From My Table Consultants

So you're reading this blog post and saying to yourself, where the heck has he been? Over a year and no new posts?

I admit I fell off the blogosphere- work and family obligations (brand new baby!) will do that to a hard working guy.

BUT WAIT! I invite you to check out my latest endeavour; From My Table Consultants.

Drawing on my twenty plus years in this incredibly demanding world of hospitality, I am taking on the role of Hospitality and Restaurant Consultant. My goal is to provide new (start up) and existing restaurants or food service/retail establishments with a full range of consulting services, be it profit and loss or training and developing the staff- working together with ownership and managers, we'll provide unique and innovative solutions to create a great vibe that accents the food, service and atmosphere.

Check it out at www.frommytableconsultants.blogspot.com, tell your friends and business colleagues about BOTH blogs and watch for new posts. I'll be on facebook and twitter soon!

Thanks, and that's the view from my table!


Eat REAL Food, part one

If you haven't seen the documentary "Food, Inc." yet, you must do so. I urge you to see it, because it will change the way you think about, buy, cook and eat food, forever.

Our society today has been hoodwinked. Our nation's food supply is not nearly as safe as we think it is. When we think about eating healthy, we are programmed to think in terms of "low calorie" and "low fat". But the reality is that since we've been trying to eat a low fat diet, we've gotten fatter, and that fat extends to the rising cost of medical bills. Yes, eating right and the cost of health insurance DO go hand in hand.

Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Food Rules", among other titles, points out the as the cost of food has decreased for Americans, the cost of health care has INCREASED exponentially. Coincidence, one might say; but, then again, think about the old adage, you are what you eat.

This means really, if your diet constantly supplies you with an intake of anti-biotic rich, hormone fed chicken, then the chances are that those anti biotics and hormones are making their way into your body. Tyson Foods, Perdue Foods- the two largest poultry suppliers in the nation, refuse to allow any media access to their chicken farmers. They don't want us to see the manner in which their hens are raised. After you watch "Food, Inc.", you will understand that most if not all of the commercial chicken farming relies on anti-biotics, growth hormones and horrific conditions for the birds. So I put it this way, since everything in our society always comes back to baseball: If we object to baseball players taking growth hormones to improve their home run hitting skill, then why do we accept a hormone injected chicken on our dinner table?

And as a word of professional advice: DO NOT BUY prepackaged, preformed hamburger patties from your local supermarket. If you really crave a hamburger, then do it the right way; spend a little bit more, go to your favorite butcher, and request that he grind you hamburger meat fresh from grass fed, hormone free, naturally raised beef. Preformed, frozen and even "fresh" ground beef from your supermarket mostly comes only one of six major slaughterhouses in the United States, with very little FDA oversight and inspections. The chances of contracting e-coli food poisioning is a little like playing Russian roulette with hamburger meat. The same goes for fast food burger joints; where do you think McD's, BKing and Wendy's get their burgers from? Naturally raised grass fed beef? Check out the book "Fast Food Nation" or even see the film version. You'll think twice about the drive thru.

This is the first post of more to come in a series to raise awareness of eating REAL food. What's real? As Michael Pollan puts it, don't buy anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize. Another great rule of thumb is if the ingredients has a list of words a five year old can't pronounce, then chances are you shouldn't buy it, much less eat it.

Shop for fruits and vegetables that are IN SEASON. Buy chicken that is naturally raised, hormone free and antibiotic free, and fed a vegetarian diet. Buy beef that is grass fed (cows naturally eat grass, so why do ranchers insist on feeding cows corn? Perhaps our government subsidizes corn farming? Hmmmm...) Visit your farmers markets. You will be healthier and your cost of health care will go down, and the food you cook and eat will TASTE better. I promise.

And that's the view from my table.


iPhone Customer Service App!

