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The New Chicken Economy

  • Rmis32 Jun 14, 2009 06:59 AM

How is this awful economy affecting your food spending decisions?

From today's NY Times magazine
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/mag...

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  1. I didn't shop and eat like that in the good times. And the nonchalant food waste! The family bought expensive "sustainable" products but don't realize that such waste is not sustainable globally?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Exactly my thoughts... Such lack of care about expense and (worse) waste.
      The author seems a little lofty about his purchasing style, and doesn't accurately evaluate the impact of his family's actions.
      I guess such realizations are positive aspects of this economy, and I hope that enlightened people will maintain their newly found habits even after their bank accounts have replenished.

    2. Some people have too much money and too little sense, others exist to correct one of those problems.

      1. Dexter is a dolt! First thing: SOMEONE in that family needs to learn to shop responsibly. NOW! Second: Someone in that family needs to learn how to cook. Just about any experienced cook could have told him (or whoever roasted the chicken) that a seven pound chicken is not, by definition, a young bird! I was so put out with the rank stupidity of the article, I couldn't finish reading it. Incredible. And the New York Times publishes him????

        3 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          Caroline1, you are correct.
          Perhaps the Times is unique in printing drivel of this kind.
          The author should have been too embarrassed to display his ignorance.

          On a personal note i see no great merit in free range /organic anything.
          Whole chickens at my local market are .69 per pound today and regularly.
          Now supermarket chickens may not be the choice of all. BUT
          They are my choice and i get MANY compliments on my cooking.

          Thanks for calling it as you saw it!
          dick

          1. re: mr jig

            Sadly, the NYT doesn't consider it "drivel" and the author isn't alone in this world detached from the reality of ordinary people.
            In their "false consensus," they think that because all of the people that they associate with live like this in New York and agree with them, that this is how the world IS or SHOULD be.

            He didn't buy the only $35 chicken in New York or the only $14 milk. Even if the milk were less expensive, lots of people allow their kids to drink unlimited amounts of juice or milk or whatever. They don't feel like making use of perfectly good leftovers and throw out unconscionable quantities of perfectly usable food. To them, Trader Joe's is slumming it.
            Some of his attitudes do translate down to people at lower levels who spent less but were still wasteful.
            There is a market for all of this and others who share his thinking. For all of us who are shocked, there are probably lots of NYT readers who identify. The recession has really hit them hard, hasn't it?
            My heart is bleeding....

          2. re: Caroline1

            Uh, Caroline, it was a 5lb bird at $7 a lb. Five pounders aren't necessarily very old.

            And throwing it out! You can always find something useful to do with chicken meat. no matter how dry or tough.

          3. The author of this article is an idiot. Throwing away a chicken? Paying $14 a gallon for milk? Letting his kid drink half a gallon of the stuff every day? I buy most of our meat and produce at the local farmers' markets, but not a thing gets wasted.

            4 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              I dont have much in common with Dexter, however I DO know people that shop without looking at the prices or stop to consider freshness or value, and it makes me nervous and run after them with coupons. These are intelligent, caring people with zero shopping savvy (and act as if they grow money in pots!!).

              If Dexter were my husband coming home with a $7 a pound chicken, he would need to figure out how to make that chicken last for many, many meals. Bad enough I live with NOAH who is constantly buying TWO of EVERYTHING even if it's crap we don't use "Honey why did you buy two jars of marinated mushroom salad? " "Because I like it."
              "Do ya? I hope so because you bought-lemmie see, 2 GALLONS of it."

              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                <If Dexter were my husband...>

                If Dexter were your husband, $7/lb chickens would be the least of your worries. Dexter is four years old.

                1. re: small h

                  HAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!
                  Speed reading is a curse.

                  1. re: Boccone Dolce

                    Time for that Evelyn Wood refresher course!

            2. I went to the farmers' market with a friend yesterday and had total sticker shock - granted, that is significantly due to having spent the last 2 years in a developing nation paying 25 cents a pound for potatoes, but still.

              My friend bought three handfuls of sprouts for $4 and a bag of peas - maybe a pound not much more for $6, which she admitted was expensive but she feels good doing it and sort of shrugged it off with a 'I'm going to spend the money somewhere, might as well be on good food'. I guess there are still plenty of people who value the feel-good factor enough to pay those inflated prices. I love the idea of farmers markets, but maybe I spent too many years in my 20's struggling or maybe just a different upbringing than my friend but I have a really hard time paying that much for produce, even if it is organic and the cute farmers are flirty on Saturday mornings.

              4 Replies
              1. re: babette feasts

                Welcome back home, babette!

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  When I read about those kinds of prices at a Farmer's Market, I shudder. I know growers need to make ends meet, too, but inflated prices may well lead to the failure of farmer's markets. I lived in Stanwood, north of Seattle, for five and a half years. I don't believe that peas have to go for six dollars a pound at a farmer's market. Hells bells! Skagit county must grow half the peas frozen in the U.S. (I wonder what small growers using the growing techniquea advocated by Jeavons are getting for their produce. Can anyone from Round Valley chime in on current market prices?)
                  But to go back to the main topic of the thread, I agree that NY TIMES article is an embarrassment. People need to learn how to shop and how to cook. And except for the very poor--whose needs are another topic I am passionate about--thrifty kitchens needn't signify boring eating or poor nutrition. I should think thrift would lead to greater variety.
                  I grew up in a family with nine kids. My mother was a dietician. We didn't have fancy food, but we ate well.
                  Still, I think for some, avoiding spoilage of food and the danger of over buying is a factor. For nine of my years in Rome, I lived near the market at Piazza Alessandria. Our community numbered 25 and bought directly from the wholesale suppliers, but I used to walk through market just for the pleasure of all that was sold in the different stalls. In our neighborhood, you could have the freshest ingredients daily. There was no need for a large refrigerator or freezer. Most homes did not have them. And daily shopping that locally hardly took more time than our weekly trips to Costco and the local wholesale produce market in D.C. Not that I object to a freezer. When fruits and vegetables are abundant in the summer, it makes sense to freeze or can them for winter. But local markets and canning and freezing won't save any money at all if you don't know how to shop and don't know how to cook a meal or calculate portions.
                  Still, I hope the economy is pushing people in the direction of eating "low on the hog." Let's just hope the supermarkets don't push those prices up too.

