I listened to a radio program back in 2007 that introduced to me the term “locavore.” It was the 2007 “Word of the Year” for the Oxford American Dictionary. A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius. (I have seen 50, 100, and 150 miles mentioned).
Unlike being a vegan, vegetarian, or some other limited food consumer for health or ethical reasons, the locavore movement’s main aim is to support local food producers. It encourages consumers to buy from local farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food. Most locavores would say that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Also, locally grown food is an environmentally-friendly means of obtaining food, as compared to supermarkets that import their food and use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources to obtain it.
It does mean that I won’t have strawberries and tomatoes in Paradelle in December unless they are grown in a greenhouse. And citrus fruits won’t be locally grown here ever. So, there are sacrifices, especially since most of us have become used to a global supermarket experience.
“Locavore” is a fairly new word coined by Jessica Prentice on the occasion of World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice and is in the pattern of carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.
McGovern’s is a real old-fashioned tavern. I’m sure there are those who think of it as an Irish pub and Esquire magazine called it one of the country’s best bars. But it is a tavern.
I started going there in the early 1970s when I had a summer job in Newark during college.
It had Guinness on tap, murals of Irish scenes in a back room, old photos on the wall, patches from police organizations, and the clientele was made up of city workers, cops, and firemen, prosecutors and attorneys, students from nearby Rutgers-Newark and a lunchtime crowd from the downtown offices.
And all of that is still there. Few changes in half a century. Maybe not much different since 1936. They have a half-hearted website. I guess you don’t have a choice these days – you have to have something online – but it seems appropriate that they don’t seem to really care. They are on Facebook and it looks like they are getting some bands in there.
I’m not sure if the write-up in Esquire works for or against the place. I don’t really see McGovern’s crowd as big Esquire readers.
The menu is still good but basic. I usually get some Chili Con Kearny (as in Kearny, NJ), a McGoo burger or maybe a Scully burger with some Jersey Taylor ham. There’s no other place I go to where I would order a liverwurst sandwich and lava fries.
I’m not around New Street in Newark much these days, but it only takes a few minutes in here for me to feel comfortable. No one yells, “Ken!” when I enter, like on Cheers, but it feels as much like home as I want from a tavern.
Yeah, it’s a tavern – from the Latin taberna and the Greek ταβέρνα/taverna. In Renaissance England, a tavern was distinguished from a public ale house because it was run as a private enterprise. So, drinkers were “guests” rather than members of the public.
It’s not that I eat bad foods. It’s that I eat too much. I have a Jersey diner mentality. Big portions. There is a Japanese cultural habit of healthy eating called hara hachi bu, which means eat only until you are 80% full (literally, “stomach 80%”).
That is possibly easier to follow in Japan where portions are generally much smaller than in the U.S. and the pace of eating is also slower. One thing it does not mean in Japan is leaving a fifth of your meal on the plate. It is bad form to leave food on your plate. That is a rule my mother seemed to follow. “Clean your plate” was a rule in my house and it has stuck with me – which has not helped my waistline.
Stopping at 80% might be a good way to avoid obesity without going hungry. The stomach’s stretch receptors take about 20 minutes to tell the brain that it is full. That’s why you probably feel really full about 20 minutes after you stop eating.
Keeping that 80% in mind, I looked at some health statistics for Okinawa that I found: heart disease rates are 80% lower than in the U.S; the rate of stroke is also lower and cholesterol levels are typically under 180. Their rates of cancer are 50-80% lower – especially for breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
When I started searching online for more information on this 80% rule, I came across a blog post that wondered if this principle could relate to other aspects of life. The blogger (who writes about business presentations) related it to the length of a good speech, presentation, or meeting.
He says, “No matter how much time you are given, never ever go over time, and in fact finish a bit before your allotted time is up. How long you go will depend on your own unique situation at the time but try to shoot for 80-90% of your allotted time. No one will complain if you finish with a few minutes to spare. The problem with most presentations is that they are too long, not too short. Performers, for example, know that the trick is to leave the stage while the audience still loves you and doesn’t want you to go, and not after they have had enough and are full of you.”
Does hara hachi bu relate to anything in your life?
I can certainly see situations where I would NOT want it to be a guiding philosophy. For example, I wouldn’t want my students to give 80% of their effort. Then again, in this current economic downturn, perhaps it makes sense for all of us to use the principle in situations like our spending. Maybe, as with food, you only need to buy 80% of what you think you need in clothing, dining out, travel and non-essentials. Spend only 80%, save 20% or donate the 20% to charity.
The 80% food rule is good as long as you can tell you’re at that point. I’m not a fast eater, so you’d think that I could sense I was full and just stop. My wife rarely finishes a meal when we go out. Eat half and take half home for lunch tomorrow. I have to break the habits of my childhood. And maybe go to fewer diners.
A book club I participate in recently asked members what characters from fiction they would like to host for a dinner. I went with Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye), Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces), Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing (Fear of Flying), T.S. Garp (The World According to Garp), and Juliet Capulet (Romeo & Juliet) If they are allowed to bring a plus one it would be, in order, Phoebe, his mother, Adrian, Jenny, and Romeo Montague.
But what about the food? I’m not much of a chef and not very adventurous with menus. But how about a fictitious meal?
Fictitious Dishes is a bit of a cookbook without recipes, maybe a coffee table book that people page through, one they borrow from the library or give as a gift to a literary person who likes to cook. It is a pretty book. It has re-creations of meals from classic and contemporary literature with some excerpts from books, information about the food, author, their works, and the food itself.
