Wednesday, June 18, 2014

South Carolina has an Official Picnic Cuisine

It somehow managed to fly under the radar of most of the press, but on June 2nd, Governor Nikki Haley signed into law Senate Bill 1136, which declared barbecue to be South Carolina's "official picnic cuisine."

Apparently Haley wasn't persuaded by my arguments against the historical improbabilities of the claim, encoded in the bill, that South Carolina is the "birthplace of barbecue" (Surely she reads the Free Times, right?) In addition to the shakiness of the "birthplace" claim, the other “whereas” clauses in the bill are pretty murky, too.

The second whereas is this: “Whereas, South Carolina is unique in that it is the only state where one can find all four barbecue finishing sauces: vinegar and pepper, mustard, light tomato, and heavy tomato.”

The implication is that there are only four “finishing” sauces in barbecue, but that’s far from the case: there’s the dark brown tomato- and molasses-based stuff you find in Memphis, the Worcestershire-spiked vinegar “dip” they dress mutton with in Western Kentucky, and the odd but delicious white mayonnaise-based sauce in which they dunk barbecue chicken down in North Alabama.

Mabye our lawmakers are trying to say that South Carolina is the only state where one can find all four barbecue finishing sauces that are found in South Carolina, but that doesn’t seem like particularly effective whereasing to me. And, it leaves out altogether the 5th style of South Carolina barbecue sauce: the bright orange ketchup- and mustard-based blend you find at a lot of the Dukes Barbecue restaurants in and around Orangeburg County.

And, finally, I’m not exactly sure what a “picnic cuisine” is, really. I went on an awful lot of picnics when I was a kid growing up in Greenville, and cold fried chicken, ham sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, and deviled eggs were what we always had in our basket. While you could certainly eat barbecue at a picnic, I think most South Carolinians eat it sitting down in a restaurant

But, barbecue now joins an illustrious parade of official state comestibles. The peach is the state fruit, milk is the official beverage, tea is the official “hospitality beverage” (in my house, that would be a good bourbon or rye, but good luck getting one of those officially designated by the Legislature), boiled peanuts are the official snack food, and collard greens the official vegetable.

In 2000, Representative John Altman introduced a bill to officially designate grits as “the official state food,” but it languished in committee. Too bad they didn't use the same designation for barbecue. I would have gotten behind that notion 100%.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Whiskey-Flavored Pigs and Other Not-So-New-Fangled Inventions

"You reek of whiskey!"
There's been a bit of press and social media kerfuffle over the recent announcement by the Templeton Rye Distillery that it's going to bring to market a selection of heritage breed hogs fed a diet of spent Templeton Rye mash--that is, the grain leftover in the still after the alcohol has all been distilled away. The details direct from Templeton can be found here.

Somehow, the story got slanted by Quad Cities television station KQAD into something much more dramatic sounding: "Iowa distillery raises pigs to taste like whiskey." If you read the information from Templeton, I don't think they are claiming that exactly--just that it will be interesting to see how pigs raised on spent mash turn out.  But, that didn't stop Vox from jumping into the fray with a detailed explanation of exactly why a pig fed rye mash won't taste like whiskey.

KQAD indirectly quoted Templeton co-founder Keith Kerkhoff as saying "their pork experiment has never been done before," which isn't exactly true. Down here in Charleston, for instance, the guys at the Striped Pig Distillery have been sending their spent mash to feed the heritage breed pigs at Holy City Hogs for about half a year now.

But, that's splitting hairs. The reality is that feeding hogs on spent mash is not only not a new thing in the past year or past decade, it's not even new in the past two centuries. By the early 19th century, hog raising was a common side venture for distilleries. The proprietor would purchase hogs for the express intent of fattening them on the “pot ale” from the stills. Samuel McHarry, the author of the 1809 guide The Practical Distiller, estimated that a distillery owner could purchase 50 “poor” hogs at four dollars a piece, fatten them during the year, and sell them in the fall for seven bucks each, netting a clean $150 profit for the lot. 

Raising hogs remained a big part of the distilling business straight through the end of the 19th century, and it was quite common for distilleries to be surrounded by huge hog pens that let the owners squeeze a little extra value out of all that grain.

