"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and what measures ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."  I chose these words from the Gospel according to St. Matthew which can be found in the King James version of the Bible's New Testament because, in their wisdom, they have always resonated with me.  But before those of you who would be so inclined to protest by saying, "Keep your Bible off of my life," let me just inform you that I am a secular humanist.  And for those who would insist that someone without any formal religious affiliation or trust in the existence of the metaphysical is not qualified to quote the Holy Scripture, let me inform you that as the former head alter boy of St. Ambrose Parish in Old Bridge, New Jersey and as someone who was entrusted on a daily basis with relaying the epistles of St. Paul to the congregation, I feel I am indeed qualified.

Which brings me back to the point I am trying to make.  I chose those words from Matthew Chapter 7 because of the wisdom contained therein.  The message, I think, is not that we should refrain from passing judgments, but that we should endeavor to judge with fairness and humility and do so free of pretense and malicious intent.  Otherwise, there might arrive the day when those of us who are judging suddenly find ourselves the ones being judged; and it is likely that most of us would appreciate a fair shake when that reckoning comes to pass.

So what exactly is my point?

About three weeks ago I was contacted by the Star Tribune, asking me if I would consider writing a blog for the paper.  The editors felt the paper needed someone with some insight into the world of food and related issues such as nutrition, the environment and the local farm economy; and, since I am a chef and restaurateur, they thought that my perspective would be interesting.

So as I pondered whether or not it would be a good idea to embark on this, I asked my wife and primary adviser Megan if she thought I should do it.  Her response was pretty much what I expected.  "Are you sure you want to add more to your plate (Food metaphors are commonplace in our conversations.)?"  "Don't you get in enough trouble already by expressing your opinions?"  "People are so incredibly mean spirted and nasty on those things.  Are sure you want to subject yourself to that kind of contempt?"  And so on.  All of which was well said and very much right on target.

Which brings me back to my original point. I know that I am incredibly opinionated and that I have very little desire to refrain from expressing those opinions no matter how unpopular or misconstrued they might be.  I also have a lot of friends and colleagues whose opinions are quite the opposite of mine.  My very good friend Bob MacDonald, for instance, is a conservative Republican who graduated from the University of Chicago, the birthplace of supply side economics, with a degree in (What else?) economics; and who did very well for himself and his family while working hard for the oil industry.  I on the other hand, as many who know me will attest, lean pretty far to the left and am the product of a working class immigrant family.  While I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative, I remain a capitalist with socialist sensibilities.  Let me explain that.  At our restaurant, we practice fair trade and pay living wage. In doing so, we leave some money on the table, but we feel those are the right things to do.  That would not be considered a very wise move if the only goal was to maximize profits no matter the circumstances.  We don't subscribe to that business model.  Others do, and good for them.

So getting back to my friend Bob.  He and I disagree about all sorts of stuff:  the war in Iraq, the Bush legacy, economic theory, gay marriage, Norm and Al, etc., etc.  But in doing so, we have never sunk to ad hominem attacks or petty insults.  In fact, we often find common ground on which to agree.  Besides, we both have a deep and abiding love for food and wine; and that is a very good place to start.

OK, so here's my point:  It is my fervent hope that in agreeing to write this blog that I can foster some spirited yet respectful debate about issues that affect each and everyone of us on a daily basis in both subtle and profound ways.  I have no doubt that some of you will disagree with me and with each other vehemently.  I just hope that I am not providing a platform for people to hurl insults at one another rather than provoking a thoughtful dialogue through which we can all better understand and appreciate one another.  I would bet that if we could all sit down together over a wonderful meal that we would find more things to bring us together than to divide us.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged."

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