Yes, it has been a while since my last post. I realize my blogging is few and far between. But my last experience at Starbucks got my inner blogger brewing again.
There MUST be an app for the iPhone called Customer Service. I am certain of it. It goes like this: I work near Bryant Park. I never go to the Starbucks on the corner of 42nd and Sixth, because it is one of the smallest Starbucks ever built, there are studio apartments in NYC bigger than this joint, which is really a testament as to why the brewmeisters at 'bucks have had their fair share of problems in the last few years: build a ridiculously small coffee shop for one of the busiest, most congested street corners in the WORLD.
Anyway, the line is never short here unless it's six thirty a.m. on a Saturday. So, imagine my surprise as I am walking by on a Thursday afternoon at 3:15pm, in a soft September mist, and I spy only ONE person on line. Well, I was desperate for a latte, a triple venti one, and, seeing the opportunity to spend $5.43 for an afternoon jolt, I leaped at the chance!
Cashier take my order, no problem, smiles happily as he takes my cash. Shouts out the beverage order, and uses a marker to write on the cup, indicating what sort of drink is expected.
I move down towards the corral, the waiting area, as I see the barista casually step forward to take the cup that was marked up for my drink. She remarks to the cashier-"you've got to tell me that again." And she takes the cup, and marks something else on it. Hmm, I think. Not a red flag- yellow card, maybe, but not a red flag.
Barista moves to the espresso machine. I am watching with soon to be caffeinated nerves, as she searches around for something. Must be the milk. She grabs the silver steaming pitcher. She's ready to make my drink.
She leaves.
What? She disappears? Gone! Where? She turned around, and with the look that something terrible was wrong, something so urgent, she bounds up a stairwell and disappears into the ceiling! There must be milk up there that she's retrieving. Something so imperative to ensure that my beverage is properly made, she cannot do without it! Go barista, go! Get the necessary tools for java perfection! I won't stop you!
Then: she's back! Here she comes! With steps of determination she descends, back to street level, to create a masterful brew to warm the cockles of my heart. She has the magic tool in her hand: it's her...iPhone!!!!!! What the f--k is that? Is the recipe for my beverage- a triple venti-no foam-soy latte, embedded on a file in her iPhone???? It must be! No, wait, she's putting her earbuds into her ears! She's scanning---her iTunes? Cues up a playlist?? She presses play, and then slides that $399 piece of 3G hardware into her pink hoodie pocket, and, to ensure workplace safety, removes one of the earbuds, the one closest to the cashier, so she can hear all of his precise instructions!
Now, she begins to steam the soymilk for my beverage, brews the espresso, and assembles the drink. She calls it out loud, despite that I am the ONLY person waiting for a beverage. Yes, there are two other customers in this coffee closet, but they are Germans, arguing in lots of syllables with each other over money, counting the singles in their palms, trying to define what a regular cup of brewed coffee goes for. Me, I am the all important one, waiting for the promise of 'if we don't brew your coffee just right, we'll make another one' to be fulfilled.
I get my drink from the pink hoodie. She fumbles with the lid, and acts as if it everything is secure, and I take the cup, and say thank you anyway...and I leave out the door, onto the crowded street, as I have to make my way to a meeting. I walk, and walk, and suddenly realize that I have coffee spilling on my thumb...and down the front of my nice WHITE shirt, there it is, the lid was NOT on tight, as the pink hoodie barista feigned it to be, and it could not be tight, as the rim of the cup was crimped slightly, a damaged cup, for which I have no backup plan. The stupid plastic sippy cup lid- which I despise, I prefer flip top flat lids, because I don't want my coffee tasting like melting plastic--was rendered useless due to the defective cup. I was now blocks away and already near tardy for my meeting, coffee stained, despondent over the spilled coffee that was lost and not going to be consumed, approximately 57 cents worth, I am sure- AND- I am pretty pissed off at the pink hoodie.
WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE THINKING? Is music so important, or necessary, to make a beverage? The most important thing there is the customer standing in front of you. Her actions were purely selfish, and that's what's wrong not only with just one element of Starbucks, but with many aspects of customer service in ANY industry, be it food, coffee, or retail.
Attention managers and district managers and executives AND servers, baristas and crew members and sales associates: treat every customer with respect, kindness and thanks for coming to your place of business, to spend their money and time to purchase your food, coffee, goods and yes, SERVICES. Share a genuine smile, and be appreciative- without that customer, YOU DON'T HAVE A JOB.
I've said this before: great service starts with the environment that the servers work in; if there is great management where service is the emphasis, where servers are taught EMPATHY, and to really understand hospitality. If this happens at the top, it creates an environment of great service--and then, our levels of customer service would be off the charts.
And we wouldn't need the iPhone-customer service app. Then again, the 3G network is so damned crowded and unreliable, you wouldn't be able to load it in time, anyway. Who at customer service can I talk to about that?
And that's the view from my table.


Great food in no time for smart money-at HOME!

Eating right, eating healthy, eating smart ($$!) and feeling satisfied after you eat...it's all possible, and really not time consuming if you plan your menu and shop accordingly. And you can do it for less than dining out.

