Quality food: Let’s not be the exception

The Red Hen’s dedication to quality food should not be the exception

I left the Red Hen last week with a feeling I did not expect: sadness. It was not the food that made me sad. The Red Hen prides itself on farm-to-table dining, a movement growing in Lexington’s dining seen. The Red Hen brings in organic local vegetables and ethically raised meat. The food was cooked perfectly, plated meticulously, and tasted absolutely delicious.

The atmosphere did not make me sad, either. A warm, cozy feel is the best way to describe the ambiance of the Red Hen, with a small yet not confined dining space that was beautifully furnished and tastefully decorated. The exposed kitchen area gave a reassuring feeling as well– not only did the chefs not care if I observed their cooking methods, in fact wanted me to take a look. They had absolutely nothing to hide, and that set a relaxed tone for the restaurant. From the moment I walked in, I didn’t have to worry if I was going to have a good meal; I knew I was in good hands.

Yet after hearing my server describe the philosophy of the restaurant, after hearing the restaurant’s emphasis on local and ethical products, premium quality, attention to detail, I could not help but feel that the Red Hen stood out and was unique. It was this uniqueness that made me sad.

The fact that a restaurant with attention to detail and ethical food is the exception to the rule, rather than the rule, is really troubling. It shouldn’t have been a big deal to eat food of that quality. It shouldn’t have been a special treat and a unique experience. Yet it was.

What is perhaps more troubling is the lack of access that most students or townspeople get to this sort of quality. With incredibly limited seating that books up too quickly (I’ve been trying to eat at the Red Hen with my parents for years), it’s not easy to get inside the restaurant.

And once you’re inside, unless you are with your parents or have access to a parent’s credit card, it’s not easy to get out. The selection, the quality, and the time spent on each meal is such that the food is quite expensive, and understandably so.

Yet what does this mean for college students on a budget, or townspeople who want a modest meal? Does this mean that they have to settle? And what are they settling for? What really goes into the preparation for food products that we eat on a daily basis? We might not even want to know.

Is it a problem that high quality local ingredients are pleasant surprises? Is it a problem that we have to go out to an expensive restaurant to feel our food is handled with great care? Is it a problem that Americans are so reliant on processed foods from around the world? I suspect it is, and I suspect that we consumers have become too tolerant of food that really shouldn’t be tolerated. Where we move next, and how we go about raising the bar without breaking the bank, is a problem that I will pose and leave you all to solve. All I ask is for a speedy solution, in hopes that the Red Hen will not make me sad the next time I eat there.