Moral Dilemmas of Eating

3 Feb

We already dealt with the moral dilemma I have around eating meat while self identifying as a vegetarian. That one took more than a year for me to reconcile myself with.

I faced another one this weekend in Philly, one with broader implications.

Encouraged and enticed by numerous food network specials, including one of my favorites Diners Drive-ins and Dives, a taste off between Pat’s Steaks and Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia’s Little Italy has been on our familial bucket list for-EVA.

Driven by my recent personal commitment to move the BL forward and enabled by a soon to expire groupon to Eastern State Penitentiary, we set off for Philly this weekend with Pat and Geno’s finally on our schedule.

I tweeted it…

I was immediately met with a barrage of  tweets asking “you aren’t really going to eat at Geno’s are you??” And my bff in Doylestown informed me about the brouhaha over a sign at Gino’s “encouraging” non English speakers to go elsewhere.

Uh Oh.

It’s worse than she said for a conscientious liberal like myself.

Though he defends his English only policy as helping immigrants, there are numerous signs suggesting Gino is (ironically) anti (some) immigrants, anti health care reform, pro super duper gun toting rights, and all around extraordinarily right wing.

So now the dilemma.  And this is a general dilemma for people who are extraordinarily politically active/conscious when it comes to a lot of choices.

I try to shop at union stores (Giant Eagle) as opposed to non union (Target) or anti union (Walmart). I try to buy union made goods or small business made goods (Budwiser v Coors) (Craft beer v. non union mega specialty beer like Blue Moon). Made in America v. Made anywhereelse, Organic v. Factory farmed local v high-carbon-footprint made elsewhere green v full of chemicals….Whew! Exhausting.

Sometimes I go to the grocery store and a simple matter of buying dinner is so baffling I run out of the store with nothing.

For my political friends (and even just mildly conscious) the choice was obvious, DON’T. EAT. AT. GENOS.

But my entire family had been looking forward to this, including myself, for a long time. My Dad’s girlfriend said “this is food, not politics.”

In the end we decided to All get Cheese steaks at Pat’s and get one from Geno’s to share…a compromise.  I decided to be ok with this decision because we had been planning this for a long time and the exercise kind of lost it’s point without a comparison of the two spots.  We are never going back, and one cheese steak will not make or break Gino’s.  Anyway, I’m going to like Pat’s better.  (my review to be posted soon…)

So we went to Geno’s. And it was everything the controversy promised and more. I tried not to read the signs. I tried not to see the pictures of Gino proudly standing next to uber conservative icons like Rush Limbaugh.  I tried to heed my Dad’s Girlfriends dismissal and just enjoy the experience.

But I couldn’t.  And you have to understand, I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally LOVE me some food.  And I’m intent on not missing out on life’s experiences for much of anything.

But I think we have to be responsible with where the bulk of our support goes.  No. Let me restate that. I think we have to be intentional. All of us. When working class people buy cheaper goods/services because they are trying to stretch the family budget its important to understand those cheap Chinese goods are closing American factories. Now, as a broke-ass American on many occasions I can tell you, sometimes, even knowing your choice is making your country a little bit worse, ya just gotta do it.  If you have $45 to feed your family of four for the week, there are no organics in your cart, nothing locally produced or green if it isn’t on sale to be the cheapest choice in the isle, and nothing to consider except “will this get my family to the next paycheck.” Period. End of story.

Same to be said of putting shoes on their feet, clothes on their back and presents under the tree some years.  But I think ya gotta know what you are doing. And if forced to make a bad choice, I sometimes try to make up for it by sending an extra letter to congress or volunteering to make phone calls.

Because the choices we make even when it’s “food not politics” or Christmas not election day matter.  The profit off my $7.50 cheese steak gives voice to someone who uses it to bash immigrants (again, ironically). If he donates money to the Tea Party or Sara Palin or the Party of send-American-jobs-overseas free trade, then I’m enabling that.

I ate my quarter of a Cheese steak from Gino’s and it was tastey but it left a bitter after taste.  I wouldn’t get another Cheese steak from there if it came with a bucket of five dollar bills.

…….on the other hand….I reserve the right to evaluate this on a case by case basis. I have Republican friends and family and I’d patronize their businesses in all likelihood. Also if a restaurateur is a political but happens to be registered Republican, I’d probably not care. Especially because in that situation it IS food not politics.

….and, before you level the obvious criticism, I’d be OK with right wing customers steering clear of any restaurant I may open (in my dreams).  It’s everyone’s right to try to make the world a better place as they define it. Perhaps even our obligation.   I’m sure this dilemma will come up again. And I’m sure that I will make different decisions sometimes. But again, I think the rule is you have to THINK about what you are doing. If everyone thought about how their spending habits impacted the world, we’d probably already be on our way to a more solid future.


One Response to “Moral Dilemmas of Eating”


  1. In which I visit the famous Pat’s v. Gino’s in Philadelphia « Einstein's Desk - February 10, 2011

    […] Because of the controversy (and our parking spot) we started at Pat’s.  FYI, as my dad informed me with an ill concealed tone of disdain, “you know they use cheese wiz??” You can get real cheese, but in the interest of authenticity we decided to go wit da wiz. […]

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