And, no, no one in the 19th century ever noted that the pork took on any specific flavor from the spent whiskey grains. There was one added bonus, though. Those hogs provided a source of much-needed entertainment for bored Kentuckians, for when the spent pot ale was thrown to them, the pigs would gorge on it and, in the words of bourbon historian Gerald Carson, “get the staggers on, and squeal with such delight as to arouse the envy of the loafers.”

So, no, what Templeton is doing is nothing new, and it certainly won't result in whiskey-flavored pigs. But, I think it's quite exciting that mash-fed pork is on its way back, and I would certainly be quite happy to give their Duroc pork a try. 

No word yet if Templeton will sell tickets for folks to watch their pigs get their staggers on, but boy do I hope they do.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Best of Charleston: A Few More Critics Picks

The insane clown decided not to use these
  critic's picks. But I stand behind them!
The Charleston City Paper's Best of Charleston issue just hit the stands, and it includes both the Reader's Picks (voted on by the general public) and Critics' Picks, where the staff writers get to have a little fun. As always, there's never enough space for all the good ideas, and some of my picks ended up on the cutting room floor. Here are a few of them:

Best Use of a Carrot
At the Grocery, Chef Kevin Johnson created the year’s most stunning salad: pristine carrots roasted in his big wood-fired oven and sprinkled with crumbled pistachios, dates, greek yogurt, and feta. Simple, flavorful, and downright beautiful. I don’t expect to need glasses any time soon.

Best Repurposed Serving Dish
Order the Edwards Surryano Ham from Husk Bar and fantastic folds of smoky aged pork will arrive on a long, thin, slightly curved piece of wood, one side charred a mysterious deep black. It’s a stave from a bourbon barrel, with four little feet created from the tops and bottoms of other staves. What better way to serve the ideal side dish for a dose of old brown water?

Best Biscuit Name That Never Was
When the McAllister’s chain came gunning for Robert Stehling and Hominy Grill for their “Big Nasty” biscuit, Stehling took it in stride. McAllister’s, it turns out, trademarked the name, which uses for sort of convoluted open-faced roast beef sandwich. Ever the democrat, Stehling held a renaming contest for his signature sausage-gravy-laden fried chicken biscuit. The most worthy nominee was clearly "Litigation Biscuit", but the non-confrontational Hominy rejected that in favor of the “Charleston Nasty.” It will always be the Litigation Biscuit to me.

Best Empire Expansion that Didn’t Happen
For months, a big banner hanging in front of the new Boulevard development teased us with the promise of a new Maverick Southern Kitchen venture coming to Mt. Pleasant. Maverick kept mum on the name and the style, and we watched in anticipation to see what kind of joint it might turn out to be. And it turned out to be . . . nothing at all. A change in ownership of the Boulevard added even more delays, the Maverick team finally deep sixed the project. Sigh.

Best Locavore Tippling News
2013 brought not one, not two, but three new distilleries to the Charleston Peninsula: Striped Pig, High Wire, and the Charleston Distillery. Already a tempting parade of locally-made spirits are hitting local bar menus, and the future looks bright for a distinctive Charleston style of drinking.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Spain Meets the South at Mockingbird Hill

Fino Cesar Florido
“Do you think that Washington, D.C., is small?” the Frenchman next to me said. I started to answer, but he cut me off. “To me, it seems a very small city.”

It was 91-degrees and steamy outside, but inside Mockingbird Hill it was pleasantly cool. I was drinking pale golden sherry and sampling thinly-sliced ham.

“What does the sherry taste like?” the Frenchman asked. He was drinking a draft beer. “Is it sweet or dry?”

“Pretty dry,” I said. “But there’s some sweetness to it, too.” It was a Fino Cesar Florido, and it seemed unfair to box it in either way. It tastes like sherry, I wanted to say. It had a touch of citrus and pear and a firm undercarriage from fortifying spirits.

“I can tell you one thing,” I said finally. “It goes great with ham.”

Helping the good folks of Washington, D.C. discover the beauty of that combination is the singular mission of Mockingbird Hill, the South’s first ham-and-sherry bar. It’s the handiwork of Derek Brown, who shook his way to cocktail acclaim at the Passenger and the Columbia Room, and of Chantal Tseng, who ran the bar at D.C.’s noted Tabard Inn for close to a decade. They happen to be married to each other.