I cooked dinner the other night, a simple shrimp fra diavolo, from everything that was in the house. Along with some pan seared broccoli with garlic, and it was GREAT. Homemade marinara cooks in about thirty minutes, whole wheat pasta (whatever you like- spaghetti, linguine, penne, it's your dish, cook it with the pasta you want!), frozen shrimp--get the peeled and deveined kind, with the tail still on.

I made the marinara, and while that was simmering, I defrosted the shrimp quickly under tepid water. I drained the shrimp, seasoned them liberally with sea salt and cracked black pepper, crushed garlic and olive oil, and some red pepper flakes. With my pasta water boiling, I tossed in the pasta, and then I sauteed up my broccoli and garlic, and seasoned that with sea salt and black pepper.

Putting the cooked broccoli aside, I wiped out the pan with a paper towel, and reheated it, and tossed in the shrimp with enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. When the shrimp was almost cooked through, I ladled in some of the marinara. Simmering, I took some of the cooked spaghetti from the pot, and put it right into the saute pan with the shrimp and marinara. I added just a touch of the pasta water, to thin out the sauce just a smidgen.

I plated the pasta with my now spicy shrimp and marinara, and that was it. A little cracked black pepper to taste, and EH! Youz got-tah nice-ah dish there, and it was healthy-whole wheat spaghetti, shrimp (protein), extra virgin olive oil, marinara (no added sugar), and broccoli with garlic as a vegetable. A really satisfying, healthy and economical meal, made at home, in less than an hour. Now, of course my five year old only wanted pasta with butter and cheese, but she did eat her broccoli...which is all any parent can ask!

The bonus to this meal is that I have leftover marinara (without the red pepper flakes) and leftover pasta (depends on how many you've got sitting down at the table!) for another meal. Saves even more time and money.

The bottom line is that you can eat healthy--protein, whole grain foods and really good veggies--keeping it within your budget, and do it all in very little time. So you can eat good, eat healthy, and eat smart.

And that's the view from my table.


Time and time again

Time, time, time--I once knew a chef who said to me, in a reference to the game show "Wheel of Fortune", he said, "if I could buy a vowel, it would be the 'i' in 'time'. 

Now, I wasn't really sure at first what he was alluding to-we were at a foodie event, and we were catching up on all that was going on in our careers. It was the kind of anecdote that stays with you for a long time, filed under the 'use it later' folder on the left side of the brain. 

When we go out to a restaurant, time is a major player in your dining experience. Fast casual? How long will it take to get my food because I have to get back to the office. Can we order online and pick it up? If you are going out to a sit down dinner, how long until the waiter brings a basket of bread? And, will they time the courses correctly or will you be rushed through the express meal?

If you are dining at a sit down, or as my Aunt Gerry would tell you, " a nice restaurant", then you should expect a greeting within the first three minutes of sitting down. Your waiter should offer drinks,  or if you need a moment to peruse the wine list, and perhaps offer a suggestion. Courses then should be sufficiently spaced, giving you time to digest. Twenty minutes is too long from appetizers to main course. I usually like the ten minute rule. I don't want to be rushed--so if the waiter or food runner brings the entrees when the appetizer plates are still on the table, then someone is not doing their job properly. Even if the restaurant is jam packed, you should be given time to enjoy your meal, and not made to feel like your table is a valuable piece of real estate that the management wants you evicted from as soon as your last forkful of cheesecake has crossed your lips. 

In the kitchen, meals are called or 'fired' while you are eating your appetizers or salads. A good establishment knows that the medium rare steak will take four minutes on each side, so they time it properly with the rare salmon on the same table. In a good kitchen, it's all a matter of orchestrating a whole bunch of madness: from the time the kitchen team starts to prep food, working with precision and efficiency ( this is in a GOOD kitchen ), to be ready for 5pm when the doors open up to the first guests of the evening. Unless you are in Florida and then you better be ready for the early birds at 4pm. 

So the prep is done and the kitchen is ready for business; the expediter calls the first orders to the line cooks. Appetizers and salads are plated, and the madness begins. "Firing two filet mignon, medium rare, firing one salmon, one red snapper" and so on. The expediter must accurately time the distance between courses, based on the information provided from the waiter. Any breakdowns in communication can disrupt the timeline; did the waiter forget an order? Fire it quick, ah, but that well done steak will have to go first and table 12's food is just going to have to wait. One slip up could throw off the whole rhythm and suddenly the kitchen that was humming along like a well oiled machine is now a place where profanity is tossed around faster than the salads. 