                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                    Thanks, Sam!

                    It's a tough call on farmers markets. I agree with all the ideals, it's just a little bit too hard to swallow that that is the real cost of food. My parents have always had a huge garden and I know there will be plenty of good stuff in season, all I have to do is visit - not organic and it does cost them especially in time and energy, but why would I pay $6 a pound when I'll be able to stand in the back yard and pick my own next week? A rare luxury, I know.

                    I want there to be some happy medium between the way we treat and pay conventional farm labor now and the farmers markets where you need to dip into your trust fund/401k/credit line to buy sunday dinner. Can there be a reasonable compromise?

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      Sometimes, when I see my friends spending $5/lb on fruit, I think it's a precious lot to pay. But then I think "hey, it's better than $5 on a frappuccino," which most of them considered the height of luxury until recently. At least the fruit won't make them obese.

              2. The NYT has had a series of equally "stoopid" articles like this about people "surviving" the recession and making do with less. One was an autobiographical article by a (financial!!) columnist about how he and his wife "fell" into the mortgage mess. His story was utterly predictable based on the utterly senseless decisions made by him and his wife. I find these articles horrifying. No wonder the US is in such a crisis. At one point, I bought $4 half gallons of non-homogenized, organic milk. Now that we have been living off one income (mine) for 3 years, I have learned a lot about shopping and cooking more frugally. I may make do with cheap grocery store chickens, but at least we are eating more home cooked meals, more veggies and fruits and are eating out less. I cannot meet Ruhlman's "from scratch" BLT challenge where "from scratch" means grown yourself, cured yourself, or baked yourself, but I do the best I can and try to avoid as many processed foods as possible. I've also gotten more creative with leftovers. Today I used some leftover ratatouille, a couple eggs, some fresh parsley, a couple potatoes, and a sprinkle of cheese to make breakfast burritos.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Jen76

                  Jen, the "grown yourself" may end up being a shock to some people this year in the midst of the home vegetable gardening craze.
                  I remember a really funny article several years ago about $8 tomatoes. The author figured out that it's what each one cost him by the time he figured in all the gardening tools and supplies that he had to buy to get going.
                  I had to replace some quality garden stakes this year and was shocked at the prices. They were $4.50 each. Yikes. I know that they will last for years, as the last ones did, but the bill at checkout was a shock nonetheless.

                  The day I cure my own bacon will be a cold day in hell. My butcher gave me a tutorial on meat prices recently. He said that good quality bacon was a bargain. It has has less price inflation than virtually any other meat product. You can feed a family a meal of good BLTs with a pound of bacon, or use one pound in lots of recipes over a few days.

                  We didn't have a lot when we were growing up but Mama made sure we got our three glasses of milk a day. Yeah, three. Not eight. After that, she pointed to the kitchen faucet. Water.
                  I'm grateful for the lessons I learned from my parents in those days.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Oh, I agree. I've tried many times to grow a garden. The only things I've had any kind of success with are snow peas (though the season for these is brief, to say the least, in Phoenix) and swiss chard. I will try again this fall (the season for planting in Phoenix is long over, especially for lettuce) as I'm still after the perfect tomato. I don't do it as a way to cut my food bill, as the water cost eats up any savings fairly quickly.

                    The thought of curing my own meat is romantic, I suppose, until I really think about it. Where on earth would I hang a chunk of meat in my little ranch house where it wouldn't be instantly infested with bugs? It's also around 100 degrees outside, and will only get hotter. Not exactly the season for meat curing.

                    My husband grew up with all these traditional methods - home cured meats, fruits and veggies pickled in a barrel, wine fermented in bottles buried in holes around the plot of land they farmed, the chicken coup out back, the watermelon patch...and the flip side of going to grandma's to get eggs because it's someone's birthday and you need more eggs than your ration allows to bake, trading chicken parts that your mom was able to buy at her job at the chicken plant for sugar or tutoring lessons, walking home from school and getting in line at the baker's because there must be something good for a change (white bread?!) since everyone's lined up outside. I guess my point is that not all modern methods are "bad" - sometimes we take a lot for granted here.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      I think the title of the book about the gardener who poured gold into his soil was "The Sixty Four Dollar Tomato." There are poor ways to garden, too. But even good gardeners sometimes have years when one of their crops is a failure or bugs or squirrels get them. (Squirrels are our problem with our corn.) One major cost, of course, is seed. But lots of places have seed exhanges or gardening clubs that buy the seeds in bulk and let you buy them in small quantities. Ecology Action, when it was located in Palo Alto, did that, and it saved us a lot of money in our garden in San Jose.
                      But consider this: Using a method not unlike a cross between Ruth Stout and a jungle, friends of mine in San Diego in the seventies grew enough produce for their family of 12 kids and themselves with plenty to give to the neighbors on a plot that was tiny. I have no way of knowing the exact size now. My guess is that it was between 225 and 300 square feet. They started with San Diego's famous hard pan, worked a lot of organic matter into it initially and ended up with soil that stood about a foot proud of the patio right next to it. They had an outdoor sink by the patio. All vegetables were cleaned and washed there. The water went into the garden. The parts not eaten went right into a compost pile. And whenever something was pulled up, a seed went into its place. It helped that they had a very long growing season, of course. And it did take some time and attention every day, but because it was small, the actual work was manageable. The garden was organic and seldom had problems with pests because of the mix of plants. My friends didn't get something that productive overnight or even in one year. I asked them where they learned to garden in that fashion and they told me in the Carpathian mountains where he, though U.S. born, had grown up. Not everyone can manage a home garden for all kinds of good reasons. But if you have the land and the time, a garden can provide both recreation and an economic boost.

                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        Of course you can grow wonderful, productive gardens without spending a fortune. Maybe your monastery doesn't subscribe to the latest shelter magazines. The home pages of newspapers, popular media, and HGTV are filled with gotta-have stuff that is ever-so-charming and OMG-costly. Home gardeners NEED this stuff to make their gardens visually attractive as well as "sustainable," yadda yadda. The absolute height of fashion.
                        And you MUST have some nice furniture out there so you can invite your friends to admire the fruits of your labor.

