If Panchito were still restaurant critic, he’d apparently be recommending you avoid the joint he awarded four stars that went on to give you hepatitis. Fool him once . . . And I do hope soup kitchens handed out his smug ode to excess on turkey day. With, what?, one in four kids hungry in America, we are not exactly all Italian immigrants now. Also, too, is it snide to wonder if he pukes after typing? With no train to the plane in his privileged life, he does hoover up so many dollars for so few original thoughts.
Speaking of suckers born every minute, WC Fields would probably drink but undoubtedly laugh at the new bourbon “aged at sea,” since a boat ride is, apparently, just like what laundry experiences in the dryer as it bumps up against the cylinder. And it’s hard not to suspect most of the bottle price goes for the processing and pricing. Isn’t there an old saying about a 1 percenter and his money soon being parted?
Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who thought she got up the other Wednesday a.m. to find herself back in another century. My early emails included two from the other coast marveling that the town crier for most advanced food city in the country would choose to regress to the good ol’ days, as one put it, when the ads had chuck roast for 59 cents a pound. Of course the margarine in the butter biscuits just made that Betty Crocker vibe much vibier.
Then it got worse. Green grapely, and baking-powder-in-the-unbaked-mashed-potatoes, worse. Having lived in six states and eaten in at least 30 more, I wondered why, if they were gonna go back to the Claiborne heyday, they didn’t just pull out their own excellent compilation of regional recipes. Kolaches are not Danish in that compendium. Snickers are not tights, neither.
All this Bill Cosby unscabbing is depressing enough. But, as always, there’s amusement. When someone “reported” that the father of Fat Albert made young women working on a show not exactly known for enlightenment watch him eat, I could only WTF — Big Chicken makes big-time journalists watch him eat nachos. With three scoops of sour cream plus guacamole, to boot.
Big week: You can finally throw out the barely touched fresh cranberry sauce from last Thanksgiving. // Wonder if the people at the high-minded farm-reformation forum who are arguing for eating insects pitch their King Arthur flour when it hatches. . . // Pro-tip: Always use 1900 as your birthdate on entering liquor sites. Makes ‘em drink more. // Your wine should never cost more than your turkey. // Note to flacks: If your client is charging for the food, it’s not aperitivo. // Pumpkin in chili is one of the best ideas ever. In anything chocolate? Squanto would retch. // Even ghostwriters have ghostwriters. // It figures a fatal outbreak of listeria would be linked to a company called Wholesome Soy Products. // Probably not a good thing when you can’t tell whether the splotches on the menu are design or grease spots. // Gluten-free gelatin is in the house. Hope no one sensitive learns what it really contains. . . // Tagine = failure?
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.