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March 19, 2010

On second thought: hipsters go halal

Halal market

It appears that Gerry Mak, one of the people portrayed in the Salon article "Hipsters on food stamps," has replied to the item I posted about the story.

I say "appears" because I haven't been able to reach Mak himself. I'm still trying. But nothing in the comments suggests that it's a hoax poster. And surely Dining@Large readers are too sophisticated for that sort of tomfoolery, right?

I post the comments below for those who missed them on the original blog item. Mak appears to have made similar statements on Salon's site.

The general gist: He really isn't living large on food stamps and rarely goes to Whole Foods. He said he mostly shops at a halal market.

"Hello.  I'm one of the people in the original article.  I am not living large.  I am not living in a castle.  I am struggling like everyone else.  I go hungry some days.  I eat cans of sardines other days.  A can of Alaskan salmon is $2.49 at my local store.  I eat that sometimes.  I eat vegetables and chicken.  Please understand that the original article was written with controversy in mind.  I am just a guy who is having some trouble right now.  I don't take assistance lightly, and if you could only see how I actually eat, you would see that it's really not that extravagant at all.  I'm just trying not to eat processed food.  I pay taxes too, and I just found myself unemployed after 8 years working in the publishing industry.  I'm doing the best I can, just like all of you.

"The reporter contacted me telling me she was writing a story about artists and people who care about food who happen to be on food stamps.  That's me.  I care about food.  I think it's incredibly important, and I love to cook.  I don't have health care, so I think healthy food is paramount. 

"Just because I am going through hard times now (no harder than anyone else's, just hard enough to qualify legally for food stamps), I don't think this precludes me from caring about what I eat and enjoying food.  I cook the best meals I can from limited means.  Even the meal I cooked for the reporter cost me literally $2.  Sarah, the other person mentioned in the article, contributed about $5 worth of ingredients.  Because the ingredients were bought at an "ethnic market" people assume it was fancy. But it's just a small halal market across the street from me.

"I'm really just a guy.  I work (even though I am under-employed and trying to find more work), I pay taxes, and I am using a benefit that I legally qualify for.  I use it smartly as I can, buying the healthiest ingredients at the most reasonable prices.  I cook everything myself.  I never eat out.  I don't buy anything ever.  I pay my own rent.  I don't have a car, I don't have a bike, and I walk everywhere I go. 

"I am not truly poor.  I just have lost work, my parents can't support me, I have no savings, and I'm living as minimally as I can while I search for a job -any job - that will hire me.  Unfortunately, I've worked for 8 years in a dying industry, and I don't even qualify for retail and coffee shop jobs.  I'm really open to anything, but every opening these days is highly competitive, even the seemingly menial jobs."

Sun photo by Amy Davis

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 12:26 PM | | Comments (5)


I don't see what the big deal is. Who cares what they buy? I guess it would be ok if they bought pigs feet, noodles, and vienna sausages. There is nothing wrong with eating healthy regardless of how you pay for the food.


Gerry, I wish you well. Perhaps by this weekend you'll at least be a little closer to having health care.

Good luck to you sir.

Food stamps should only be used to purchase Soylent Green.

The fact is if you look at the prices at the Halal shops in town, it doesn't cost you any more than the non-Halal in the supermarkets. A 24 oz box of Al Safa Halal chicken nuggets retails at Koko Market on Eastern Avenue for $4.99, which is no more per ounce than the regular Banquet or Tyson non-Halal nuggets at Super Fresh. An Al Safa Halal pizza 16 oz is $3.99 at Punjab Groceries on East 33rd Street, and that is no more than a Digiorgio pizza is at Safeway. So these days, you can keep the true Halal at no additional expense.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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