                        It's easy to go from $10 worth of seeds or bedding plants to $100s in soil testing gear that means you have to amend the soil, watering "systems" with timers, self-watering containers with special soil mixes, etc. There's an electric composter!!! You need gloves and balm for your hands and face - special garden versions of course. Things to attract bees and butterflies. If you don't have beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantises - well? buy them! Stuff to keep the bad bugs and voles away. And the deer of course!
                        I get dozens of garden catalogues every year and could spend thousands.
                        I don't. I've been known to use branches and old panty hose to tie up tomatoes and cucumbers. The foliage quickly covers them.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          You have us over a barrel. We don't have a lot of pantyhose around a men's monastery. Still, Fr. Francis, our gardener at 84, uses just about everything else that Jerry Baker recommends. I just wish I could find Ruth Stout's Green Thumb book for him at less than rare book prices. I can't understand why that hasn't been reprinted.

                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                            Amazon lists 3 books by Ruth Stout:

                            "The No Work Garden Book" (yep, pricey $47.95)http://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Stout-No-W...

                            "Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent" (sheesh, this is in paperback. It must be printed on gold leaf. $120.65, used $32.79): http://www.amazon.com/Gardening-Witho...

                            "How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back" ( the one I'm familiar with from 1972 and also the update from 1990 starting at $24.98. Far more reasonable): http://www.amazon.com/Have-Green-Thum...

                            Are any of these the one you're looking for? I'm curious because in one of our moves my copy of the last one (which I bought new in the early 80's for less than $20) went missing and I've been thinking of replacing it. Is one of the other ones a better replacement?

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            I think part of the problem is that these new gardeners don't know any better. They've never gardened (and their parents didn't) and they're unsure of themselves and worried that they won't do it "right" and so they're susceptible to all the stuff that's marketed for them that they hope will make it foolproof.

                            I bought some fancy seeds this weekend, but I expect them to more than pay for themselves, especially if I plant them carefully and don't waste them (a lot of traditional seed planting instructions are very wasteful -- you end up thinning out more than half the seeds you plant). Tomatoes, I've found, reseed themselves. Someone planted cherry tomatoes over by the fence one year, and they've been coming back ever since!

                            Finally, though, it doesn't really matter how much it costs -- a vegetable that's picked five minutes before it's cooked (or eaten raw) is priceless, as it being able to walk out to the garden when I get home from work and say "oooh, green beans for dinner!"

                    2. when i read "$14 gallons of milk", i just gave up on this guy.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: madkittybadkitty

                        Reading this makes me very glad I live in the mid west. I get a side of beef every year, and pay about 2.83 per pound for local meat. I can get home grown chickens for not much more, and our produce is very inexpensive. I also get milk delivered for waaaaay less than 14 per gallon. That is highway robbery. Not in a million years, unless that was the only milk he could drink, not wanted to drink, but could drink.

                        I think some people go a little nuts concerning what food to buy. There is very good food out there for not much more than regular prices.

                        I also must say that I have a problem buying a dozen eggs for almost 5 per dozen, when there are eggs there that are less than 2 per dozen. The prices of a lot of food I find high and I choose to not pay those high prices.

                        Our farmers' markets are much cheaper here as well. I haven't seen any of the prices mentioned in the article. What are some of the prices at your local farmers' markets?

                      2. About his $7/lb chicken and $14/gallon milk fron the farmers' market, the author writes, "I shrugged this off as one of those oddities of New York life."

                        Give me a break. NYC has over 9 million people, and he imagines that's the life they lead? Not the vast, vast majority. When I lived in NYC in the 90s and 2000s, I shopped the Union Square Greenmarket regularly (I lived only a few blocks away for some of that time), but I paid reasonable prices for excellent produce, dairy, etc., and eschewed the sellers who charged super-high prices ($4 per 1/4 lb of baby lettuces? I don't think so). I agree with other posters that this guy and his family have little cause to lament what they spend on food when they've never stopped to think about it and waste so much. He's embarrassing himself.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          Yesterday we went to the small farmers market adjacent to Lincoln Center after driving into the city for a crafts festival. All the produce came from nearby (say about 50 miles) and cost about 4 times store prices. Baked goods were about the price of specialty shops in Manhattan. Cider was pricey, 3.95 a half gallon. I didn't price out the organic turkey sausage. I did buy $20 per pound cheese from Bobolink, where the cows are grass fed and the cheese production is artisanal and bought a $6 loaf of cranberry walnut bread baked at the farm (1.7 lb when I weighed it at home).. That's because Bobolink's cheese is a heck of a lot better than any $5 a quarter pound cheese from Whole Paycheck.

                          Had a wonderful supper of bread, cheese, Plugras butter, and a 32 year old red wine from my cellar. My out of pocket was reasonably close to 1/2 of a restaurant for me & Mrs. TRDL, but almost all the cost was the wine, which would never have been mine at a restaurant.

                          In a big city, a farmers market is another source of luxury goods, not a way to a sustainable planet. The cost of marketing makes it so. A farmers market in farming country allows the farmer to capture the extraordinary markup of his products after they leave the farm and eventually get to the supermarket without ripping off the purchaser.

                          When an urban writer thinks he is doing the world a favor by paying a fortune for daily staples, he is a fool. For getting the goods for a very nice meal at home, that's another matter.

                          1. re: therealdoctorlew

                            Um, 20/lb is the same as 5/quarter. Cheeses do seem to be one category at the farmers market that is in line with grocery store prices, at least if you find the locally produced artisan cheese to be equal to imported cheeses.

                        2. I knew I'd find people commenting on that article here! Yes he is out of touch. No, people in New York don't pay $35 for a chicken. Give me a break. But his recipe for chicken meatballs with raita sounded pretty good.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: NYCkaren

                            Whaddya think I'm crazy? I'm gonna make meatballs out of a $35 chicken? Maybe soak it in $14/gallon milk first, change my mind and throw it out and write it up in the NYT???

