On Tuesday, a food blogger reported that seats at Momofuku Ko were empty Monday night. We took that as a sign that the grim effects of the economic downturn were officially here, in our neighborhood.
The Daily Transom phoned Ko owner David Chang that day to see if he was worried, but never heard back. And while ours was a mere prediction, it seems Mr. Chang really is stressed out by the economic meltdown, so much so that he has written about it for Esquire.
Mr. Chang tells the story of Michael the farmer who wears a John Deere hat in a non-ironic manner and raises “Tamworth” pigs in upstate New York.
“America better prepare for some uncomfortable changes. Things might get really ugly,” Michael the farmer told Mr. Chang. And now Mr. Chang is genuinely worried.
“You’ve seen the articles, right there on the front page next to equally uplifting stories about oil, the economy, and the war: The cost of food–of producing and procuring it–is soaring,” writes Mr. Chang. “In the restaurant world, it’s all anyone can talk about.”
Michael the farmer’s food costs have risen, machinery is aging and breaking down, and the restaurant industry is spending more and more on humanely raised meat, he writes.
“It’s depressing, this state of affairs, and sometimes I let myself wallow in it,” confesses Mr. Chang. “But then I think about the opportunity this situation presents.”
And what does Mr. Chang, the pork belly chef, suggest we do? Eat less meat, apparently.
“Hunting will be less about the buck points and more about the meat. Nose-to-tail eating will make a comeback–not because of fashion or Fergus Henderson (whom I love), but because of scarcity and price,” he explains. “And small-scale farming—little vegetable gardens in the backyards of homes in cities, suburbs, and the countryside alike—will become not just economically sensible but cool. Hell, maybe foraging for mushrooms and wild fruits will become a seminormal skill again.”
But the irony of Mr. Chang of all people asking us to look to vegetables and grains is not lost on him: “Yeah, I recognize the hypocrisy of me–Captain Fucking Pork Bun–telling you to eat more veggies and less meat. Guilty as charged. But don’t get me wrong: My restaurants still won’t kowtow to vegetarians. We will, however, focus more on vegetable and grain dishes in which meat adds flavor, not heft.”