Ham Sampler
Their new venture is inspired by Madrid’s famed sherry bars, but with a definite local spin. The offer almost five dozen varieties of Spanish sherry, and they pair it not with a parade of imported Iberico or serrano hams but with meats from much closer to home.

That evening’s ham sampler included an American prosciutto from La Quercia and a fine lomo--a Spanish-style cured pork loin--made just a few miles away by D.C.’s Red Apron Butchers. In the platter’s 9 o’clock position lay fold after fold of “surryano” ham from S. Wallace Edwards & Son of Surry, Virginia. Long-aged and smoked over hickory, it has a deep mahogany color and a flavor that’s smoky, earthy, salty, and rich--every bit the equal of the fine Spanish sherry with which it’s paired.

As if to forever smash sherry’s frumpy image as an old ladies’ tipple, Mockingbird Hill has a brash wood-and-stainless steel decor. The long metal bar top gleams in the orange sunlight angling in from the big front windows. Patrons perch on three-legged wood-capped stools. Mission of Burma and the Clash wham out from the sound system.

More than Ham: Sardines, Too!
As I sipped my sherry and nibbled the last of the ham in the sparse but stylish room, Spain and the South merged into a strange but comfortable whirl, propelled by a punk beat. I vaguely recalled that two centuries ago D.C.’s political elite sealed bargains not over dry martinis or peaty scotch but with glasses of the finest imported port, Madeira, and sherry.

I paid my tab and stepped out into the steamy D.C. night. My former bar-mate was leaning against a sidewalk planter, having a smoke and arguing in French on his cell phone. I waved as I passed, but he didn’t look up. 

I only got panhandled twice before I flagged a cab and slid onto the stiff, cracked vinyl of the backseat. 

No, I thought as the taxi dodged its way west through a sea of tail lights. D.C. doesn’t seem like a small city at all.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More Benton's Bacon on the Way

When I pulled into the parking lot at Benton’s Country Hams on my annual smoked pork restocking run over the Christmas holidays, I was surprised to find the cream- and green-painted building had more than doubled in size. To the right of the original loading dock stretched an entire new wing in the final stages of construction.

Allan Benton, the king of Tennessee hams and bacon, has been smoking and curing meats since 1973, when he took over the smokehouse from a retiring dairy farmer. For the first 30 years, the operation barely broke even.

Then, John Fleer, at the time the executive chef at the Walland, Tennessee, resort Blackberry Farm, introduced Benton’s superbly-smoky products to the fine dining world. Before long they were being served in restaurants as far flung as David Chang’s Momofuku in New York City and San Francisco’s Brasserie & Bar.

The new wing at Benton's Country Hams

Years ago, Benton made the decision to focus on quality, not quantity, taking a year or more to age his hams. (Large-scale producers turn out theirs in 90 days or less) and using the same cure recipe as his grandparents did. These days, more than half of his output is sold to restaurants across the country, and mail-orders from home cooks has continued to rise, too. As it has, waiting time for shipment has slowed to five weeks or more.

Finally, a little over a year ago, Allan Benton decided it was time to expand. “I didn’t have a choice,” he told me, as we stood in the entryway to his curing room, where hundreds of hams and bellies hung temptingly from old wooden racks. “It's not that I want to make more money. I just don't like giving bad service.”

The tiny retail room on the left side of the building--complete with its lone cash register and a glass deli counter filled with sausage and cheese--will remain unchanged, but in the new wing Benton is adding more cooler space, prep areas, and packing space so he and his team can produce and ship more hams and bacon to eager customers.

Once the new expansion is complete, Benton says, “Our goal is to ship within two or three days of the order.”

And that is very good news for Allan Benton’s far-flung legion of fans.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Barbecue "Innovations"

Daniel Vaughn has a nice post over at TMBBQ offering a Concise History of American BBQ Innovations. I might quibble with a few of them. For instance, while cattle may have made it to the American mainland a few years before pigs, it would be ludicrous to claim that beef as a "BBQ innovation" antedated pork, considering that in almost all barbecue accounts before the 1770s pig is the animal almost universally mentioned.

But, the rest are pretty good. Two that didn't make the list are backyard "barbecues" (what we in the South call cooking or grilling) and barbecue restaurants. The Luddite resistance to the first is quite common, but almost no one these days objects to barbecue restaurants.