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Jen76 mentioned an article by one of the NYT financial writers that is being expanded into a book about how he lost his own home to foreclosure!!!! Kept refinancing it to cover short term consumer debt that got out of hand because of his wife's spending addiction. She'd declared bankruptcy a couple of times and still kept pulling out the plastic.
                              I couldn't find the link to it but I remember reading it with my jaw hanging open. Completely boneheaded.
                              And this guy writes financial analysis for the NYT, which had to sell its own building to raise capital last Spring.
                              Wonder if they were buying $35 chickens????

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                I don't remember mention of spending addiction, maybe that was in the book but not the article? (I only read the article.) It was hard to be sympathetic for that guy, but I think he only proves that even 'experts' make mistakes and how strongly emotions can affect our decisionmaking.

                                I don't think the whole establishment is discredited by a couple of writers who either made mistakes or have different realities than the rest of us.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  I didn't remember the article that well but it was even more shocking when I reread it.
                                  As the author said, "I felt like a crack addict calling up my dealer," when he refinanced his house yet again with another "liar's loan.
                                  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/mag...
                                  Even though they had no money in their checking account, his wife "refused to scrimp on top-quality produce, Starbucks coffee, bottled juices, fresh cheeses and clothing for the children and for me. She regularly bought me new shirts and ties. I would skip lunch at work to save $7. If I arrived at the Metro just before the end of rush hour, I would wait for five minutes to save 50 cents on the fare."

                                  These reporters are making these poor personal decisions in the fields of their supposed expertise, something that Edmund Andrews laments in the opening paragraph, a refreshing bit of honesty, but not very comforting to those who have been reading his economic coverage, huh?
                                  There were other considerations that were dealt with by the Times ombudsman. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/opi...
                                  He's been busy lately.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Thanks for finding the article again. I didn't see anything about the wife's bankruptcy (??) only that she had a hard time finding full employment. I had read the spending not as an addiction but as being in denial or perhaps uninformed about reality and trying to take good care of her husband and family.

                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                      The stuff about her declaring bankruptcy (twice!) was came out after the book was published. It was kind of a scandal, in that most people felt that his book was basically a fraud because he was purporting to be so honest about his family finances but failed to disclose something pretty essential to the story. Then he tried to claim that his wife's two bankruptcies weren't relevant, to which I can only say "huh"? In what world does a bank not look at the credit history of a mortgage applicant's spouse?

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Ahh. I hadn't heard about that aspect of the story, that does make it even more ridiculous. I guess that is why they seemed to be buying the house based on HIS finances/credit alone.

                                      2. re: babette feasts

                                        Addiction specialists extend the definition beyond drugs and alcohol. It includes gambling, sex, food, spending, or doing anything to excess in a way that controls your life and shuts out other things.

                                        The family with the mortgage problem was deep in debt and the woman could not stop spending even though she had filed for bankruptcy twice before. It was harming her marriage and ruining her life but she didn't care - any more than a drug addict cares that the next fix might destroy him. She "needed" to spend like an addict "needs" the fix.
                                        Many people will buy things they don't need, clothes they never wear that hang in the closet with tags still on them perhaps in sizes they will never fit into, more food than they can possibly consume, a new iPhone when the old one is just fine, etc.
                                        Some recovering alcoholics and drug addicts will develop "substitute addictions." There is a statistically higher incidence of eating disorders and smoking among them than among the general population for example.

                                        We often talk about food waste on CH and the OP was about chucking a crappy $35 chicken because the guy never got around to even making stock with it.
                                        People post about their fridges filled with decade old condiments and spice racks loaded with ancient herbs that must be long past their prime. How about questions from someone who bought a large quantity of something that they have no idea what to do with? Why did they buy it?
                                        Now, I'm not saying that this is "addiction" but some of it is just bad buying habits.
                                        We waste a great deal in America and much of it is simply thoughtless.
                                        Maybe it's time to give it some serious consideration.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          The additional information makes it more clear, I had only read the article and thought you were extrapolating the information a bit much. Addiction is a serious word to toss around, but it sounds like this woman does have some serious issues.

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    I read the stuff by the NYT financial writer guy who got into trouble - albeit much of it foolishly. But he was no putz; he just fell for successive financial shinanigans because he believed he could never get into reakl trouble. Dumb in retrospect. But thoughtful and sincere.

                                    But Mr $35 chicken is just a jackass! Totally insensitive to reality and to the poor (even in the US), and clueless about his own stupid food waste.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I disagree that he was "thoughtful and sincere." He was in a panic. He had gotten himself waaay overextended even though he had the knowledge and background to know that the no-doc loans were illegal and that they would get him into even more trouble.
                                      He couldn't stop and was unable to get himself off the merry-go-round.

                                      A lot of people are unable to do that with food as well because they can't cook or don't know how or where to shop more economically. They've never learned to make compromises because they've never had to.
                                      It takes planning, time, and some creativity to stretch your resources.
                                      Some people have never had to even think about it before since they've always lived on Easy Street.

                                      For some people, food is also part of their social life or ego. They "deserve" the best or at least the name brands. They make fashion or political statements with food choices. Can they adjust that and still maintain who they are or want to be?
                                      These are hard adjustments in difficult times.

                                      I often think with gratitude of Daddy who drilled into us that we should live like it was always "hard times because if we do, we wouldn't notice if hard times ever come."
                                      He just meant that we should always be prudent and not wasteful.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        I'm with you. The other guy fell for it all and was underwater. But as an addict or husband of addict, I don't really despise him. Mr $35 chicken just yanks my chain.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          It's the sickening obliviousness of just how appalling the attitude expressed in the article was.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Quick math: I can stuff a 7 pound Perdue oven stuffer with 2 pounds of huitlacoche for $25.21.

                                2. There is the makings for a very real reality show here. It could offer real benefits.

                                  The TV producers could select a dozen families, now riffed and unemployed, who had previously bought 35 dollar chickens, and clean out their cupboard and fridge and show the world how to feed a family according to the present USDA guidelines for food stamps (the old 3 dollar a day rule, modified for family size).

                                  What an opportunity. Experts (chefs, nutritionists, Superfood advocates, slow food locavores, representatives from Nabisco/Pepsi pushing the crackers cookies and sugared drinks) could compete in their advice for the beleaguered families.

