Introducing OTB Economic Stimulus Dinners

lastsupper by you.

The economy, as we all know, is hurting. Bad. Really bad.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched my co-workers and colleagues, my closest friends and several members of my family lose their jobs. And over the last several months I’ve seen favorite restaurants and food-related businesses starting to drop like flies. I dread every single time I have to log into the blog software in order to post a (CLOSED) update to a restaurant entry. Now it seems like I have to do it several times a month.

What is the solution? Our government is doing its best to try to stimulate the economy. And just about everyone is making sacrifices, no matter what your income level is.

Some people — like my former partner in eGullet, Steven Shaw — would suggest that we stop spending money, that we sit back and ride this thing out. That we all eat out of our cupboards for a week or a month, that we hide under our blankets and cuddle up for the big storm and then hope everything is all right at the end. I firmly believe this is the wrong thing for us to do, people.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Shaw is tentatively scheduled to appear on ABC’s Good Morning America program to talk about his 1 month eat out of his cupboard “experiment” — I think that if  the ABC network actually takes him up on it, then they are doing our country a huge disservice. One thing is for a small group of foodies to talk about tightening their belts for a few weeks, but promoting this concept to people at a much broader national level who may not be familiar with the context and dynamics of the community that originated it is simply dangerous and irresponsible. All it takes is a  five minute segment on a nationally televised show for ten million Americans to get some really stupid ideas in their heads.

Even in parody, South Park’s recent episode Margaritaville(1) (2) (3) where Randy Marsh proposes that “we all stop spending money” illustrates that this approach is simply too preposterous and too dangerous to even consider.

By the way, some people in my family actually OWN some of those stupid Margarita machines and tried to gift us one once. We returned it, for a wooden salad bowl, which we use every day for popcorn :)

I think what is important for everyone to understand is just how fragile the economy is right now. If we all collectively decided to stop spending money — that if suddenly, the American public as a whole came to the conclusion that Shaw’s idea of  eating out of our cupboards for a week or a  month  was actually a good idea, then our economy would suffer irreparable harm. Countless stores would close, as would many of our favorite restaurants which are already at risk of shutting their doors.

I’m not saying that what Shaw is doing doesn’t have SOME merit, and I can understand why he thought it was a good idea. Maybe we should all have a “clean out your cupboard meal” now and again. God knows, we are all guilty of buying those pantry supplies that we shove in the back of the cabinet which disappear, never to be seen again. Many of us, myself included, have been guilty of buying conspicuous jumbo-packs of whatever suited our fancy at COSTCO or or Sam’s Club only to let most of it rot in the refrigerator or to succumb to freezer burn.

Wastefulness is definitely not good. Rather than stocking up in bulk quantities of questionable necessity and then finding yourself having to eat out of your freezer and living off cupboard items (arguably most of which is filled with processed chemicals and garbage anyway) why not try a novel approach — buy only what you need when you need it and then consume it? Wow! What a concept! Can I have my national TV spot now?

That being said, not all of us can afford to go shopping or dine out every week. Sadly. many people are just barely getting by. For a substantial segment of the population, the notion of buying fresh produce and groceries on a weekly basis, or even dining out once a week or once a month is simply out of the question. Believe me, I’ve been there. There was a time in my life not less than five years ago where I was unemployed for an extended period of time and we were pretty close to eating entirely out of our cupboard every single night, and we were within weeks of losing our home if I hadn’t gotten work. Thankfully, Rachel and I rebounded from that.

Still, to suggest to America that we collectively stop shopping at the supermarket and eating out at restaurants — for ANY length of time — be it a week or a month, is simply self-destructive. Those of us who have the means to eat out, whether it be once a week or once a month need to ensure that we continue to do so. If not, our economy will never rebound.

So I’ve decided to actually do something about it. However small a contribution as it is — I’m going to make a concerted effort to eat out several times a week. And I’m also going to be organizing dinners at least once a month in New Jersey and New York City where OTB readers can join Rachel and I for dinner and inject some money into the economy. I’m also going to be organizing them in other states whenever I travel, so stay tuned.

If you want to join us for dinner, please join our Off The Broiler group on FaceBook (which we’re using to keep track of attendees).  There you’ll see our list of events. Our first dinner is scheduled for Saturday, April 25 at Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, NJ. I hope you’ll join us.

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4 Responses to Introducing OTB Economic Stimulus Dinners

  1. willynillynews says:

    I agree completely with you. Local stores need us more than ever.Despite cutting back on all our expenses and non essentials we are still trying to go out and eat when we can and we order fewer courses or share a dessert/appetiser but its important to help local businesses in any way you can. Tonight we will go to FAWA in Montclair NJ.

  2. Glenn says:

    I actually posted a blog on my website with a few spots with “stimulus dinner offers” for nation wide chains.

  3. chef colin says:

    Good For you. It’s nice to hear this kind of thing. The restaurant world is in a pretty scary place.

  4. […] Economic Stimulus Dinner I: Chengdu 1 I’m happy to report that our first OTB Economic Stimulus dinner was a fantastic success. On April 25, 2009, 14 foodies converged on Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar […]

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