Hey! That table over there got their food first, and we've been sitting here longer! What gives??

Simple, did they have appetizers or salads that may have been easily assembled? Are they eating pasta for their entree, which may cook faster than your steak? As a customer don't be so alarmed unless you've been waiting for an overtly long time. I'll always check my watch when we go out to eat, just to get some frame of mind about what time things should be happening, and how long (and ultimately how well) the evening is going. 

A lot can also depend on your mood. You may want a fast meal, even if the restaurant is a "nice restaurant". In that case, grab a seat at the bar if there is one, and order a salad, an entree and your drink all at once. More than once my wife and I have enjoyed great meals sitting at the end of the bar, and we've gotten spectacular service, from a bartender who seemed grateful that we broke up the monotony of their night. Best bar service we ever got? Otto, in New York City. Owned by Mario Batali, our bartender happened to be an excellent waiter too, and the service we had was as good as the spaghetti carbonara I had, and it was made the way it's supposed to be, with real egg, cheese and pancetta. And the cheese course was to DIE for. 

Much debate about this one: when do you get a check? Rather, should you ask for a check or should the waiter simply drop the check after you've finished your desserts? SIDECAR: I will always refer to the servers as 'waiters'. I don't think it's necessary to differentiate between waiters and waitresses. Same thing goes for actors and actresses. They are all actors, except when Oscar comes up. 

Back to the debate. I feel like this: if your table has eaten dessert, and finished your coffee, and are simply chatting, there is no reason why the waiter should not be able to drop the check in the nice leather book at the end of the table. I am of the mind that the customers should not have to ask for anything-the service should be able to anticipate nearly everything. Now, if your party is not having dessert, you can certainly ask for the check then. I just never want to have to ask for the check--because then that usually involves me having to find my waiter, or if I've found them, trying to get their attention, which involves a combination of flailing arms, landing strip flashlights, and roadside flares. And most restaurants will frown upon the flashlights. 

So you've gotten your check--how long have you been out? It all depends on the size of the group, how many courses you've eaten, how many bottles of wine you've consumed, and so forth. Restaurants want to "turn tables", which means they want to get new customers into the same table you were at, as soon as possible. The more meals, the more money. But the customer that wants to enjoy their meal and experience, so let them be. Still, to all the customers out there that like to linger when they can clearly see that the restaurant is jam-packed with customers waiting for a table, please, get up and get out. If you've enjoyed your meal and service, do the right thing and give the waiter a chance to earn some more money. 

So how long should it take to eat dinner? I think of it in the number of people in the party; dinner for two? Usually an hour and a half to two hours. Dinner for four? Two hours plus. The point is that restaurants, no matter how busy or slow, should never rush their customers. People want to enjoy their dining experience. There will be plenty of tables that come through the door that want to get in and out as fast as they can. So restaurateurs, take notice: pace the meal accordingly, and waiters, smile and give even, professional, well timed service. Your customers will enjoy their experience and most certainly be back for more. 

And that's the view from my table. (check please!)


Dining up when the economy is down

Times are tough--tougher than tough. It seems as though as each generation grows up, there is an economic crisis that rears its ugly head and must be dealt with. Every crisis manages to create a media firestorm of panic, and as our technology creates a faster stream of communication, we are able to log into every upturn and downward spiral the markets throw at us. 

So now he's a financial analyst? Not so much. But I do know that what happens in the economy--as in a recession like the one we're in now--affects how, what and where people eat. If the stock market takes a tumble, even a crash, people sit back and watch, and maybe they cut back a little on shopping or dining out. Yet when the entire economy falls into a black hole like we're in now, people look at and change the very course of their lives, and that includes the courses that come across their tables. 

So what to do now? Do we all stop going out to eat? Do we change where we eat, and sacrifice quality for the dollar menu at McD's, just to say we're going out to eat? NO! I encourage people to dine out, within their budget of course, to keep the restaurant business alive. If we all recognize that we can still treat ourselves to a meal out, we won't always feel like the sky is falling (or our portfolio), and we'll still be doing our part to aid the ailing economy. 

So here's some ideas I have for navigating this crisis, while still reveling in the pleasure of dining out. 

Choose wisely. I've mentioned in previous posts about sticking to restaurants you love to get great service; the same holds true now, perhaps more than ever. And if the restaurant is smart (Restaurateurs take note here!) then they'll have bundled some menu items together to create an attractive prix fixe menu option that will provide you the guest with a good value and still be profitable to the business. 

