Since Taco Tuesday Eve, I have had exactly one night’s good sleep. And then I had to go and ruin it by waking up and remembering who was shitting in the White House. I can’t even track how disruptive the “fascist, loofah-faced shitgibbon” has been to my already endangered productivity, but I’m starting to worry more about what it’s doing to my state of mind. This “expect the worst, you’ll never be disappointed” crank suddenly wants to suggest fud things that might make us, the doomed, feel a tiny bit better as we hurtle toward Armageddon. Like making your own antidepressant (it really is the best stew recipe ever). Or watching the soul-restoring “City of Gold,” an amazingly resonant documentary that makes vividly clear how vital immigrants are to food in this country (the FL-FS should be strapped in, “Clockwork Orange”-style, to watch it). Or, especially, rereading the McCarthy sections of the great “As Always, Julia.” All the food stuff on how “Mastering The Art” came to be is enticing, but it’s the political history that resonates right now. The very sharp and acerbic Mme Child would absolutely not believe she had to protest this fucking shit all over again.
Very sly of Mrs. O to choose another orange act for the last state dinner, as a signal of how reality-teevee-driven American culture really is. At least this one is actually, seriously qualified if too insecure to put aside childish things. And at least the Italians know from international cringing.
I may be repeating myself, but for good reason: In 1992, when my consort and I schlepped to 12 states to document harvests of a dozen foods that come into season only once a year, we both got probably the sickest either of us has ever been after spending a day in a Vidalia onion field in Georgia alongside an industrial henhouse. Whatever was going on in that fowl prison would have put me off supermarket eggs even if I hadn’t already gotten wise to local=safe despite what the catapulters of propaganda will still tell you.
So I can feel North Carolina’s pain as the sad citizens, and the ocean, deal with the aftermath of the flooding from the latest storm to prove denial makes one crappy seawall when it comes to climate change. All the toxins that we inhaled a quarter-century ago are even more widespread in a country that has put a chicken into every 29-cent potpie. Add to the fowlness the 4,800 now-rotting sources of cheap bacon and you’re talking eco-disaster. The feces has literally hit the fan.
Back in the Seventies I worked on a weekly in Iowa where my job description included schlepping to farms to check out the status of the corn crop. Those were the days when farmers dual-cropped, and there were always a few hogs living high around the barn; the poop was relatively minimal and the stench bearable (think Blue Hill at Stone Barns today). Today I’m (somewhat) amused to see everyone freaking out at the photos of industrial agriculture a friend had published in the hometown paper. Twenty-five years ago Bob and I went to the pumpkin capital of the world at the peak of the season and stood by the field thinking: This is not a harvest. It’s mechanized rape of the fields. Now we’re finally seeing the shitstorm that is the reaping of the sowing. Even if a lot of deniers can’t spell the latter.
PSA, BTW: This is one of the most intense food movies ever made.
With luck, my slovenly posting will pay off and this will be outdated as soon as I hit publish: Of all the arguments for destroying the racist GOP nominee, the biggest has to be that he is a teetotaler. He blames his abstemiousness on his older brother’s having drunk himself to death, although “some would say” he just shifted his insatiable craving away from the bottle and into the spotlight. Whatever the reason, I think we all saw what happens when you put a guy who bruises after one O’Doul’s in charge of the nation’s premier wine cellar. One summer you’re getting distracted by sharks and the next glorious September day the world comes crashing down. The job description, for allah’s sake, involves state dinners and toasts.
Relatedly, I guess I am waiting in vain for Panchito to put down his righteous cursor and acknowledge that he is a huge reason a total con man has gotten so close to the national wine treasure. He sold a dangerous dry drunk as a harmless good ol’ boy you could have a drink with. Is he really surprised they want to cash in that French 75 now?
Also, too, what amazed me about all the elegiac coverage of the carcass-stripping of the Four Seasons was how little mention was made of why that sorry end had to happen. A greedy developer was not ungreedy enough to let the okay abide. All those who lined up to throw down megabucks for nostalgia in the making never seemed to have been called to account for their part in the destruction. For once this pauper can feel superior. I took matchbooks and didn’t have to consider dropping $1,400 on a check holder.
And that’s proof that my consort and I actually ate at the Four Seasons a couple of times, once on our own dime. The second time, as “research” on a black trumpet mushroom story, was nowhere near as much fun as when we were much younger and reserved for dinner on Britchky’s recommendation for what must have been Bob’s birthday. The waiters et al were so clearly thrilled to have relative youngs in the house that they showered us with attention, so much that we wound up ordering a second bottle of wine. I think the tab was $250, a ginormous amount at the time, but neither one of us had a whiff of remorse. (Or any recollection of what we ate.) The memory is worth any two of the $10K hassocks Marie Kondo would just advise us to pitch.
