Archive for July, 2009

Please don’t make me read about the umlaut

July 2009

If I thought $5 a month would help the hometown paper rehire a few copy editors, I might take its plan to herd the cows back into the barn more seriously. If it’s not egg yoke one day it’s Bunyonesque another — both in ledes. (I shouldn’t say anything about bedbugs being one word, though.) I now find myself reading any food story outside the food pages with particular fascination. And my reward: Wondering what in the hell “confectionery powder” might be on a beignet with “French pressed coffee.” Jeebus, you’d almost think Google was charging for information.

Crazy Mama on the cover

July 2009

File this under Fig & Flatulence: Time.com takes a serious look at why Southerners are so honking fat and reports . . . they eat too much and move around too little. Next I’m hoping for an exposé on why Manhattanites don’t use fast food drive-throughs.

What happened at Cook’s stays at Cook’s

July 2009

Some were impressed, I was amused at the Egotist’s ranking No. 8 among “columnists” on a new website that understands no one loves reading about the media as much as the media does. Turd Blossom, after all, is No. 12. And he at least writes more than extended headnotes. Meantime, that wannabe the Drivelist is spreading what I’ll politely call her foam even thinner. How can you advise “try smoked paprika” in so many words in so many places? As Appealing as Pap would be a pretty good name for a blog.

Salmon in cages and pigs flying

July 2009

Paul Krugman asked a smart question recently: What do people on the editorial pages of the WSJournal really believe? They regularly sign off on some seriously crazy-ass shit. And at the same time the paper can run, on the same day, two superb news stories defying all the illogic of the wackos. One was on the virus threatening the farmed salmon industry in Chile — eco end times — while the other was on how the very modest increase in food stamps ($80! a month for a family of four) is lifting all boats — $5 in spending by recipients generates $9.20 in economic activity, the USDA calculates. Facts may be stupid things, but they can be rather useful when you’re dealing with food issues.

And while I’m acting sober, this is one of the most profoundly sad pieces I have ever read, on what is happening to some Alaska natives as the world spins and the salmon disappear. Or, to reverse that, what is happening to the world and the salmon as the natives comes unmoored from nature. Odd how we are flipping off the planet suffering without understanding we are the ones doomed. Earth 1, dinosaurs 0.

Wrap it up in plastic film with soy

July 2009

Turns out sausage is not the worst thing to see being made. Eat Me Daily dredged up a video of how scrapple of the sea is produced. And what was always on the lunch plate off the bacteria bar of one of America’s leading nutrition reporters? Brillat-Savarin was totally right if you only add a coda: You are not what you repeat.

And Froomkin was fired because traffic fell?

July 2009

Maybe newspapers are going to go out with a little “Casablanca.” The LAT and NYT are the latest to be just shocked, shocked that bloggers do it their own way. And so we have to read yet again about the push for a code of ethics. Meantime, of course, the “legit” journalists are hiking the empanada trail and dutifully writing it up while the FTC says nothing about disclosure to them. As news budgets shrink, there will be more and more of that. Luckily, the George V in Paris knows what to do by now. Funniest high-horse line in the NYT story was about the blogger who takes products but writes only about those she likes. Can you say unicorn antler tasting spoon?

Rocco of the last frontier

July 2009

At least one thing is now perfectly clear: Moose is not brain food. Caribou either. Then again, the whole mess makes you wonder if McCain’s famous BBQ ribs were not hazardous to his sanity. . .

And the recipes are tested how?

July 2009

Funny to see a new food site come out with great bluster, only have it feel like 2002 all over again. Nigella as launch star? With “passion” thrown around as the adjective? WTF? Hasn’t Keyboard Cat played that schtick out big time? I guess I’m the only one who remembers how serious style writers used to compare her to an inflatable love doll. And I have the same question I had way back when: Does she really bow to the same shitty contract everyone else is served? Still, I’ve got to give the designers credit for a sense of humor, at least: A headline with a series of photos including the Butter Drinker and Molto using the words “pig out” does make you stop and stare.

Evil Monkey on the loose

July 2009

One of the many reasons I do nothing but hang out on Twitter these days is that the most revelatory comments come flying past in a world where anyone can watch unseen. A reporter for an oh-so-serious publication admitting, even in jest, that the way to get through the food show is not to make eye contact with vendors is just jaw-dropping. War correspondence must be so much easier with blinders and earplugs as well. Here’s a tip if life is so difficult because your sort-of employer (certainly not you) is perceived as so influential. Flip your fucking badge around. Do your tasting in peace, then ’fess up to your awesome power when you need to do the reporting. The condescension of that crack is just astonishing. I would use the C word, but someone beat me to it.

Headline writing ain’t what it used to be

July 2009

And I’m back to repeating myself: Any reporter trying to sum up a food show that huge and fractious is just a blind person describing an elephant. Pick a trend, any trend — you’ll find three examples to verify it. I saw more ginger. And hibiscus. And much more Indian convenience food. But I also had to agree with Cesare, whom I ran into as I was limping out after more than five hours without stopping: There’s never really anything truly new. Sure, there are better cheeses, far better cheeses, in fact, but they’re really just an ancient product. Otherwise, it’s line extensions: honey with truffles, chocolate with chipotle, popcorn with truffle oil, salsa with peaches, taleggio but organic, cashews  with wasabi. And on and on for miles and miles of aisles.

Given that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, I will insist that the attendance on Day 2 (which is when I usually go, after the initial crush and before the dispiritedness sets in) seemed way down to me no matter how the organizers count. Definitely there were fewer of those disturbing attendees who are so barn-size they have to get around by motorized cart. And the hired hustlers were definitely off their game. I walked away from more booths than I can count when the people behind them were chatting away as inanely as the co-pilots on that doomed Buffalo flight, oblivious to people standing in front of them with questions and obvious interest. Then again, the combination of fewer people and more obstacles to engaging may have forestalled a repeat engagement with intestinal distress. I almost lost my stamina on my first stop in the “ladies” room when half the lumbering creatures emerging from stalls as I waited in the mega-line did not pause even to rinse their hands. One emerged clutching a huge wad of toilet paper. Not good for someone cursed with an overactive imagination. . .

On the upside, for the first time in more than 20 years there were signs that even the food at the “fancy” level is evolving. The most fascinating thing I tasted was a Sichuan berry at a booth displaying a dazzling array of microgreens. Sid Wainer, the best one-stop sampling opportunity at the show every single year, has long had fresh produce on display. But getting to taste anything raw and green in the soul-sucking wasteland of the Javits Center is rather mind-blowing. Tasting something fascinating is harder to describe. And I was quite impressed with how Edwards’s pork products out of Virginia, which have always tasted great, have been taken to a whole new level now that the company is starting with heritage breeds. Eat it, Smithfield.

On the downside, I have to confess I succumbed to the much-ballyhooed bacon chocolate (not upchuckable) and Baconnaise (gag reflex kicking in) but could not even approach the truly frightening Tur-Duc-Hen. I also had to spit out many more things than normal, and not just because my digestive system is not getting any younger. I left wondering, as always, how so many fools can set out to build a business with products that are so unsalable. Why don’t their loved ones warn them?