Not so back in the mid-20th centuries, when barbecue stands and restaurants ruled the American highway. Check out the clip below from Rufus Jarman's "Dixie's Most Disputed Dish", which appeared in the July 3, 1954 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Being a Luddite about barbecue traditions, it seems, is itself an enduring barbecue tradition. And, yet, barbecue has always continued to evolve right along anyway.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Downfall of "the Walkist"

Edward Payson Weston, the Celebrated Walkist
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints
& Photographs Division
One of the most delightful things about doing historic research in old newspaper archives is that you sometimes stumble across gems of a story like this one from the Daily Eastern Argus of Portland, Maine, about Edward Payson Weston, the reknowned "Walkist."

Weston, it seems, in 1867 set a record by walking from Portland to Chicago, covering 1,220 miles in 30 consecutive days, if you don't count the Sundays, on which he rested, it being the 19th century.

In July of 1868, Weston attempted a new feat of walking when he attempted to walk 50 miles in eleven hours before a crowd of onlookers in Forest City Park. Weston got off to good start, walking a 25 miles at a brisk pace between 8 am and noon, but then trouble set in.

"He wasted rather unwisely 10 to 15 minutes that afterwards were badly wanted," the Daily Eastern Argus reported, "and partook too heavily of crackers and iced tea, which made him feel somewhat indisposed. He recommenced with great confidence and after a few miles indulged in a cigar, which had an unfavorable effect in his then excited and somewhat peculiar condition."

Weston recovered once again, though, and resumed his pace, though he was slowed in the end by a leg injury. He finished his fifty miles in 11 hours, six and a half minutes, missing his goal by just a tiny margin.

So, here's a little advice to you would-be marathon walkers: lay off the iced tea and cigars.

As for Weston, he went onto greater fame, becoming "the Father of Modern Pedestrianism" and, if you can believe it, making a career as a professional walker. He performed pedestrian feats across the United States--including strolling from New York to San Francisco in 100 days--and toured Europe on numerous occasions, taking on the continent's most feared race walkers.

If this isn't enough to satisfy your interest, check out the recently-published biography by Helen Harris, Paul Marshall, and Nick Harris in A Man in a Hurry: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Edward Payson Weston (2012)

I found this story, by the way, while researching the history of iced tea. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Wasabi Peas in the Business Traveler's Hotel Bar

So, I decided to grab a nightcap at my business traveler's hotel before turning in for the night. It was crowded in the bar area, but I found an empty stool and sat down at the bar, scanned the shelf behind it, and noted the usual suspects--Jack, Jim Beam, Cuervo Gold, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, etc. And then I noticed the little white snack tray on the bar, left over from the patron before me, it seemed, for it was only half-full.

And what it was half full of was little spicy green wasabi peas.

"Well, that's different," I thought. You don't often see spicy wasabi peas served as a bar snack in your standard issue business traveler's hotel bar.

Just then, a two-top opened up at the edge of the bar area, and I abandoned my stool to sit there, a little more comfortable and further away from the flat screens blaring sporting events I didn't care about. And there, on the little round table, next to the table tent of drink specials and a stray napkin, was another little white bowl of wasabi peas, also half-empty and, I could only assume, left behind by my departing predecessors.

The waitress whisked away the napkin and the leftover bowl of wasabi peas, then came back over a few minutes later with a cocktail menu and a fresh bowl of . . . not wasabi peas, but mixed nuts--almonds, cashews, peanuts, and, mixed evenly throughout, a generous sprinkling of green wasabi peas.

And then I got it. Every single patron in the bar was being served a little bowl of mixed nuts that includes wasabi peas. And every table ate all of the nuts in the bowl except the wasabi peas, which they left behind. And yet, rotely and religiously, the bar staff kept delivering bowl after bowl of nuts with wasabi peas mixed in. I wondered how many months or years that had been going on, the cascades of green peas getting dumped night after night into the trash.

I had been sort of excited about munching a few wasabi peas with my nightcap, but after the first couple of bites the novelty of a salty and blazingly hot snack faded quickly, and I soon found myself picking out the almonds and the cashews and the peanuts.

When I paid my check, I left behind, next to the faux leather holder with the "restaurant's copy" slip inside, a small white bowl half-filled with a beautiful layer of bright green wasabi peas.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Six Weeks? Who Has that Kind of Time?

