Share Our Strength’s series of Taste of the Nation events casts childhood hunger in a disturbing light — as well it should: Childhood hunger is disturbing. It’s especially disturbing in a rich country like the United States, where we shouldn’t have it at all. Yet one in five American kids lives in households that struggle to put food on the table, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (the technical term for those households is “food insecure,” which means that “food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted in times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food”).
Taste of the Nation illustrates how ridiculous hunger in America is by setting up humongous spreads of food and drink, provided by many, possibly most, of the finestin the country. At New York City’s Taste of the Nation, 58 different items were served — more than even a professional eater and confirmed fat man such as I can come close to fitting down his overly experienced gullet over the course of an evening, even if he skips lunch.
“We have the luxury of eating for pleasure, and there are people who can't even make the minimum,” Oceana executive chef Ben Pollinger told me at the event as I ate his Long Island oysters garnished with citrus and cucumber. As a father of three young kids, he said addressing childhood hunger was important to him.
There’s a picture of them. Extravagant, right?
How about this coppa, adorably shaped like nigiri sushi over what I think was a frittata of farm egg, from Blue Hill (it was definitely a “farm egg,” or so it said on the placard at the station, and it seemed like a fritatta)?
Celebrity chef Harold Dieterle was handing out Taylor Bay scallops topped with a gardiniere mignonette, that did, indeed, taste like the vegetables on a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich.
Here they are.
“Hunger’s a very serious issue and I like to do my part,” he told me.
Is preparing some scallops doing his part? Well, it’s more than a lot of people do, and I bet he does much more than that over the course of the year — many chefs do. And the event did raise $160,000 from its 1,200 attendees, not including the results of the live auction (I’m still waiting for those figures).
Proceeds go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative, whose goals should be obvious from the name.
I could show you some more food porn, but you get the idea. There was bone marrow and fava bean bruschetta from Il Buco Alimentario, Sullivan County Farms trout with tiny pickles and bits of bagel and cream chease from Ma Pêche. lamb ribs from Blue Smoke, duck confit sliders with cilantro hoisin from Michael’s, tiny beer maccarons sandwiching American caviar from Atera, and on and on.
All right, I'll show you the maccarons.
It really is a nice event — a feel-good event for an undeniably excellent cause — and one I can’t figure out how to report on without sounding frivolous, sanctimonious or both.
So I’ll end this blog entry with the saddest poem I know, the author of which I can’t find, but please let me know if you do.
It’s very short:
A child searches a cupboard she knows is empty.