                                  To be most effective we would expect subsidized physicals on a biweekly basis, to track body physiology, like the guy in that McDonalds-for-a-month movie.

                                  Added value could come debate panels consisting of National Enquirer type experts, paired off against Self-Esteem professionals, to help viewers calibrate how the humbling loss of monetary status and dietary choices were affecting the featured families.

                                  People who read my posts know that I sometimes speak with tongue in cheek. But there is tremendous potential here: to offer information to millions of struggling families on how to most nutritiously feed themselves, arming them with information for choices along the spectrum feeding their families.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: FoodFuser

                                    Dear Dough Boy, your suggestion is rather good, but I think too many experts will scare away people, drive up costs, and maybe suggest to some folks that they are too dumb to learn for themselves. But I think it would be a great idea if PBS (not Food Network) were to run a series that would incorporate tips on meal planning, shopping, preparing food, and recyling leftovers. I'd think any competent home economist could do it well, and so could someone like Lydia Bastianich. But ideally, I'd pair a man and a woman. Food purchasing would focus on the supermarket (since that is where most people go) but also include home gardens and stress using things in season. And it might also include a short segment on local specialties that would get people thinking about what their region has to offer.
                                    By the way, I'm not up to date on what it actually costs to feed a family today. I'd love to know what a family of four should expect to spend for food only (excluding soft drinks and candy and packaged snacks) when using mostly fresh food and inexpensive cuts of meat and fish. It would be interesting to compare, too, the costs for vegans, for ovo-lacto-vegetarians, and for omnivores.

                                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                                      Here's one table for monthly allotments. Keep in mind that there are few restrictions toward "healthy purchases"; a recipient can load up one only chips and cokes and candy.

                                      http://www.workworld.org/wwwebhelp/fo...

                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                        Thanks so much!

                                  2. The author hints at the lack of basic common sense that affects so many otherwise intelligent New Yorkers. I shop at some of the same markets at the author and yet I seem to manage a decent culinary life for about a third of what he spends per person. Certainly his experience is not indicative of the majority of New Yorkers, but it is indicative of a large cohort of New Yorkers whose sense of invulnerability and culture of consumption makes them appear glamorous to some people and yet utterly foolish to others. Giving up the $6 per quarter-pound microgreens is not the type of "sacrifice" required by economic recession.

                                    My diet is regarded as Spartan by some of my peers here in New York, though I think the waste generated by uneaten food and their overpriced produce and prime-cut meat is why I have money on the weekends and they are scrounging. I would be more sympathetic if they had not spent their money drinking prosecco on the East Side, thinking it a cheaper alternative to champagne on the West. For less than the cost of one of the author's chickens, I entertained 5 people for dinner this weekend on a dinner of soft shell crabs and fresh scallop kinilaw and had leftovers to recycle into a new meal.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      Where did you buy your crabs?

                                      1. re: NYCkaren

                                        The fishmonger on the corner of Grand and Chrystie had beautiful whales last Friday. They were even better than the stock I had been getting at Fairway when they were available.

                                    2. I've got no problem with people spending whatever they want on food, or anything else for that matter. And I've been known to occasionally splurge on groceries that have a stratospheric cost per calorie.

                                      What bothers me here is the author's absolute lack of respect for his food. He buys a $7/lb chicken without even checking the price, then throws it out. WTF?

                                      The local farmer's market I used to frequent has become choked with affluent sheep who buy food there because they've been told it's the thing to do. Prices have risen, quality has deteriorated, and I've pretty much stopped going.

                                      This article explains a lot about why things have gone downhill. That tough $35 chicken is the gastronomic equivalent of an expensive watch with a cheap movement. It's about appearances, not quality, and it's sold to somebody who wouldn't know the good stuff if it bit him on the ass. So long as there are people who see fresh meat and produce as just another form of conspicuous consumption, the trend will continue.

                                      24 Replies
                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        For those who escaped a good economics class in college, read about Veblen goods:
                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

                                        This was some of what was in play with the outrage toward the mass marketing of organics. They were expensive and relatively hard to find for awhile. When they spread to Wal-Mart and Safeway and became competitively-priced, they began to lose their cachet, and the food elites moved on to "local and sustainable" which eliminated the organics grown by large producers that were shipped cross-country to chain retailers.
                                        You were now required to find a chi-chi producers-only and artisans farmers' market and pay through the nose for $35 chickens - whether they were good or not.
                                        Food writers no longer wrote about slicing "tomatoes;" they only sliced "heirlooms" that they had bought that morning from a farmer they called by his first name.
                                        Those farmers' markets were the places to see and be seen and you talked about them at cocktail parties.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          I think that's a little unfair. First, I think your characterization of people only buying organics, and now local/sustainable because of the "cachet" is an unfair stereotype unsupported by any evidence. Sure there are stupid people like the guy in the article, but I don't think you can generalize from one stupid person in Manhattan to a vast number of people across the country.

                                          I shop at farmers' markets a lot. Some of them are very chichi and expensive, and some of them aren't, and some have a wide range of prices. Like a lot of "new" products, "local, sustainable" food is (or has been) an expensive luxury mostly consumed by "early adoptors," but those early adoptors that pay the big bucks support the market and allow it to grow until economies of scale start to bring the prices down and make products more widely available. How much was the first generation of computers? VCRs? Cell phones? Someone has to support an industry in its expensive start-up phase, or it never gets to the next phase.

                                          And I don't begrudge the prices -- this is California, land is expensive, gas to run your farm equipment and bring your goods to market is expensive, and the cost of living is sky-high. Farmers have a right to make a decent living, just as much (or maybe more) than I do. If I want them to farm, instead of selling to some developer to build an office park or "new community" then I'm going to have to support them by paying a fair price for their products.

                                          Low food prices and low standards of living for farmers are what has the family farm on life support in the first place: in the '60s and '70s too many people growing up on farms saw their parents working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for a subsistence living and left the farm behind in droves -- now all that's left are the huge agribusiness operations that use a combination of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, gmos), machinery and cheap migrant labor to produce cheap, poor quality food that doesn't even taste very good.