Robert Sietsema's recent Eater reflections on the current state of restaurant reviewing have sparked a flurry of pieces rethinking the decades-old conventions of the restaurant review. L.V. Anderson, for instance, argued in Slate that restaurant critics should dine on their own nickel instead of expense accounts "to convey what it’s like for a normal schmo to dine at a restaurant." Now, another Slate piece, this one from Luke O'Neil, takes a shot at a different policy: that of waiting 6 to 8 weeks before reviewing a restaurant in order to let it shake out the opening kinks.

O'Neil thinks it's time to 86 that one. Nearly all the arguments for delaying reviewing a restaurant, he claims, "overlook the critic’s primary concern: the reader." He makes some interesting points, but ultimately I don't buy 'em. Here's a few of his points and my reaction:

"We review early drafts of various art projects all the time."Writers write about leaked music demos, rough drafts of books, and rough cuts of movies all the time, and why should restaurants be any different? 

O'Neil here, I think, undercuts his own argument by talking about books and movies. No one writes full-length critiques of a novel based upon reading a first draft and no one writes full-length movie reviews based upon watching pre-edited rushes (I'm struggling to think if I've ever even seen such animals before). Sure, lots of buzz and talk and hype spreads around leaked sneak peeks, but I would bet most of us still want our reviewers to critique the finished product.   

We already do the exact same thing with restaurants. There are any number of "previews"--touring the restaurant weeks before opening when the construction is still underway--and "first looks" based upon a soft opening night or media invites. The bigger the name of the chef or owner opening the spot, the more intense and breathless the early looks are.

Restaurants should have the kinks worked out in advance. "It's not as though opening night is the first time the chef and team of cooks have cooked, or the servers served, or the bartenders mixed drinks," O'Neil argues. He uses the analogy that we wouldn't expect a sports team to forget how to play the game when it plays for the first time in a new stadium.

That sports analogy might work if you are talking about a restaurant moving from one location to another, but not for a brand new restaurant opening up. A better analogy would be a bunch of experienced professional athletes playing together for the first time on a brand new team. How many expansion teams have a winning record their first season? Almost none, and it routinely takes years for one to win any sort of championship. 

Analogies aside, anyone in the restaurant business will tell you that there are countless changes and adjustments made in the first few weeks. Restaurants are different from theatre productions, where the whole troupe rehearses for six to eight weeks before opening. One thing you can be pretty sure of: no matter how experienced and professional the staff is, if you want to experience a new restaurant at its best, wait a couple of weeks before visiting.      

3. "Is the money of the first few hundreds or thousands of people to buy a ticket or make a reservation worth less than the people who see a play or visit a restaurant after it’s hit its stride?" 

We could turn that one around, I suppose, and ask whether the money of the remaining thousands of diners is worth less than that of the first few hundred.

The reality of the business is that once a restaurant has been reviewed by a publication, it isn't going to get another review from them for quite some time--typically several years, and often only then if there's a significant change like a new chef or a thorough menu redesign. That initial review is going to be online for potential diners to find, linked to by Yelp and other sites, and pop up in search engines for quite a long time to come. 

All told, the more I think about O'Neil's arguments, the more insulting they seem to chefs and restaurateurs. He's pretty much saying that if a restaurant can't perform flawlessly on the first night, it's a failing on the part of the owner and the staff, who should be more professional. And, his closing assertion is laughable: "if you’re not ready to let critics form impressions about your restaurant, then maybe you're not ready to charge full price for what you're selling." What?      

I think O'Neil is right on one overarching point: that the primary concern of the reviewer should be for the readers and for providing them with useful critiques to help them pick where to eat. Readers will have to ask themselves whether they would prefer to read a review that's based upon an experience that very likely is going to change--perhaps even change dramatically--in a week or two or wait a few weeks in order to get a more solid, accurate assessment.  

But really, is this even a problem at all? Is there any shortage of information and opinions and buzz right now about new restaurants opening up? Is the dining public out there wandering around helplessly, wondering if they should eat at that new Indaco place or not (which, by the way, had a few opening week adjustments of its own)? If only there was an intrepid restaurant reviewer who would be brave enough to knock out an in-depth review the day after opening night!

Plenty of readers complain today about the sped up, buzz-driven, Cronut-obsessed nature of restaurant coverage in the media. Clearly, there are plenty more readers who eat such coverage up. The one thing I've never once heard anyone say, though, is "I wish you guys would review restaurants more quickly." 

