So we’re in a typical West Village restaurant where tables are crammed together as if we’re all dining on the A train. A guy who had been using the light on his phone to read the menu knocked a saucer off his tiny table, and it shattered on the floor with about the shock and decibel of a gunshot. And the reaction was fascinating: Everyone freaked as if they were ready to shelter in place, as if we were in a school on Bring Your Semiautomatics To Class Day. My consort and I, after “CitizenFour,” had just been having an argument about the “NSA” and the International Man of Luggage and government overreach and how fear of terrorism has been so lucrative and so destructive to this country. The bugged eyes and hands-to-cheeks all around me reminded me Americans will always sheeple-y surrender their liberty/privacy against “terrorism.” But they know viscerally what the real threat is: eating lead after movie popcorn.
Some reporter I am. All these years I’ve thought Panchito got his underwritten- upchucking gig because he’d eaten at the McD’s by the Spanish Steps. Now the serious pummeling he’s taking over his latest idiocy led me to learn it was probably really because he was so wowed by the eats on the campaign trail. As he carried Evian for the Chimp.
Also, too: The first rule of food writing really should be: Do not make the reader want to punch your own mom. WASPs serve “en famille,” my derriere.
I’ll let everyone else chew over what it means that an actual star is taking over the kitchen of an iconic restaurant. (So many other words for “headline” in a headline.) I’m just enjoying how the media playing field has been leveled. A blog gets the story and up-front reports that it came via press release, as does so much “news” even in the age of rapid-fire Twitter. The serious outlet gets the story and dances around the sourcing because of course it would be unseemly to admit it’s business as usual (see: any BizDay report on food advertising). But the biggest sign of progress is that once upon a time the “scoop” would not have seen the light of print, digital or dead-tree, if the “reporter” had not been guaranteed an exclusive. Unpleasantness, as an editor confined nearby used to complain, would always ensue, with much screeching into a landline. Now those gold-plated bidets must come with a thin layer of humility.
And the Toppest chef really has more self-control than we knew, because he managed to respond to an attack by the wife of a high-paid lobbyist posing as a simple cooking teacher without once using the words “you ignorant slut.”
I keep thinking if I were a banana, I’d be ready for bread. So I’m amazed that a GMO genius is not tackling the liver-spot browning of aging humans. Instead, the Murdoch Crier belatedly reports, someone has come up with the Arctic apple: You can slice it and watch it stay white. Given that another genius already has a technique to keep apples looking just-cut for 21 days, you have to wonder what the market is. At least there’s an upside: This strange fruit will actually be labeled as strange fruit. Conventional growers want it kept the hell out of their traditionally modified Garden of Eden. And will no one consider the tree testicles?
Funny how this works: Fearbola subsides after Republicans get elected. But even at the height of the hysteria, I just really could not get terrified when there are so many other things to sweat panic bullets over, like the reality that the server and cook at your local meatball emporium might not be getting sick days. Look what’s happening in Maine, where a science-denying governor refuses to tell people exactly which restaurant put diners on a prospective path to $1,000-a-dose treatment. Every time I pass a certain corner in Chelsea I remember how it took exactly one pizzaiola, back in the days before that word had currency, to infect hundreds of people with hepatitis. The chances of eating mucus off the sidewalk are far lower. And not to mention: If dogs were E-carriers, all five boroughs would have to shut down — that shit is everywhere.
To throw out something uncharacteristically appreciative, I also have to note that the Democratic Nixon may be a flaming anus about Ebola and Israel and parties that go out on a limb for him and so much more, but he has been very, very good for New York State consumables. I went to a little trade show the other day and just about had my fill of all the top products: Granola. And hooch. I thought he was benefiting from the Semi Mrs. Then Election Night had to go and ruin it all for me. Now I’m trying to shake off images of him choking on corn nuts from a Kwanzaa Kake.
And now for something straightforward: Why would a positive — regulations lifted, oysters cleaning up the bay, new business booming — be spun as a negative? Watermen are already having a tough time thanks to climate change; the smart ones would start planting “seeds.” But I guess if rent-stabilized tenants are portrayed as a problem for landlords, oyster farms would have to be seen as eyesores. At first I wondered who has a weekend house in that town. But my cynical side suspects that the real problem is who made it happen. Hope and change must always be painted black.
