Wimping out

Father's political leanings ring true following Congress' overhaul of school meal regulations.

When I was child, I witnessed my father have apoplexy over the results of the 1964 presidential election. He had just watched President Lyndon Johnson defeat Barry Goldwater, and he was livid.

As a staunch Republican, my father couldn’t understand how Johnson could have gained the popular vote. Declaring that the country was going to hell, he vowed never to vote again. He was true to his word, right up to his death in 2008 at the age of 86.

As I got older, I questioned my father’s wisdom. How could you turn your back on the democratic process, I said. You can’t complain about the state of the country if you don’t exercise your right to do something about it. But if my father were alive today, I think I would tell him, “I’m beginning to understand your frustration with the system.”

My frustration has to do with members of Congress who have proposed legislation that would protect french fries and pizza from being relegated to supporting roles in school lunch programs, by prohibiting the Department of Agriculture from limiting the amount of potatoes served on school lunch menus and protect tomato paste as a vegetable in its current measure, which is two tablespoons. (The USDA proposed limiting potatoes to two appearances per week on school menus, and making a half-cup the minimum measure for tomato paste to quality as a vegetable serving.) In the process Congress would undermine all of the USDA’s efforts to make school meals healthier and more diverse, and would be a slap in the face to Michelle Obama, who has campaigned tirelessly against childhood obesity.

All of the efforts of well-meaning school foodservice directors, dietitians and chefs to educate children about the wide world of food that exists beyond burgers, fries and pizza will be for naught should this bill pass. And, true to Congressional form, the provisions are tied to a $182 million measure to fund day-to-day operations of several government departments, including Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation. So a vote against the ill-conceived food measure would also be a vote against those departments, as though one issue has anything to do with the other.

In the interest of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I am a Republican. Under the circumstances, I am embarrassed to admit it. But a fundamental problem has arisen, and it afflicts both parties and extreme political views, liberal and conservative, alike. We have become so polarized as a nation that there is no middle ground among politicians, no sense that some things should be changed simply because it makes sense to do so.

Instead, it seems, congressmen and women have established a two-question litmus test for whether a course of action should be followed. The first question is, Is it a good idea? If the answer to the first question is “yes,” the second question is, Is it my party’s idea? The answer to that question becomes the de facto vote of that person.

Forget all the arguments about Congress being influenced by special interests. In my opinion, this is what the whole issue boils down to: Republicans have taken the stance that because the president’s wife is at the forefront of this movement to make school meals healthier, they are going to do everything in their power to thwart her efforts. It is among the most juvenile displays of power Congress has made to date. These are supposed to be tough men and women, chosen to help guide this country through some tough times, and they care more about their own egos than they do the good of the nation. They refuse to make, or at least accept, some hard choices so that we have a choice of becoming a healthier nation.

Now, I am not prepared to turn my back on the political process; I will not abdicate my right to vote as my father once did because of my anger at the system. But I feel his pain.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
sauces

Adding an entirely new cuisine to the menu can feel daunting. But what if you could dabble in international flavors simply by introducing a few new condiments? For inspiration, FSD talked to operators who are offering a range of condiments plucked from global regional cuisines.

“Most ethnic cuisines have some sort of sauce or condiment relishes that go with their dishes,” says Roy Sullivan, executive chef with Nutrition & Food Services at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Condiments offered to diners at UCSF Medical include chimichurri (Argentina), curry (India), tzatziki (...

Ideas and Innovation
turnip juice brine

Give leftover brine new life by adding it to vegetables. In an interview with Food52, Stuart Brioza, chef and owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, says that he adds a splash of leftover brine while sauteeing mushrooms to increase their flavor profile. “We like to ferment turnips at the restaurant, and it’s a great way to use that brine—though dill pickle brine would work just as well,” he says.

Menu Development
side dishes

Operators looking to increase sales of side dishes may want to focus on freshness and value. Here’s what attributes consumers say are important when picking sides.

Fresh - 73% Offered at a fair price - 72% Satisfies a craving - 64% Premium ingredients - 56% Natural ingredients - 49% Signature side - 47% Something familiar - 46% Housemade/made from scratch - 44% Something new/unique - 42% Large portion size - 42% Healthfulness - 40% Family-size - 40%

Source: Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite

Ideas and Innovation
earth

When putting together our surveys, FoodService Director’s editors tend to ask operators about big trends that we’re seeing throughout the industry. For the November "Besties" issue , we asked readers to share the best ways they’re menuing things like plant-based dishes, trending international cuisines and creative DIY options.

Great responses flooded in from across the country, and it was tough to narrow down which would make it into the cover story. A few even came in after the piece was finished. Laura Thompson, resident district manager for Aramark at James Madison University,...

FSD Resources