Fast food is exactly what it says it is: fast. That doesn't always translate to 'good'. I am not a fan of McD's, BKing--sorry, most of the menu choices are over processed, rich in sodium and carry a caloric weight usually associated with a Dr. Seuss creation that might be called "melephantum". I'd rather steer my car toward my local Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Five Guys Burgers. Full service restaurants I like are Carrabas and Cheesecake Factory (despite the gargantuan menu, I've always eaten pretty well there, and their magnum sized portions are great to share). And order-in from your local Chinese or Thai restaurant! 

What can we do at home? Plan your meals. I remember my mother had the list on Sunday--what each night's dinner would be, and that's what she shopped for. Monday, pot roast. Tuesday, roasted chicken...and on and on. Planning the whole week allows you to shop to the list, and not on a daily basis, as repeat trips to the market can end costing you more. When you buy what you need, you'll spend less money. And remember, buy healthy--organic if and when possible, and all naturally raised meats. Remember this too: all naturally raised may not always mean all naturally good. 

Meats that are grass or grain fed, with no hormones, no anti-biotics and chickens that are "air-chilled" are best. Air chilled means that the chicken, after slaughter has been chilled by air, not spray. Many times that watered down spray may contain BLEACH. Yes, this is true, and that liquid in the bottom of the styrofoam packaging you see can contain bleach water. Nice, huh? Find out where the chicken comes from and what practices the farm utilizes in getting those chickens to market. 

Don't be afraid to freeze meats, either. And frozen vegetables, as long as they are flash frozen and minimally processed, are just as good and healthy as fresh in season veggies, and really economical too. Frozen broccoli florets are a staple in my house. Frozen shrimp too. I feel a little guilty whipping up a meal of garlicky shrimp scampi from a bag of frozen shrimp, but it's dee-lish and the family loves it. We've kept it healthy by adding olive oil and cutting the amount of butter, and we use a whole wheat linguini--Trader Joes whole grain pastas are great, and there's another brand, Racconto, which is great too. Add some broccoli and dinner is healthy and FAST. 

We also make our own pancake batter for the weekend pancake breakfast--Joy of Cooking has a great pancake recipe made from scratch. And if you make the batter a day ahead of time, it will be that much better the next morning. I know, I know, real Vermont maple syrup is expensive, but the alternative of any of the maple flavored ones, is out of the question. Most don't even contain maple syrup, and are made  from high fructose corn syrup--four of the most evil words in the food dictionary. 

Buy in bulk from Costco or Price Club, wherever it may be, as you can save bundles of $$$ this way, and still cook up some GREAT food. 

A down economy doesn't mean you have to eat a down dinner. Find your favorite restaurant, plan your meals, and work a dining out option into your budget. Buy smart, choosing healthy food that you can prepare using natural ingredients, either frozen or fresh, and buy in bulk when appropriate. 

And that's the view from my table.  



Mommy, why does that cow have three heads?

We all have different expectations when we sit down to a meal. For some each meal must be nothing short of a religious experience, a divine moment in which all the spirits of this world and the next come together with every bite, swirled together with a glass of beatified wine.

Others need only to be somewhat surprised, and still others merely comforted by the sustenance they are to consume, and finally some couldn't care less whether it's a burrito or a cold slice of pizza, as long as it fills the stomach and gets followed by a beer.

Whatever your inclination; five star dining or cooking for family and friends, the expectation should be that what you eat be not only good, but good for you. Being a father, I care about what my daughter eats. We try to enforce a "no two fried foods on one plate" rule. (note, I say 'try'--doesn't always work with a determined four year old) Gianna eats well though-she is very receptive to trying new things at least once, and even more receptive when they are covered in ketchup. We had her eating broccoli very early, and I am convinced to this day that it was because her mother consumed large fields of broccoli during pregnancy. Still, Gianna loves the smell of the green florets simmering in a saute pan with shavings of garlic drizzled in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt. And nothing makes her parents more proud than watching her devour the broccoli on her plate and having her ask for more.