                                          Farmers' markets have allowed people who really want to farm to make a decent living without selling their souls (or at least, their farms) to Monsanto. To me, it's worth a few extra cents per pound (because supermarket produce ain't cheap these days, either) to pay the *real* cost of food: a decent living wage for the people who produce it, less of my tax dollars going to subsidies for agribusiness or farmers growing commodity crops like corn and soybeans, and a healthier planet that we all have to live on. That cheap food isn't so cheap if you start factoring in the cost of the environmental remediation that's going to have to happen sooner or later, the cost of health care for farm workers who get sick from working with "cides" day after day and people who are unhealthy because they consume too many antibiotics, too much cheap HFCS, etc., the social cost of exploiting migrant farm workers (many of them illegal), etc.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            If it was only "a few extra cents per pound" no problem! Double and triple the price get harder.

                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                              I agree with you. For example, I have a problem buying organic eggs when the organic eggs are more than twice the price. I try to support my local businesses, but when they price themselves out of the market it becomes a little bit harder to do that, and I am one who doesn't shop at the Wal-Marts of the world - I make a concerted effort to keep my money local.

                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              You got way down in the weeds on that. I don't dispute most of what you are saying but it isn't related to the concept of Veblen goods.
                                              My statement was related to a general trend in the food media over a period of time. What they write about trickles into the popular media and influences the general population. People want the latest thing. The high end becomes mass market in pretty much everything. The Red Carpet ends up at Target. Inexpensive cars mimic high end detail. Cubic Zirconium. Knock-offs of designer goods.
                                              The Four Star restaurant food is presented in Food and Wine, on the Food Network and then on the cover of supermarket checkout women's magazines using convenience foods.
                                              When it hits the mass market, the high end wants nothing to do with it any more because it's "been done to death," and they make jokes about it as declasse.
                                              A few years ago, everyone was enjoying a "Summer in Tuscany," buying rundown villas, and eating bruschetta. By the by, tomato stuff was available in jars, Triscuit commercials encouraged spreading "bruschetta" on crackers, and you could buy "bruschetta chicken" at (was it?) Burger King. Do any high end caterers dare serve that any more?

                                              The media promoted organic food as a new concept. It wasn't, but they created a demand.
                                              At first, it was expensive and only available to a limited number of people which increased its desirability. More and more people wanted it.
                                              Seeing a market, large growers figured out how to mass produce it and make it widely available at popular prices.
                                              The high end still loved it but OMG, they had to share it with the Wal-Mart crowd and the great unwashed.
                                              The food media has a need to sell their product (magazines, articles, TV) so they moved on to the New New Concept: "local and sustainable." The high end followed. The mass market is trying but it's damned near impossible to do at a supermarket.
                                              Now the Trifecta is "organic, local, sustainable." If you know the farmer by his first name, you hit the Jackpot.

                                              You are personally very, very fortunate because you live in California. Your markets can provide "local" year-round, a luxury of climate that most of the US does not share. "Sustainable" is something we can do if we try but Winter will have its way with most of us whether we like it or not. Most of our large cities still don't have enough farmers' markets and the vast majority of people will continue to shop in supermarkets because of convenience.

                                              This is a very marketable trend that should be with us for a very long time.
                                              That's a good thing because "local and sustainable" is a really good thing.
                                              Because of most of the reasons you give.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                I guess my point would be that I couldn't give a rat's ass if something has cachet or not -- if it's a good thing, then it's a good thing. Stupid articles by stupid people who do give a rat's ass about "cachet" aren't any reason to dis everyone who supports a movement.

                                                If such stupid person decides to spend $35 on a chicken and $14 on a gallon of milk because of the cachet of buying "local and sustainable" then that's their choice, but people should recognize that presenting that choice as being $14-milk-or-horrible-factory-hormone-laden-milk is a false choice.

                                                I guess part of the problem is that when larger numbers of people start making ... let's just lump it all together as "better food buying practices" ... part of their daily lives, then there's nothing to write about. Sometimes on the SF board a visitor asks for recommendations for restaurants using natural/local/sustainable/seasonal/organic ingredients. And the locals wrack their brains and realize that for a certain level and type of restaurant, it's just a *given* that restaurants are incorporating some or all of those practices and aren't making a big deal about it.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Not all "movements" are worthwhile or sustainable in the long term. Some things are passing fancies. Others can improve the quality of our lives and we should give a "rats ass" about them, even if they're being written about poorly by stupid people.
                                                  Organic food concepts got mired in regulations and arguments as they moved into the mainstream, and it became confusing. Organic salt? It became a silly marketing concept that confused normal consumers who tried to participate.
                                                  Yeah, it's a "good thing" but it wore everybody out.

                                                  Local is very self explanatory and user-friendly. People know what it means that something is grown near them when Spring comes and Summer allows nearby farmers to bring tomatoes to an open air market.
                                                  So if they are drawn to farmers' markets because it's currently "the thing to do," cachet is a useful thing.
                                                  Most people have regional pride, whether it's Jersey tomatoes or Iowa corn, Georgia peaches, shad, Olympia oysters, crawfish, or whatever. Seeking out those things draws them to farmers' markets in a way that "organic" might never have. When they go to the market, they find a treasure trove of other fresh foods, better than what they've been buying at supermarkets, often cheaper. They get hooked. They go back and take their friends. New markets spring up.
                                                  The result is that the consumer demand increases and more farmers can find more customers for their produce.
                                                  This helps the farmers and it helps us because we'll find more varieties at good prices in more markets. A Win-Win.
                                                  Note that for the vast majority of consumers, there is little to no politics in this. That broadens the market because all they want is better food. The ultimate goal we all share.

                                                  This may be "mainstream" among certain groups in SF, but not for everyone and not in most of the US. The more that the media emphasizes local" and seasonal food, the more mainstream it will become countrywide. It will "trickle down."
                                                  That is hard for national media - because they have to write for national audiences. It's hard to do stories about something that YOU can buy in SF that I have no access to on the East Coast. I don't care and I'm not going to buy that magazine.

