the week seems like an easy solution, not taking away everything always but most of it most the time and thus leading a healthier and more sustainable life.

I think I will miss the meat in the next few weeks but now I intend to enjoy my hypocrisy and path to better health.

This Just In: The News

H/T davidAMwilensky

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Something Just Doesn't Smell Right

In case you missed it, a plane traveling to Kentucky had to make an emergency landing in Philly because a Jewish teenager put on his t'fillin and the flight attendant freaked out thinking it was a bomb...no joke. T'fillin are known as "phylacteries" in English. Just keep that in mind when you watch the clip.

Here is the captainChief Inspector of the Philadelphia police's report from AP:

Those olfactories are something we all have to watch out for but when they aren't running or stuffed up odds are things will turn out ok with your flight, captainChief Inspector of the Philadelphia police.

(H/T: Mobius)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Interesting Food Links

Politics of Food Trucks:
Do you dig on the epicurean roach coaches but not the Halal stand? You will wait for 2 hours for a kimchie Kogi taco but wouldn’t be caught dead eating two tacos carnitas con salsa from the truck near the day laborers? Read this article about the issues facing food truckers in the LA area. Salon

Frozen Fruit:
While it might be a good way to get some vitamin C in the dead of winter, having it freeze on the trees in Florida is bad for the trees and the industry. That is being addressed but what about the people who pick the fruit? Take a look behind the groves and see what is happening to those who put food on your table. The Atlantic

Krazy for Kosher Food:
So people think Kosher food is better for them. Boy I hope they don’t have the hypertension! The Times reports that millions of non-Jewish Americans are now “keeping Kosher” because it is perceived as better. New York Times

Hide the Salami:
The WSJ reports that the jack-ass undies boomber is going to make it harder for chefs to sneak good tube meats into the country. One more reason to hate that guy! Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Zig Coyotes!

I wrote a post over at Jewschool about a situation that took place at my high school; please check it out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Great Song about a Great Salad

First you take parsley from your sister
Chop it up like hand of shoplifter...

(Now get that out of you head)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bing Bong

So Bing was supposed to be better than Google…not so much. They are supposed to bring you better, more pertinent information. Again not so much.

This ad kind of says it all:

Follow tweets from these two politicians and this crazy actor, Bing makes it easier.

Way to be Bing.

I mean really? William Shatner and Obama? I guess Schwarzenegger brings it together but still...Shatner?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The White House, Food Network and Trendy Food Culture

I wrote a piece about the trendiness of “new American cuisine” and its sustainability movement. And last night, the Food Network supported my trendiness-thesis with a two hour special complete with “Super Chefs” that even anti-epicureans would recognize. Chef Emeril Lagasse teamed up with Iron Chef Marrio Batali to take on White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Iron Chef Bobby “The Ego” Flay.

As promised, it was the culinary event of a lifetime.

Eh, but it was fun TV and the food looked pretty fantastic. For a blow-by-blow, I suggest reading another blog. However, to ease your suspense I can let you know that the President, the First Lady and the world’s most important people will be eating from the kitchen of a champion. (Like that was a big surprise.) The only thing I will say about the content of the show is that this two hour special about local food, sustainable production and healthful eating didn’t provide Americans with an attainable way to engage in local, sustainable or healthful eating.

Most people don’t have a garden that can produce 1,000 pounds of food -- forget the army of people needed to tend to such a small scale farm. Most people don’t have the knowledge to use watermelon radishes or that crazy looking cauliflower-broccoli thing that Batali used in his unearthly mega-ravioli. Most people also don’t have the skills to create those kinds of food.

But beyond all the simple things that make Iron Chef a fun TV show and not an educational program, the food that was presented last night was really not all that local, sustainable or healthful.

Sure the veggies were produced locally in relation to the White House, but not to Kitchen Stadium where they were consumed. The meat may have been grown on a sustainable farm within 100 miles of New York City (home of Iron Chef America) but odds are a good deal of that meat isn’t even close to affordable for most Americans and therefore not sustanable for thier budgets. The use of the deep fryer makes me question the overall healthfulness of the meals produced. No question: even the fried oysters with remoulade created by Lagasse are a better choice than a Big Mac, but they were still battered, fried and dipped in a fatty sauce.

The end result was a pretty meal that could not be reproduced in a home kitchen by a home cook. However, if Iron Chef America stops using secret ingredients that have to travel thousands of miles to Kitchen Stadium, incorporates more diverse vegetables into its pantry and cooks with health and taste in mind, then maybe this popular cooking competition will have some sort of an impact. If not, then the culinary event of a lifetime was just another episode of a TV show trying to keep up with the trends it claims to set.

Until well made and carefully crafted food becomes just what is done in this country, we will continue to see the negative impacts of our current fast-mass-produced food culture wracking our society. I don’t pretend to eat only organics or local food. I know I could, but it is really difficult and cost a ton of money. It is a choice and that is one of many that I make, with my wife, on how to consume our food thoughtfully. That is really the core issue with the lackluster American food culture and this “battle” of “Super Chefs” did very little to address this part of the problem.

We do buy so-called cage free eggs, feed with organic vegetarian meal. I know that just means a small door at the end of a huge coop is opened a few hours a day to "allow" the chickens to go outside. And chickens aren’t really vegetarians, so that is another problem. But that extra money is worth spending most of the time because the eggs taste and cook much better. The same is true with organic chicken. Do we buy organic milk? Yup, when it is available at our finicky market. But sometimes we need milk and they aren’t carrying the organic half-gallons. And sometimes you really want an orange; organic or not, those suckers aren’t growing in the 100 mile radius of Kitchen Stadium in January.

The change in US food culture will take place when we start thinking about our food more. I do not believe the answer is the Alice Waters local-or-nothing approach or the White House uber-garden method. People need to think when they buy produce or meat or dried goods (and they should try to buy these items more often than the stuff that comes already made (which we also buy, but less and less of it)) where it comes from, how it is made and if they are alright with the story they get.

Does your farm fresh milk support the exploitation of workers? Possibly. Do your organic, cage-free eggs come from truly free chickens? Most likely not. Does sneaking veggies into a kid’s meal really help her expand her growing palette and lead to smart eating choices later in life? I don’t know, but I would doubt it. Where any of these kinds of questions raised on Iron Chef America last night? No, they were not.

It is great that people want to eat better. It is also fantastic that organizations and the entertainment industry are talking about healthful and local food. But it is just trendy and it will not create real change in the American food culture unless the conversation is about a process towards a better eating culture and not just a buzz word infused two hour TV special, no matter how good the sweet potatoes from the White House garden taste in that ravioli.