The Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet

Richard and I had the honor of attending the First Annual Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet on Sunday night, March 28th at Back Stage Productions in Kingston. It was a night like no other. We were greeted at the door and invited to take an envelope. We were then instructed to look inside the envelope for a number which would tell us where we would be dining.

Richard found a #1 in his envelope which meant that he had the privilege of sitting in the elegantly appointed section of tables in the center of the room. They represented 15% of the world population and dined on a sumptuous five course meal and wine pairing, catered by chef Samir Hrichi of Ship to Shore restaurant in Kingston. The meal began with a lobster ceviche with tuna sashimi and a crispy flatbread. For the second course they were served seared Hudson Valley fois gras with a sun-dried cherry chutney. The next course featured slow cooked Fleisher’s pulled pork wrapped in Boston bibb lettuce with a blood orange ragout, followed by apple wood grilled baby New Zealand lamb chops with parsnip turnip puree and cumin coriander jus. The meal was topped off with a smoked mango parfait, Jane’s homemade coconut almond joy ice cream and a lovely port. I was really thrilled for Richard (the hard-working chef) to be treated to such a lovely meal!

If I had drawn a #2 (as you may have deduced I landed a #3) I would have been seated at long lunch tables with no cloths and been served a Kingston High School student lunch consisting of chicken nuggets, corn, jello and chocolate milk. This group represents the  35% of the population that are considered “middle class”.

I was one of the people representing 50% of the world’s population that live at or under poverty level. We were seated in chairs around the perimeter of the room and eventually were allowed to go up to a table where we took a cup of white rice, a slice of white bread, and a small cup of water.

The organizers of the event, Diane Reeder (founder of the Queen’s Galley), Victoria Langling (founder and director for the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen), and Ward Todd (president of the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce) all gave their opening remarks and addressed the state of poverty and hunger in the world, as the folks at the elegant tables were served their first several courses. The rest of us watched, with hunger pangs growing in intensity! I made the mistake of coming to the “banquet” a little hungry and now was regretting my decision to not bring a snack! And then I realized what eventually would become clear about the message of the evening – how often do most of us really feel hungry? How is it to see people dining and drinking and enjoying life and not be able to participate? This was beginning to make me really uncomfortable!

So, my friend Deborah and I decided to take action – we got up and began to beg! She went to one of her friends at an elegant table and of course I went to Richard and tasted one morsel of the fois! Wow! So delicious! And even more so as my stomach was screaming for food at this point! We got over our pride and continued begging for at least one bite of each course.

The whole night was a big social experiment really – some of the 15%ers got up and gave their food away to the poor underprivileged folks on the outskirts of the room. I bumped into a friend later in the evening sitting resigned in the back row grumbing about a food riot and throwing his rice at the people in the center. I shared the benefits of begging with him and encouraged him to come with me to “the source” which he did, and one of Richard’s table mates gladly gave him her dessert! I told him you get “more bees with honey”!

The night brought awareness to those in the room and was certainly of great service to the hunger organizations it was intended to benefit: The Queens Galley, Ulster Corps, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Family of Woodstock, Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, Angel Food East, Saint James Food Pantry, Rosendale Food Pantry, People’s Place, Chiz’s Heart Street, God Given Bread Food Pantry and Libertyview Farm Hunger Relief Project.

Bistro-to-Go along with a number of other local restaurants and food businesses also donated a percentage of their sales on Sunday to this worthy cause. We’re honored to help promote their mission that “hunger is not an option”.

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5 responses to “The Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet

  1. Thank you both for attending the banquet and for supporting the event but I must admit the greatest sense of gratitude goes out to you both because you “get it”. May be it’s a foodie thing 🙂 You understand what it means to dine with dignity and how important access to REAL food is to our kids (and ourselves!).
    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of our work and I am amoung many that treasure your establishment as something so very special to our community.
    Great food. Great people. Great hope 🙂

  2. Thanks, MaryAnne, for sharing the evening with those of us who couldn’t be there. Weren’t you glad to have someone you knew to beg from? Imagine if everyone there were 3s with nowhere to turn.

  3. You brought the event to life, and to heart. Thanks MaryAnne and Richard for all that you do.

  4. Laurie Schwartz

    MaryAnne, you continue to amaze me with all that you do and your committment to have the world work for everyone…and to have fun doing it. Thanks to Richard too for continuing to prepare healthy, sumptuous food.

  5. MM Cliggett Reynolds

    Mary Anne and Eric: This is the first time I have visited your blog. I was looking for recipes! Then I found your Food Banquet experience. I am very moved and plan to go next year. Thank you, Mary Anne, for making the experience of hunger so real. The most I’ve felt since Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes which rocked my psyche. Thanks for this lovely, sensitive, generous blog. (I never went to a blog before — too busy with here and now life!). Feel gratitude to you both. MargaretMary

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