                                                  For the food media, the good thing about "local," seasonal, and regional foods, and also heritage foods, is that among those categories are high end, rare, expensive, and unusual foods that only some people will have access to. There will always be upscale products at chi-chi farmers' markets for those who are willing to pay the price. Those topics are always interesting.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    Unfortunately, some people probably read this article and got the impression that eating locally/sustainably is necessarily ridiculously expensive and dismissed the possibility of incorporating at least some aspects of it into their lives. Yes, it can be more expensive (although not always, especially if you're willing to settle for local but not certified organic), but it doesn't have to be, as someone said, above, three times the price of "conventional" supermarket food.

                                                    What I meant was that when someone like me buys an organic chicken for $12, it's not a story. When some writer for the NYTimes buys a $35 chicken and then throws it away, then that's a story. Unfortunately, that story -- just like a lot of news stories -- creates a misleading picture of what's really going on by focusing on the unusual and not the commonplace.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Bingo! I could not agree with you more.
                                                      When the NYT and other media outlets use the Union Square Market or the upscale one in their area as the examples in their stories, many of their readers are discouraged from trying farmers' markets by the prices they read. And the esoteric products which they think doesn't fit their lifestyles.
                                                      Yikes! Pork roast at $20/lb!!! Why even go if they can't afford a little bit of cheese and loaf of bread? And they've never even heard of that cheese. They need cheddar for the kids' lunches.

                                                      The Washington Post always highlights the expensive and very social Dupont Circle Market which has achieved a national reputation and draws about 2500 to 3000 people in a few hours each Sunday morning.
                                                      But there are now dozens of farmers' markets in our Metro area which get little to no attention, yet cumulatively draw 10 times or more that many people. Still not huge numbers among a 6 million population, but a lot of people shopping for great fresh, local food from area farmers at good prices.
                                                      One of the markets they never mention is the crazy RFK market started by Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry, that draws food stamp shoppers. It has had some of the best locally-grown food and lowest prices in town for over 30 years.

                                                      You're right that "dog bites man" doesn't get the attention it deserves.
                                                      The food writers are doing a foodie version of social climbing. They only want to do the chi-chi.
                                                      I wish they're write about real markets for real people - that are increasingly commonplace.

                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                        I propose a rule of thumb to find farmers' markets for real people:

                                                        If more than half of the cars parked nearby are European-made, go elsewhere. If more than half of the shoppers don't speak English as their first language, you're in the right place.

                                                        Of course, my arrival skews the balance away from where I like it. Что делать?

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          We have one market that is jokingly referred to as "Costco for immigrants." It sells food, including halal meats, Caribbean and African produce, and has a flea market with the most astonishing stuff. Lots of bulk sales for vendors too.
                                                          It's on a huge vacant lot in the City's old wholesale market.
                                                          There are some European cars owned by immigrants who are enjoying the American Dream.

                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        You mean all New Yorkers are not narcissistic inconsiderate f*^k the planet and everyone else on it morons?

                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I'm probably not replying in the right place here, so this is by no means directed at Ruth.

                                                      I wanted to mention that I am pretty sure that the Union Square farmers' market in Manhattan accepts food stamps. Yes, some things can be v. expensive (and therefore, I'm guessing, not the most effective use of food stamps), but many are quite reasonable, particularly produce from certain vendors.

                                                      I don't buy $14 milk, but I do spend a lot of money on locally made cheeses there, rather than buying imported ones that week, as well as jams and jellies. I would rather support the vendors at the market, even if it means I am paying a premium at times. If I think that a certain good is just too expensive for me, I don't buy it.

                                                      Also, I don't go to the market because there is a "social cachet" attached to it - I go because I like to cook with the products sold, and, as an added benefit in my mind, it is a wonderful reminder, in a big city, of the changing seasons, as viewed through the available produce.

                                                      I did read that article and, while I've not paid $35 for a chicken, it just didn't strike me as outrageous, or that the man in question deserves to be castigated so. Then again, maybe I've just lived in NYC too long.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        I'm going to have to agree with you on this. I haven't paid $35 for a chicken and don't think I probably will (in fact, I just paid $10 for an organic, free-range chicken yesterday), but there are all sorts of things people will pay a premium price for -- whether it's shoes, bags, food, furniture, cars, whatever. I figure it's their money and they're entitled to spend it however they choose to do so. And the gist I got from this article was that the author himself thought that the $35 chickens were a bit too much, and it seems that he has curtailed his spending.

                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                          I agree. And, I could never bring myself to pay that much for a chicken. While there are people who might buy $35 for the "cachet" like they would designer purses, I think it's unfair to stereotype everyone who chooses to buy tomatoes from a farmer they know as that. There is a difference between a freshly picked tomato and one that was picked from far away, too early, one w/ flavor bred out in order to have longevity. Media might have raised awareness that people do have other options than the standard grocery store products which is what increases the demand. I've been going to farmers markets for 20 some years and I think it's nice to see different kinds of people there now, people who hadn't done it in the past. I've yet to meet someone who's bragged about overpaying for an heirloom tomato just for the social cachet. This is not directed at you, MIss Needle, but you were the last thread in the line.

                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    >>"And I don't begrudge the prices -- this is California, land is expensive, gas to run your farm equipment and bring your goods to market is expensive, and the cost of living is sky-high. Farmers have a right to make a decent living, just as much (or maybe more) than I do."<<

                                                    There's a difference between being the cognoscenti who are willing to pay a premium price for a high-quality product and the dupes who will buy overpriced merchandise without even looking at the price tag (or worse, who pay confiscatory amounts for standard-quality products **because of** the exorbitant price.) I trust that you're among the former, and that you're assuming a fair price and a quality product.

                                                    Without those qualifications, yes, I do begrudge the prices. I'm with you that an efficient producer of high-quality food should make a fair profit. But that doesn't mean that anybody who chooses to farm is automatically entitled to a high standard of living. While I deplore the commodification of our food supply (the "chicken is chicken" mentality), food prices need to be grounded in market forces, not a desire to see affluent farmers.

                                                    I mean, seriously, Straus Family Creamery milk is about $8 a gallon. Pricey, but IMHO it has better flavor and mouthfeel than the stuff in the plastic cartons at Trader Joe's. Is it worth it? That's an individual decision.