New abbreviation: t(oo)s(tupid)/d(idn’t)f(inish). And that would apply to two “buy the book!” journalism-as-shilling features. One made me wonder why an old, and an old white guy at that, would be given such a platform to lecture moms on cooking for kids. (Didn’t help that I threw the magazine down shortly before heading out to lunch with a friend whose two young sons complained only that they had been eating too much Burmese and would prefer more from the Yunnan and Malaysian side of the menu.) I would have plowed on if Mme Ami had been weighing in.
And then there was that cold mess over to another weekly, a recycling of a far smarter writer/thinker’s typing points coupled with random cheap shots (the day I spent handing out campaign literature for my neighbor running for office opened my ears: Hotel union guy teamed with me said his young boys are learning to cook because fud teevee has gotten them interested). All I can say is that anyone who follows advice to make soup with (presumably canned) stock and frozen vegetables flavored with just onion and garlic is going to fire up the garbage disposal and head straight to the Progresso aisle. “Hack” is not just a kitchen verb. It’s a noun.
I’m so old I remember when people complained that soda was cheaper than water. . . // Language debasement continues: “Culinary nutritionist”? The fuck! // Best lemon-tart filling advice ever: “Beat it like it owes you money.” // Spritz or sponsored? You decide. // “Senza Expense Account” would be a helluva wine blog. // Hate it when I cut into an expensive cheese and think I could mop the floor with it. // Trying to figure out why there would be an expiry date on a box of sugar. // Culinary is a long-winded way of saying food. // I can be the food shrink for the holidays: Throw out all the hysterical “advice.” Just marinate your guests. // Two more in head-scratching: a burger described as a delicacy and a tarte Tatin as a confection. // When guests say “I don’t want to make you have to cook,” I hear: “Please fucking don’t.” // Outlaw superlatives and you put fud magazine cover-line writers out of biz. // Was a dentist what invented Halloween, no? // If you love something you should spell it right — it’s La Lunchonette for a very good reason.
Not going to hold my breath waiting for the exposé of how, without a “ghostwriter,” you can come up with 2,000 recipes while bloviating and Hoovering on different continents. Fast, he said, and not like Friday fish.
File this under “what’s good for Big Pharma is good for America:” The best way to get coverage of Piglet Ebola is to send out a release touting better factory farming through chemistry. Leave it to the reader to see “1.3 million pigs died in January alone” and “the need to bury carcasses has even raised concerns about the effect on groundwater” flashing neon. The obvious question is never answered: Why? What part of the lie of evolution caused this? Meantime, half the nation’s sows have a disease that causes their litters to shit to death and people are panicking about fakes on a plane. . . .
I went off to college freshman year with a grant, a scholarship and a loan, and still the only way I figured I could get by would be if I lived on Del Monte green beans, which I loved and which cost 17 cents a can. (This was way back in the last century, when you could also save money by not buying bras.) Turned out the dorm had vending machines with everything nukable from honey buns to cheeseburgers for just a couple of coins. Not only did I not starve. I managed to pack on 30 pounds, fast. So the Murdoch Crier’s story on food pantries at New York colleges really jumped out at me. It’s actually come to this in the richest country in the world? Cereal handouts? The saddest deet is that much of the demand comes from the unemployed who are going back to school in a time of shrunken financial aid. I’m feeling lucky I only had to lose the weight, not the crippling debt. And you really have to wonder why the story is behind a paywall. Charging rich people to read about the poors makes you think it’s all just sports. Or “Hunger Games.”
Call me ready to be roped out of the culled herd, but I just can’t freak out about Ebola. Not when the bigger story is consistently buried far inside the newspapers, dead-tree and digital both: Antibiotic overuse in animals bred for fud is flat-out out of control. Just imagine if the only cure for the latest plague were the very same stuff the farm greedsters squandered on quick profits. As always, I am very glad I’m old. And there had better not be reincarnation. Fear the lipsticked wineglasses . . .