And that's the gist of eating; even at four (almost five! yikes, where does the time go) Gianna has developed a sense of taste, and a knowledge that good food tastes best when it is minimally prepared. Broccoli, garlic, olive oil, sea salt. Done. Ten minutes from pan to plate. She loves a simple roasted salmon filet, add some oven roasted potatoes, and she's good to go. We shop at Fairway Market in Brooklyn, and our first stop is always the olive oil station, so we can dip a piece of bread in different kinds of olive oil and balsamic vinegar--thatsa my little girl!!! Yes, chicken fingers, french fries, hot dogs, they are the preferences when we go out, but that's what your supposed to eat when you go out, the food you don't get at home.

Some folks are probably scratching their heads at the last post about the cows. That's okay because it was sort of intended. I used to tell that story when teaching a food workshop for the kitchen managers where I work. The idea is to get across the understanding that food is best in its most pure form; a steak from a cow that is raised grass fed, drinking from a stream of water where the grounds have no added fertilizers, chemicals, and certainly the cow has not been given anti biotics or growth hormones, will taste better and BE BETTER for you. I don't want growth hormones or anti biotics in my body, so I don't want to eat anything that has partaken in such a meal.

The same goes for fruits and vegetables. I grew up with my dad's garden; a real cornucopia of veggies that he started growing indoors in the late winter, transplanting in stages to the ground when ready in late spring. By mid summer we feasted on three different varietals of tomatoes, two types of corn, carrots, radishes (not much of a feast there, ok) and more zucchini and cucumbers than you could imagine. And all of it was grown naturally, from seed and water. By late August, the cantaloupes were ready and we ate the freshest, sweetest melon in town. And that was it. When cantaloupe season was over, it was over. We didn't eat melon in the winter. And the store bought tomatoes were of course plastic and had no flavor. My mother shopped and bought whatever was fresh. And the late winter, it started all over again. The soil in the garden was rich from the mulched lawn clippings, which had covered the garden soil all winter. This process was a natural one, and delicious on so many levels, because we ate real food grown from our own backyard, and seasoned with our own herbs too. There was never a question about where it came from or what was done to it. It was REAL food.

A great book everyone should read is Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma." It's a fantastic read that breaks down the history of food, our country's dependency on corn, and how sustainable agriculture is the method we should be using for farming, not only to create a healthier food supply, but to help save our environment. I read this book and even visited a farm in West Virginia, Polyface Farms, run by Joel Salatin. Polyface practices true sustainable agriculture--animals and crops grown by using the most minimal amount of carbon resources possible. It's farming the way nature intended, before any hormone or syringe or fertilizer found its way into human hands. Food raised and grown in this manner is clean food, real food, that will improve our health, and our environments health. And it is totally and completely economically feasible. Farming of this nature needs more manpower, not machine power, so it would create jobs too.

If you think about the amount of processed foodstuff in your own cupboard, on the shelves in supermarkets-how many items contain high fructose corn syrup, or the root of all evil as I like to call it--it is amazing how we can NOT understand the links to the food we eat, and the diseases we get. Growth hormones given to dairy cows so they can lactate more frequently and produce more milk, except those growth hormones have been proven to cause cancer. Yeah, but that's so indirect, it can't be true, right? WRONG. Why on earth would you want to ingest something that has been tainted with a known cancer causing agent? Commercial pork farming is another ill fated business; hogs raised in pens with no movement allowed, practically wallowing in their own filth and feces, pumped up like Barry Bonds with steroids, and presto! Bacon's ready! Come and get it kids!

NO THANK YOU! I want my bacon from Niman Ranch, out in Iowa, where pigs are raised in their own natural environment, no needles, drugs or other funny stuff, and they get to eat their own natural diet, nest and create their own bedding, and raise their young the way pigs would do in the wild. (Yeah, they have one bad day in their life, but hey, I like pork chops, especially with some caramelized red onions, a poached pear...mmmm, mmmm-yummy!)

If we all take the time to read a label--or not, just find out where the food you're buying comes from, how it was raised and what is raised on--and then put food on your table that has been as minimally processed as possible, and cooked simply and with care, we'll be creating a greater sense of self, a greater sense of pride, and a greater sense of security in our environment. If there's a green market in your neighborhood, then shop there on Saturday mornings. Talk to the farmers that are there. Ask them questions. If there's no green market, more and more supermarkets have organic sections, and it doesn't have to be "organic" either, as long as it's been treated humanely, raised naturally, no hormones, no antibiotics--shop there! You don't have to go to Whole Foods. You can get good food-REAL food, from your local shops. Just do a little homework. And when you do, and you get home, put on some Sinatra, fire up the saute pan, and cook a great meal, simple, real, and delicious.

Buon Appetito!

And that's the view from my table.