I can see someone doing Mad hatter’s Tea Party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Maybe you can read The Bell Jar while eating its crab-stuffed avocado. Not every selection is elegant. From The Catcher in the Rye, we get a cheese sandwich (on rye?) and drink a malted.
But how about an elegant jazz age party with Gatsby: “glistening Hors-d’oeuvre” and cocktails. Looking to be fancy? Boeuf en Daube from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
I love the novel Moby-Dick. I don’t love clams in or out of chowder. Ever since I dissected a clam in AP biology and discovered that people eat the part that filters junk out of the water I haven’t been a fan. I grew up with the Manhattan tomato-based version and the New Jersey variation which has Old Bay crab spices and asparagus and the less clam the better. I can live with the Moby addition of salted pork (Jersey Taylor ham or pork roll?), pounded sea biscuit, and lots of butter. Some good crusty bread and good coffee and I might just reread Melville again with a bowl of chowder in front of me the next cold November in my soul.
As I said, I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food. I tend to like the peasant foods from every culture – Italian, Mexican, French, Indian, German – take your pick. I’m going to go simple American with my meal from a favorite book – To Kill a Mockingbird‘s fried chicken, tomatoes (from my Jersey garden), beans, scuppernong (I had to look that up. They are a Southern big, white grape that is tart) and nice fresh-from-the-oven rolls. Dessert is some apple pie ala mode (coffee or cinnamon ice cream is my preference) from On the Road. Ala mode on the road. Sounds good.
Today is Fat Tuesday. If you want to be more French, it is Mardi Gras. It began as a preface to the religious holy day of Ash Wednesday. It is the last day to eat up the fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lent which is a penitential season.
I’m taking Fat Tuesday quite literally this year. On this Tuesday, I am feeling fat and my scale tells me it’s more than a feeling. I hit my all-time heaviest this past weekend. I’ve done it before and I have shed 25 pounds before and then eventually gained it all back.
On Fat Tuesday, people would indulge one last time in foods that they might give up as their Lenten sacrifice for the upcoming forty days. Being brought up Catholic, my mother and the church made a big deal about giving up something you enjoyed for Lent. Chocolate, candies, desserts were typical choices. I recall people giving up (or trying to give up) television, cursing, and other bad habits. Our local church held an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast on this day, perhaps as a way to illustrate the sin of gluttony.
Church bells seemed to ring more often as another reminder of what sinners we had become and remind us to now repent. The church didn’t formally endorse Fat Tuesday but since a season of fasting was ahead you had to get rid of all the forbidden foods. You weren’t going to thrown away good food away, so this idea of partying and eating all remaining foods began. The non-religious party that is Mardi Gras begins two weeks before the day that carries the name.
At one time, the fasting was more serious. Forbidden foods included meat, eggs, and dairy products. Shrove Tuesday is the name given to today by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics. For those who mark the day in a religious manner, it is about self-examination, considering the wrongs you need to repent, and what life changes you need to make. It does seem an appropriate day to start a diet.
This moveable feast is determined by when Easter occurs. The name “Shrove Tuesday” comes from the word shrive, an archaic verb meaning “absolve” from the Old English scrīfan which meant “to impose as a penance.”
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. (Lent is a 40-day season because the Sundays aren’t counted. ) The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent symbolically, if not literally, asks believers to set aside time for similar fasting before Christ’s resurrection.
This first day of Lent is about confession and absolution. The symbolic ritual of burning of the previous year’s Holy Week palms happens on this day. On Ash Wednesday, the repentance ashes on put on the foreheads of churchgoers. As a child, I found this frightening as the priest would say “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” And since it was a school day, if you went to the early morning mass, you wore those ashes to school. It identified you. Maybe in a good way or a bad way depending on your neighborhood and classmates.
Foods that are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday (or during Mardi Gras) can be sweet. In the UK, Fat Tuesday is Pancake Day, and in Poland, it’s Paczki Day named for those jelly-filled doughnuts. In the U.S., places like New Orleans that celebrate Mardi Gras often serve the colorful King Cake with its rich, brioche dough and filled with cinnamon, chocolate, and cream cheese. But the food can also be fatty and savory, such as fried Po’Boys.
I’m treating that day as a second chance New Year’s resolution. Eat up the remaining ice cream, donuts, chips and dip, and then try to give up all that bad food for 40 days. Maybe prayers would help.
What is it about a short, simple post about a New Jersey food joint that went out of business that keeps it appearing in the top 10 posts read here?
Back in 2008, I posted a story called Greasy Tony’s Reborn in the Desert. Tony’s was I place I frequented in the early 1970s as an undergrad at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
It had good, fast, greasy food. Nothing extraordinary. It vanished in 1992, a victim of the university’s expansion. The students who made it popular caused its demise.
Whatever following Greasy Tony’s place might have had, it doesn’t explain why the post has “legs” (or a “long tail” as it is known online).
Is it the title of the post – reborn in the desert? Was it the mention of James Gandolfini (a Rutgers grad) eating a cheesesteak in the resurrected eatery in the Arizona desert?
Mr. Greasy Tony, Tony Giorgianni, died in 2008, so that is not topical news.
If you found that post, or this one, how about a comment here about why you came here. It puzzles me.
A sharp-eyed reader let me know that they spotted a Greasy Tony’s t-shirt in the movie Revenge of the Nerds being worn by Booger. I guess someone connected to the film knew of the place. Perhaps this explains why some people search online and find these posts.