The food that defies inequality

One of the first questions in the second part of the international macroeconomic class is: “Is inequality good or bad?”. Now what’s your answer? As (almost) good economists we should know that inequality is at the roots of our modern economy, where some people can afford starred restaurants and others must just be happy with a nicely cooked dinner at home based on cereals and not much more. The first place is a little fancy and pretty expensive while the second is just home. The restaurant is only for rich or at least well retributed people and the house with poor food is better suited for low income people.

What if the poor and the rich have eat together? That would be the end of our long days of studying, a place where inequality is defied for the sake of a dish that everyone can afford and almost nobody dislikes. Thinking about something special? Hell no it’s just a Kebab. Yes it is indeed the food that brings everyone together.

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Lately I was too lazy to cook by myself and after a couple of lunches at the restaurant I had not too much money left for the fancy places, so I started to hang out a little bit more at the friendly turkish store on the street next to mine. It is open almost always and the workers are never tired, unhappy, unkind or whatever you might be used in a standard pizzeria. Since I don’t like meat in the morning I would rather start to narrate about the “restaurant” from lunch, the busiest time of the day. Here you can see everyone, of every race, of every income, dressed in a suit or covered in ashes. You can see someone wearing sneakers, see someone without shoes and the man next in the line with taylor fitted shoes of the best leather from Florence.

They have a few tables, personally I’ve never sat there but I enjoy so much to have a look sometimes. I would like to start from the best dressed person, apparently rich, so worried about his suit that almost forgets his exploding wallet on the counter, naturally black leather and with a couple of gold cards inside. He gets a full menu: french fries, a kebab (either piadina or sandwich) and a drink, for a total amount of six euros, I would say a good deal. He eats it so fast that he almost doesn’t drop his twenty-four hours on the floor, must say incredibly clean. Next to him there is a person that clearly doesn’t have a place to sleep in the night, he his indeed dirty and stinky and has few money in his broken jeans. when he gets at the counter founds almost three euros in his pockets, not enough for a standard sandwich that costs four. The waiter looks at him and says that was ok, he was counting them as four, then putting the small change in the cash machine smiles at him and says “next time”. In that moment I remembered one year ago there was a homeless man that went in the toilet at a Panini café just next to our university. The manager insulted him and whipped him out in a very rude manner. That’s not a café too far from our daily life. But to get back to our story we missed some more characters. The bricklayers often go there since they can get a complete food at a good price. The sandwich has got proteins, carbohydrates and is very tasty. They are the ones that stay the less in the shop since they are actually the ones who work the most. Last time I went they were eating next to the manager of the works and the youngest worker, I would say almost 20 years old, was asking the manager in a very poor italian mixed with arabic how much time was left, the manager smiling said: “none, lets go!”. Lastly we can see the students, from junior high, high-school (more or less prestigious) and university students (from the hippies, attending liberal arts, to the maybe too “old” students attending business). What they got in common? Just a sandwich and heavy books on the backpack. Later in the afternoon the shop is almost empty, but the staff is still working hard to make customers happy at dinner. After seven p.m. we can see an influx of people entering the shop, from young people, all dressed up, that couldn’t find a seat at Princi for an aperitif to the desperate house-husbands/ house-wives finding some food for their children. Sometimes we can find their partners buying the take-away kebabs for the house after a long day of work. Going there makes them visibly happy for two reasons: the first one is receiving a smile at the counter from the waiters (always kind) and the second to have an happy family at supper. Later in the night they are still open, there are three main characters at that time, and all of them are drunk but from different stuff. The first one is the homeless person that was there at lunch, drunk of cheap beer looking for a place to stay until he goes to sleep. The second one is a Bocconi student, drunk of expensive Vodka, that gets some food before going to the club. The last one is a CEO, drunk of work, that finishing duties late can’t find any other place open and doesn’t want to eat alone in his house. The three of them have two thinks in common: the sandwich and they are human beings.

Now what’s the answer to the macro question?

Final remark: The following shops inspired me to write this article: Milano Kebap House (via Palermo 18) e Mondial turkish kebap (via della Moscova 39).

Brando Gandolfi

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