There is plenty of reason to wonder, in an age of Twitter pics and instant Yelp reviews and hourly Eater posts--not to mention the never-ending hemorrhaging of traditional newspapers' budgets--whether the long, formal restaurant review will still be around a decade from now. One thing I'm pretty certain of, though, is that the way to keep it alive amid competition from the newer, faster, buzz-driven Internet forms is not to blindly try to ape them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bad Economics Doesn't Help Anyone

UPDATE July 30, 2013, 11:05 pm: Since the article I discuss here originally ran, HuffPo has added a correction at the bottom that the "researcher" in question is actually registered as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas. As yet, no substantive changes to the general thesis of the story, though. has also updated their story, tacking on 3 paragraphs at the end in which a UK economics professor splashes a little cold water on the undergraduate's "leap of faith."

I would like to start this off by stating that I fully support raising the minimum wage and that I am not comfortable with the notion that the median hourly pay for a fast food worker is less than $9.00 an hour (which translates to around $18,000 a year for a full-time employee).

And it's for this very reason that ledes like this one from the Huffington Post raise my hackles: "McDonald's can afford to pay its workers a living wage without sacrificing any of its low menu prices." Their source for this sweeping statement is "a new study" provided to them by "a University of Kansas researcher." 

That "researcher," it turns out, is a research assistant at the University of Kansas School of Business. One assumes that he is still in training and has not yet learned how to read an annual report much less how corporate finance operates. The mistakes of a student are understandable. What isn't so understandable is why paid journalists (even poorly paid online journalists) don't bother to do a basic fact check on it.

If you take the six seconds required to pull up McDonald's 2012 Annual Report, you can see exactly where the "researcher" got his numbers. They're on page 28, the consolidated statement of income. McDonalds' total revenues for 2012 were $27.567 million. Later in the same chart, the line item for "Payroll & employee benefits" is $4.71 million. Divide payroll expense by total revenues and you get 17%, which is the number the "researcher" used for the argument that you could double wages and only have to increase menu prices by 17%.

Here's problem #1 with that thesis: he used the wrong revenue number. McDonalds doesn't own all its restaurants. Most are franchised. The salary expense figures used in the "study" are for company-operated restaurants, while the revenue number is for the whole company, which includes fees from franchisees. If you do the same math exercise with just the revenue figure for the company-owned restaurants (which is $18.6 million and is available right there on the same income statement), you see that payroll and benefits makes up 25% of the revenue from company-owned restaurants.

So, the whole "study" starts with an elementary mistake, but it's a supremely flawed premise in the first place, as if a corporation is machine which you can steer just by pushing a couple of levers. It assumes that the price of food is inelastic and that you can just blindly raise prices 17% and not see a fall off in demand, because it's "just 68 cents per Big Mac" (or, $1.01 per Big Mac if you use the 25% figure.)

And yet other outlets like (who one would think understood corporate financials better) have started picking up the same report and publishing it without a bit of scrutiny. In fact, their description of what the "researcher" did sounds pretty impressive: "he did some financial modeling based on McDonald’s annual reports and data sets submitted to investors." This "modeling" involves, basically, dividing two numbers, one of them the wrong one.

Ultimately, "analysis" like this is so simplistic and reductive as to be meaningless. It makes a great splashy headline, but it implies that the problems of wage inequality and affordable food is black-and-white simple: if these damn corporations just stopped being so greedy all the problems would go away.

But it's not that simple. Since the 1950s, the fast food industry has been defined by a low-margin, cost cutting model with cut-throat price pressure from the market. And consumers, literally, have been eating it up. The notion that there's so much headroom lying around in the financials that companies could simply double their labor costs is laughably naive.

I think it galls me so much because I'm on the side of the people who want fast food workers to make more money (and for fast food quality to be much better, too.) And, there are some very interesting and dedicated people out there trying to make that happen. I've written about a few of these folks in the past, like Nick Pihakis of Jim 'n Nick's BBQ, and I've got a lot more stories in the works.

It's not as simple as us all just paying 68 cents more for a Big Mac, but for me, at least, it's a lot more promising because it's a future that might actually happen. I'll take a look at some of the practical things that could happen in a couple of future posts.