The Integrity Economy

I don’t usually eat meusli, but my body targeted its cravings that way last week, and I follow. I found a beautiful one, and expensive, from realgoodfood. I was especially pleased with it because the phrase “organic” emblazoned on the label turned out to refer not only to the grains which make up the bulk of the product, but also to the dried berries (biodynamic, actually). This is rare. I didn’t mind paying $10, because I got what I really wanted, an organic product.

“With the idea of returning organic wholefood to our diet in an enticing way, realgoodfood began. Eleven years on we remain committed to our philosophy of working with certified organic and biodynamic organic wholefood. Our ingredients are grown in nutrient rich soil by Australia’s best growers and minimally processed to preserve flavour and valuable oils.” (realgoodfood)

A few days later, I was enjoying a marinated feta cheese from Binnorie Dairy, just purchased from the farmers market this morning. The cheese was delicious. What herb is in the marinade? We turned the bottle, peered sideways across dripping fingers. “Canola oil???!!!” They’re diluting the olive oil with canola to save money. I paid $14 for the feta and now I’m furious. Charge me more, but don’t cut corners.

I’m reminded of an article I read this week, about the Hebberoys of Portland. C. 2001 Michael Hebb and Naomi Pomeroy started an underground restaurant in their house, called Family Supper. Their guests ultimately included financiers who invested in a restaurant, ClarkLewis, which was gorgeous and delicious (opened in 2004). They hired fabulous chefs, including Morgan Brownlow and Tommy Habetz. In 2006, Michael Hebb fled town, abandoning Pomeroy, a restaurant empire in financial ruin, and according to some an entire town who felt deceived by his charismatic PR.

ClarkLewis photo by http://pdx.eater.com/

Nancy Rommelmann’s article in Portland Monthly, entitled “Last Supper” is sympathetic to everyone, including the “manic” Hebb. But, as it turns out, Hebb did not make off with investors’ money, or Pomeroy’s. What he did wrong, what led to financial ruin and accusations of betrayal, was spend too much on food. The restaurants were full every night, so everyone assumed they were making money. Hebb knew they weren’t, kept seeking new sources of cash, kept spending more on ingredients than the restaurants were earning. His crime was feeding people really good food, giving them what they were paying for.

Actually, I don’t think that’s so bad. That’s what the economy of integrity is about. Not cutting corners. We just need to make sure that the artisans are getting paid. We need to understand the complexities.

 

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