I am way, way behind on collecting my thoughts and images from an amazing revisit to Torino, which is an entirely changed city since our last trip in 2005. But I have to share a couple of thoughts from the flights to and from. On our way over, Bob and I were seated far apart because the photo center where he was teaching had booked his travel; he worked the American gate agents hard to get us together, but we boarded with me in like 86E and him in 23E. He gently asked the woman in the aisle seat in his row if she would consider switching and she instantly snarled: “I PAID FOR THIS SEAT.” Okay, bitch. It all worked out fine because two Italian guys in two rows near Bob figured out a way to win this game of musical seats, and then the crew came through with even better seating with tons of legroom. But it really struck me how the greedy airlines and their gouging are turning passengers on passengers. I mean, it’s bad enough you have to walk through the rows of business luxury to get to steerage these days (life was better when first class was curtained off). And it’s even worse when Turdblossom is seated in one of those fuck-you-peasants seats on your homebound leg from Milan.
The better part of my recollections involves the food and beverage service. I’ll give huge props to AA for generously pouring (decent) wine from jugs rather than handing out stingy little, cluttery bottles. I’ll take back half those props for them serving “Italian” dressing with the salad with the craptastic pasta on the way home. But the LOL came just before we landed at JFK and the bitchy flight attendant was condescendingly handing out the “hot pocket.” He offered one to my Italian seatmate, who waved it away, and got a snarky “Oh, you’ve had it before, have you?” And it was one scary slab of starch with a thin layer of processed cheese product in the middle, with so little flavor it actually verged into negative taste. This was on July 8, 2016. And the “best before” date on the box was 24 May 2017. Doomsday preppers need to fly more. . .
Chivalry is not dead: Guy in “unisex” bathroom line at @paowallanyc offered to let me go first. I said no, he’d be quicker. Him: “You assume.” // Chef loses control of a business with his name and it’s just stenographed. Only the Who is answered; the four other Ws go missing. // Parody getting tougher: Consort brought home a menu from Santa Fe from a place serving “artisanal American dim sum.” Not sustainable? // Today in I Heart NY: Told the egg lady at the Tucker Square Greenmarket I had just enough cash left for a dozen & she said I could pay her tomorrow on Columbus if I wanted to keep shopping. // Something about scooping out a litter box every a.m. makes you see fud photos kinda . . . differently.
If a conservative is, famously, a liberal who’s been mugged, a Sanders scorner is a longtime admirer who finally got a taste of the real Marie Berniedette. Nothing says revolutionary more than a menu for a return flight on a chartered plane that includes lobster sliders just before landing in (I assume) NYC. So many desiccated sandwiches in steerage will really stick in your optic craw. . .
As an unabashed booster of Buffalo not least for its cuisine, I was as appalled as the restaurateur who FB’d the other day about a new food truck there by the name of Gourm-Asian. Even that, though, is not as bang-your-head-on-the-desk-worthy as a new product from one of those processed-crap conglomerates: Artesano (in big letters) style bread (finer print, hyphen omitted). How cynical could the suits be in envisioning “real Americans” wandering the Kroger aisles and stumbling upon Portlandia? Spell much?
In the same set of coupons, I also came across one for something emblazoned “Let’s remove the guesswork.” Not once in the three blocks of copy did it mention what the problem was for the solution being sold. I’m guessing it’s diabetes, a guess that of course induces really sick thoughts about how Big Food and Big Pharma could have been in cahoots all these decades — make ‘em sick and then sell ‘em medically processed crap. Then again, there are billboards on bus shelters in Queens promoting oblique antidotes to opioid-induced constipation. One pill makes you plugged up, another makes you squitter?
I try not to take the stinkbait (which always seemed to be my dad’s most successful lure for the crappie he caught), but too many people linked me to the carbonara brouhaha. France actually dared to mess with Italy? Stop the Internets! What was most amusing (or annoying) about it was how no one seemed to care how thoroughly that classic dish has already been debased in a country where Italian always ranks in the top three, if not as the top one, among “ethnic” cuisines (funny how Western European countries never get that tag). Forget the mascarpone and boiled bacon. “Artesano” types would add white chocolate and macadamia.
No link, cuz the hometown paper refuses to keep me logged in, but I got sucked into “daughters of Nigella” and staggered out wondering how “healthful” and blow-up dolls wound up connected. Shorter, though? They’re quacks. Hometown-paper-validated quacks but quacks nonetheless.
And I may have to quit the Twitter that ate my life if I keep seeing so many “think positive, lift up others” Tweets. But I finally succumbed to the amazement that was the Tampa Bay Times’s exposé of the farm-to-table myth in that state and have to give a shout-out. Leave aside that the place is led by a Florida Man who felt compelled to attack a constituent who shamed him out of Starbucks, and that it is also a state where, as the story notes, “little people wrestling” is a championship played out in restos. It was an impressive piece of investigative reporting on real issues; it makes a serious case for paying farmers more for all they do. What was most amazing to me, though, was how food-strapped Florida appears to be. I never got around to pushing back against a ridiculous push-back against eating local/seasonal in New York, but a big reason to schlep to the Greenmarkets in dreariest winter is to try to do a tiny part in keeping the Hudson Valley and Long Island and what’s left of New Jersey from being bulldozed for McMansions. Shorter, though: If you see local peaches on a menu in the climate-changed Northeast this summer, close your eyes and think of Georgia truckers.