                                                    On the other hand, a friend of mine was interested in starting a milk co-op. She's a hobbyist, not a real farmer, but she already had a dairy cow, and the milk was very good. More variable than the stuff from Straus, but of a comparable quality. So it sounded like an interesting idea. Then she mentioned that shares in the co-op would be priced based on the amount of milk taken, and it would be $20 a gallon. Why? Because that's how much it would cost to produce.

                                                    I'm sorry, but if you have to sell your milk for $20/gallon to break even, maybe you need to find another line of work. Especially when there's a product that's as good as or better than yours for less than half the price. And that's exactly what my friend did; she got rid of the cow and got a couple of milk goats. Now the production quantities are more manageable, and what her family doesn't consume she can use for barter with other hobby farmers.

                                                    But if she were a better salesperson (and if the sale of raw milk were unregulated), there's no doubt in my mind that she could have had a table at any one of the chichi farmer's markets around here, where people would have lined up to pay $20 a gallon for her "local, sustainable" milk. Like PT Barnum says...

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      AB: Raw goat (or cow) milk cheese may be more profitable for your friend, and has a much longer shelf life.

                                                      That said, if we were to go to someplace other than Halo (pasturized and hormone free, as well as local) for our milk, the price would easily double even for standard milk.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        AB: some of the organic milk (the "cream top") in plastic jugs at Trader Joe's *is* Straus.

                                                        Your friend's problem was that she wasn't benefitting from economies of scale that would have spread her overhead costs over a larger volume of sales.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Re: the cream top milk. Gotta try that. Nobody in our house is a big milk drinker, but I do enjoy a glass now and then. And Straus milk is delicious.

                                                          As to my friend, the problem isn't economies of scale. Or rather, economies of scale aren't the root problem. The root problem is that she's an upper-middle-class hippy, not a businesswoman. She's got a heart of gold, but no management skills to speak of.

                                                          Farming is a business. Even in the best of times, it's hard to be profitable. Niman, Straus, and others have found ways to produce (or market, at least) premium products for a fair price. We need to find a way to encourage local and sustainable production within a viable business model. If flakes and dilettantes become the face of the movement, the movement has a problem.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            "upper-middle-class hippy"
                                                            sorry, that made me laugh, as most of the original flower children were upper-middle class

                                                            1. re: Caralien

                                                              Most of the original hippies came from upper-middle-class backgrounds, but to a large extent they eschewed their parents' lifestyles. This is a middle-aged woman who powers her diesel Mercedes with used vegetable oil.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                The methane emitted by that cow off-set the benefits from her Fryolator Merc.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  There are a few of the original flower children who eschewed their parents' lifestyles permanently, but most didn't (hence the ME generation--their children--that followed). It's great that your friend powers her Mercedes with used vegetable oil (I had heard of it, but never knew anyone who actually made it work) and that people are again referring to the return-to-nature/real food movements of the 60's. At the same time, being frugal, planting vegetable gardens, and using what is available and best for one's family isn't a new concept--ask anyone who has lived through the depression or rationing, or in countries less rich than ours.

                                                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                I'd have to agree that someone who only had one cow is a dilettante. Still, you could be the best farmer and business person in the world, and you still couldn't produce cheap milk with only one cow.

                                                    2. This series and this article in particular are a new low for food coverage in the NYT. The backhanded bragging about expenditure on food, the cavalier attitude to waste, and the cutesy comments about his son are unbearable. La Hesser was/is bad enough, but come on. Surely the Times could find someone who could write a column that people could actually read and enjoy?

                                                      1. Skimming the article and reading the replies to this post makes me really REALLY happy to live where I do--near farms--and to have reasonable friends from all walks of life (many people I know who have grown up with both money and intelligence have a tendency to know how to keep it without needing to show off; what do they have to prove? and to whom?).

                                                        Other posts I've made have included locally produced fare at prices the writer might balk at (at that price, it can't possibly be good!). I have no idea what the cost is for renting a stand at Union Square or the other boutique Farmer's Markets, but cost of goods sold includes overhead (booth, fuel, labor, and time at the market in addition to the cost of land, feed, shelter, packaging, freezing, an immersion heater for the water in the winter, interest payments on the farm...).

                                                        If the writer--or his son Dexter--needed a personal shopper to purchase local fare at reasonable prices, I'm sure I could find more than a few people currently out of work who would be glad to help, at a price, of course. The total grocery bill, including personal shopper, would likely be about the same, but at least the quality would be phenomenal.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Caralien

                                                          LOL! Great idea! I can just see the Manhattan trend-following sheep** going gaga about having "personal forager."

                                                          ** I don't mean to imply that all -- or even most -- Manhattanites are trend-following sheep, only that there does seem to be a certain highly visible segment of the population for whom that characterization seems to be appropriate.

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            Don't tell anyone, but a lot of people living in Manhattan head over the bridges and tunnels to shop at Costco.

                                                            1. re: Caralien

                                                              Ah, but that's reverse chic, plus there's an aura of exclusivity (even if just about anyone can get a Costco card these days).

                                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              Having lived in both/all these places, I think I can safely say that the various stereotypes applied to Manhattanites and San Franciscans/Berkleyans/Californians a) do not apply to anywhere near all the residents of said places, and b) are the result of certain highly visible segments of the population for whom those characterizations seems to be appropriate.

                                                          2. I always laugh when somebody tends to cite the NYT as having some form of insight or authority on particular matters. This article was clearly indicative of the type of staff that this has-been publication has hired over the past several years. I stopped reading years ago due to the lackluster reporting and writing. I can't tell you how many times people on the different boards here are amazed that the NYT got it wrong on a restaurant review ranging from NYC to Buenos Aires to Auckland. I'm still amazed at people who still regard this paper as the gold standard of US journalism.

                                                            Sadly, the island of Manhattan has become overwhelmingly gentrified, yet there are still fantastic places to shop in the other boroughs, LI, and Jersey. While I have never shopped at Costco in my life, I at least applaud those who are willing to intermingle with the B&T crowd rather than buying $14 milk because it is chic and PC.

                                                            Then again, the NYT "covers the world." Sadly, it is often done by arrogant, elitist, and uninformed fools.