Tagged: Slate

Who pays for diners that dash?

GRAZE, Iowa City

Photo by Flickr user Alan Light, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

A couple months ago, Luke O’Neil penned a story for Slate about the practice of restaurants requiring servers to pick up the bill when one of their tables skips out on the check. As O’Neil details,

Many servers are forced to perform two jobs at once: delivering food and working as a severely undertrained and underpaid security force.

The dine-and-dash is often looked on as a harmless prank, without any serious consequences. Restaurants anticipate the occasional walkout as part of their business plan, right? They should, but instead they often pass the buck to employees—and when you learn that servers can be required to pay for the losses out of their own pockets, it doesn’t seem all that funny. The problem is that there aren’t strong protections against the practice in federal labor laws, and state laws prohibiting wage deductions for loss and theft are too often ignored by employers and unknown by workers….

[I]n many states, restaurants may legally dock wages from servers who’ve already been victimized by dine-and-dashers…. Even in states where the practice is technically illegal, the threat of being retaliated against … is so great that servers don’t stand up to bullying tactics from managers who see workers as disposable, precisely because they’re not required to pay them an actual wage, says Vincent Mersich, a labor lawyer in Pennsylvania. “Restaurants can transfer so much of their operating risk onto employees by paying them significantly less than minimum wage,” Mersich told me. Employers in these scenarios are essentially saying, “ ‘You haven’t assumed enough of that risk; you also have to assume the risk of people walking out on their checks,’” Mersich added. “At that point it seems exceedingly exploitative.”

The restaurant industry is messed up in many significant ways, as the recent fast-food workers strike has reminded us, but problems like wage theft, sexual and racial discrimination, and reliance on undocumented workers are at least explicitly illegal. Docking wages for walkouts should be illegal across the board, too, either via an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act or via more progressive laws at the state level.

Check out the full post here.


Your favorite food is NOT like crack, so quit saying so


Photo by Flickr user wEnDaLicious, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A few weeks ago, L.V. Anderson had a great piece at Slate about that most ubiquitous of contemporary food metaphors. As she describes,

Saying that a food is “like crack” … is intended to be an edgy way of emphasizing how instantly gratifying it is, and how difficult it is to stop eating it once it’s in front of you. Unfortunately, all it really does is demonstrate how out of touch and callously classist foodie culture has become….

Crack is the drug metaphor of choice among food worshipers precisely because it’s alien to them. To someone who swoons over a “crack cookie,” crack is an abstraction, a vague stand-in for “intense, addictive pleasure.” These foodies never consider the fact that crack abuse is a devastating problem for some people, because they never have to.

For the full post, which includes some fantastic links, head here.

Bear: It’s what’s for dinner

Photo by dherman1145 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If I happened upon the scene of a vehicle-meets-wildlife road accident, I know full well that I’d be woefully ill-equipped to put the grievously injured animal out of its misery, much less turn its carcass into food. Jackson Landers, though, is decidedly not me. The author of 2012’s Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species and 2011’s The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food, Landers recently wrote a piece for Slate describing such an experience.

As he details,

Moments before I arrived on the scene, the SUV’s driver’s plans for the day had been interrupted by a black bear trotting out in front of her vehicle…. The bear and the SUV were the only casualties.

I’m a professional hunting guide, so my first concern was for the bear, which lay dying on its side in the middle of the road. It was struggling to get up with its front paws, but its back legs were clearly paralyzed, and there was no hope for the animal. I put down several wounded deer by the side of the road each year, but I had neglected to stash a spare rifle in my truck that morning. I did, however, have a very large hunting knife. A quick jab in the heart ended the animal’s suffering.

I dragged the bear out of the road so traffic could start moving again, and then I waited for the police to arrive in order to obtain permission to keep the bear. (Being in possession of a dead bear outside of bear-hunting season can get you charged with poaching unless you get special approval.) I had realized that this was as perfect an opportunity as I would ever have to find out what bear meat tastes like. Disassembling a 150-pound dead bear wasn’t what I’d had planned for the evening (I’d intended to catch up on The Walking Dead), but I’m a carpe diem kind of guy. An hour later I found myself the proud, legal owner of one dead black bear.

Now what?

For the answer, including some food for thought about eating animals, check out the full essay here.

Lefties load weapons and hunt for supper

Weird juxtapositions in the Turtle Tank

Photo by MarkWallace via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Last week I came across Emma Marris’s essay at Slate (thanks, E!) on the intersection of hunting and modern sub/urban living. As she writes,

The expansion of hunting into liberal, urban circles is the latest development in an evolving and increasingly snug coexistence between humans and beasts in North America. Jim Sterba’s new book, Nature Wars [see a review here], examines the paradox of the rebound of many wild species, particularly in the densely populated East Coast of the United States. Whitetail deer, turkeys, Canada geese, black bears, and trees are all doing wonderfully in 2012, thanks to conservation measures in the past and vagaries of history and cultural change. The problem, Sterba says, is that most modern North Americans have no idea what to do with these species. We gawk and gape; we feed them doughnuts; we run into them with our cars; we are surprised and alarmed by their messy habits and occasional aggressiveness; we manage them all wrong; we want them gone from our neighborhoods, but we abhor the idea of killing them….

So how should we solve this “too much of a good thing” problem? Sterba proposes that local sharpshooters hunt overabundant deer and sell it at farmers markets, a genius way to use the locavore trend to pick up where declining interest in hunting has left a gap in population control. He also advocates wildlife overpasses and underpasses, fines for feeding wildlife, and making wearing fur acceptable again when populations of furbearers need to be controlled. In general, he argues, people need to reconnect with real nature “in ways that, to put it bluntly, get dirt under their fingernails, blood on their hands, and even a wood splinter or two under their kneecaps and butts.” In other words, he’s all for hipsters taking up hunting.

For the full piece — including a bit of Marris’s own experience (“I married into a family of gun-toting, game-cleaning, bleeding-heart liberals”) —  head here.

Will yams replace meat someday?

Photo from the IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) Image Library via Flickr

NPR’s Morning Edition is reporting on meat all week long, and this morning they looked at the kinds of inputs that meat requires, e.g., 6.7 pounds of grain and forage, 52.8 gallons of water, and much more to make just one quarter-pound burger.

Similarly, this story by Will Oremus over at Slate—part of their recent “Future of Food” series from Future Tense—asks, “When farmland is scarce, will we all eat roots and tubers?”:

Today about 1 billion people “eat like Westerners,” in the words of University of California-Berkeley resource economist David Zilberman. That means, basically, that they wolf down historically unprecedented quantities of meat and dairy—getting up to half their calories from animals rather than plants. Meat consumption appears to be reaching a plateau in the United States and Europe, but it’s only now taking off in many poorer parts of the world. Zilberman believes that 40 years from now there may be 3 billion or 4 billion people who eat like Westerners.

Oremus goes on to consider what might happen in a future where limited resources (like water and top soil) necessitate less meat consumption and a turn to energy-rich plant products, “roots and tubers like garlic, sunchokes, and sweet potatoes”:

A world of yam-eaters might seem far-fetched, but some food-security zealots are already preparing for the worst. One of them is John Jeavons, a Willits, Calif.-based advocate of what he calls “biointensive farming.” Back in the early 1970s, when people still feared the original population bomb, Jeavons began to explore how people could grow everything they needed on the smallest possible plot of ground. Building on the methods of organic-farming pioneer Alan Chadwick, Jeavons developed an eight-point gardening system that calls for close spacing of plants, vigorous composting and soil maintenance, and “calorie farming,” which means focusing on crops that produce the most nutrition in the least space.

For the full stories, check out the links above.