Monday, December 1, 2008

Chef Rant, Black Friday, 2008

Okay, I’m thankful for many things, but come on now….

Three occurrences have prompted this blog. And, yes, it has been too
long since my last confession. Sorry, blogreaders, but these tough
times have demanded more of us small business owners than ever
before. Writing continues to be a necessary outlet for me, and
though I usually resist the urge to pontificate or lash out, that
resistance is growing weaker by the day lately.

Perceived injustice has always fascinated me. Outrage comes more
easily for some people, and these people tend to have high ideals and
expectations of others. Many such souls may have felt shunned or
disenfranchised by the status quo for one reason or another. I have
been through periods of angst in my life and rebelled against
authorities and railed against policies I did not understand and done
dumb stuff I have later regretted. But I have always weighed my
perceptions of justice in a greater perspective. In school, essays
on comparative ethics by Bertrand Russell made me question whether
any one perception of justice or set of values is absolutely
correct. In one class, I remember a debate about cannibalism. Is it
right for our tribe (homeless Eurocentric Western Judao-Christian
soldiers) to intervene in another tribe’s ritual because we find it
wantonly barbaric? Was our great nation not built on this principle,
at the cost of uncountable native lives? How are the Mayflower
sailors, religious missionaries and Genghis Khan different?
Discuss. Meanwhile, I’m feeling a little outraged at the imbalance
of justice, unequal distribution of wealth, and mass confusion
befalling American holiday shoppers today.

Okay, here’s my beef. Three things happened on Black Friday that
should serve as mountainous neon billboards for all of us to see. A
WalMart employee on Long Island was trampled to death by surging
masses of rabid holiday shoppers. There was a lethal gunfight
between two shoppers in a California Toys-R-Us. And, virtually no
one walked the streets of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The third news item may seem less significant than the previous two,
and of course it is. But as a business owner in a normally
sustainable and relentlessly charming little seaside hamlet, I could
not help but mourn the loss of business in our town (and in my
restaurant, specifically). The day after Thanksgiving, whose
nickname “Black Friday” refers to the first day of the year retail
shops see a profit, should (and usually do) witness gay merrymaking,
public displays of generosity and Capra-esque messengers of holiday
cheer. What it should not witness is Box Store Campers and the
Storming of the Best Deal. I just coined a cool phrase; is anyone
still reading? Get it? Storming of the Best Deal. If you are out
there listening, let me know if you think this spontaneous turn of
phrase is as cool as I think it is. OK, enough. So, violence at
what cost and for what cause? Someone’s life for a limited edition
Wii or X-Box. Shameful.

Fear. We all feel it. We are surrounded by it. We are encouraged
to confront (and therefore augment) it. We wear it like a black
mantle and cower under it until the hobgoblins of worldwide economic
collapse go back in the closet of our imaginations.

There is a Malthusian argument to be made about all this burdensome
phobia going around. In these dire times, our excesses will be
trimmed, weaker competition will disappear, the strong will survive,
and we will emerge all the better for having suffered a little.
Surely that’s a painfully valid viewpoint, but it’s not very human
now, is it? And this being the season of compassion and giving, we
should probably put our selfish fears aside and get out there and
live a normal life.

All of this to say that we Black Trumpeters are pitching to you, the
general populace, a concept that I think makes sense. Every Sunday
through Thursday during December, we will extend our Flight Night
Tasting Menu concept but gear it more toward the soup and sandwich
crowd. Denise and I are constantly battling the perception that
Black Trumpet is an expensive restaurant, when in reality our prices
are reasonable, our portions generous, and the overall value
excellent. Our average menu item is $14 for Christmas’ sake.

Please take note that nowhere in this blog do I mention that a gift
certificate to Black Trumpet makes the perfect holiday gift. Which,
of course it does.

Until next time, eat local, buy local, be local. Your community
needs you just as much as you need it.

Happy holidays from all of us at Black Trumpet.