Lunch Ladies and Gourmets: The Times Feels Your Pain

The politically conscious and pleasure-seeking sides of our current food obsession aren’t necessarily at odds–just ask Alice Waters.

But they do sometimes yield uncomfortable incongruities. Take today’s New York Times Dining section.

One of the page’s top stories (“Schools’ Toughest Test: Cooking“) describes the movement to replace reheating with actual cooking in New York’s public school cafeterias. That is, to produce foodie-approved free lunches in the sort of environment where uncooked meat is forbidden and “grape jelly and ketchup” sometimes passes for barbecue sauce. The article chronicles the process of making curry from scratch in a 40-gallon pan:

[The] remarkably tight-knit staff of 13 people put out an average of 1,400 meals between 11:09 a.m. and 2:06 p.m. The children come through the line in four shifts. That’s like turning a 325-seat restaurant four times in three hours, except everyone is eating off foam trays and using those flimsy fork-spoon combinations called sporks.

A little farther down the old Dining page, in his review of the Standard Grill, Pete Wells puts forth a more rarefied problem:

Doesn’t your heart sink a little when you hear the words “Here’s a little something from the chef”?

I know I’m ungrateful, but when I find myself spooning sunchoke froth from a demitasse I wonder why the chef couldn’t send out a little something I actually want, like six cold oysters or a nice sausage.

Lunch Ladies and Gourmets: The Times Feels Your Pain