Back in 1999, when I was trapped in an Aeron chair there, DI/DO ran a piece wondering why New York City had so few top women chefs. It didn’t really come to a conclusion, and looking back I see the reporter got her best walker’s name wrong, but at least it was a stab at something substantial. Today the paper where only Krazy Rhymes-With-Lunts get ahead thinks the Big O not playing a boy’s game with girls is front-page news. Can’t we go back to debating whether Craftsteak was too Top Cheffy for him? Or just put matchboxes on P1?
Archive for October, 2009
Then again, this nonsense seems part of the new media drive to bring back the Clinton glory days, with all trumped-up scandal all the time. One surly cretin in the LATimes of all papers even attacked Mrs. O for promoting eating right and exercising (something the Chimp wife he worked for never did while idly smoking and reading for eight miserable years). We the readers are left to discern from heritage sheep’s entrails that the reason Big Food had to pull back on its up-is-down, war-is-peace, Froot-Loops-R-nutritious campaign is that there’s a new sheriff in town. The crap those processors got away with doesn’t fly anymore.
I have to confess I felt a pang after forging on beyond a cringe-inducing simile and finding a couple of nice turns of phrase by the critic with the small sneakers to fill. Maybe, I thought, he has evolved beyond the old “get out the dick, start pounding the keys” days. Then he had to go and ruin it by letting that T.G.I.Friday’s handout get printed after acres of contorted prose. Forget the Party of No lawn jockey. This guy is the Rich Little of food writers. (I have not done due diligence with Kerouac, but the words on the wall at the outstanding Robert Frank exhibition at the Met did make me suspect yet another fount of imitation.) I always thought he at least has eaten enough to do a credible job, but even that notion came into doubt when I was lured to Diner’s Journal and read the drooling over “lard-fried tortillas.” What is it with NYC “culinary journalists” that makes them so clueless about Mexican food? The manteca belongs in the beans, for chinga’s sake.
I’m usually pretty good at over-interpreting meanings in movies — I still remember how quickly I pegged the crack epidemic to “Alien Nation” at a time when everyone was still pretending Lee Atwater was not the vilest dog whistler around. So why am I mystified as to the significance of the frozen corn in Sendak cinematized? The kid flees the house after spurning Birds Eye’s best, with a grandiose statement of his disdain. But why? Maybe Spike Jonze’s next project is with Saint Alice and other sanctimonious souls in the Bay Area: “Where the Chang Talks Aren’t.”
I was never happier that I had chosen a trek to the New Amsterdam Market over finishing the Sunday Times than when I started spotting the scorn online for that monster whine about the Park Slope co-op. I remember Panchito’s successor once saying the place made his fingers twitch, so maybe it’s no coincidence the hardy perennial was trotted out yet again now that he wields real power. But it’s no wonder circulation is dropping precipitously when the paper chooses to run that megaturd at a time when more people than ever are on food stamps and food pantries are hurting big time. The editors must believe the advertising and think all readers can afford mother-daughter coats at $1,350 and $665. Don’t they realize no one cares if a privileged twit can’t spare a little time?
Every time I walk out of the new Holy Foods I keep thinking about that old definition of a conservative: A liberal who’s been mugged. All it took for me to abandon my disdain was having a store move closer to me in this food desert. Neighbors keep stopping me, and friends keep emailing me, to ask if they can shop there in good conscience, and I happily admit I’ve crossed over to the other side, not least because it’s such a great antidote to the invasion of the Subways and Dunkin’s in the neighborhood. But my consort and I got into a near-tiff over the honcho’s ill-advised attitude toward health insurance reform, and I won by saying I have no idea what the politics are of any other local merchant we support so enthusiastically. Not to mention: If the farmers from the Greenmarket are going to patronize it, so can we — if this is what a new-age mugging is like, I’ll have another organic, local, sustainable Kool-Aid, please.
Horseshit trend of the week came from a SFChronicle piece on trout as the new salmon. It may be eco-preferable, but there’s one little problem: That fish is what it eats. It tastes like grain. There is no miracle protein for chefs on a debased planet, especially one that consistent. But at least whoever suckered a reporter into taking the release bait did not try to pitch catfish as the salmon answer. Its flavor is mud.
I did my turkey cover story seven years ago and pissed off a few editors by noting both the artifice and similarity of all their birds. But even I was not cynical enough to imagine the day would come when the editorial side would admit to doing what’s forbidden in an ad: altering reality. Funny to realize the Butterball breast is the real deal. Also funny that the one magazine omitted from the silly piece was the one named launch of the year. You really have to wonder about the hall of mirrors of television successfully expanding into formerly arboreal media even as people are still weeping over the demise of Gourmet. I haven’t been able to locate a copy, but I see online what the secret is: The turkey issue has three covers. Which means readers can change the channel.
FTC, consider this my bread and butter note: I can now say I have ingested a substantial portion of a sacahuil, something beyond the comprehension of so many in this town who literally cannot tell a taco from a tortilla but refuse to learn from Zarela. And a test kitchen can be quite a party place — I don’t know that so many sweetbreads have ever been seen on one counter before. My favorite part of the latter evening was a discussion about the new transparency rules for bloggers. I can’t win an argument except here, so I will say once again: I refuse to believe readers understand everything that newspaper/magazine writers get for free. And somehow I suspect blog junkies can tell truth from payola more than print readers. They know how to work the Google. . .
I take it all back. Nice guys don’t have such colossal egos that they actually use the “Ratatouille” Rayner as their Twitter avatars. Can they please just fast-forward and give the JGold wannabe the Pulitzer now to spare us five years of this tortured cleverness and overwrought writing? I hear the other Ivy Leaguers are attaboying away down there, but I could not get past the jump for all the straining at stool. When I pleaded for the Bruni Digester to come back, she Tweeted that it was like your laid-off Uncle Mark taking a stab at writing a press release in his spare time. I think it’s worse: It was as if Michael Steele tried to “what up” on eating out.
But the other hometown paper also embarrassed itself big time in announcing the addition of three bloggers to write on food. This is just what the world needs: More saccharine drivel. It’s an especially lame business move because the most devoted readers I know are the guys running our co-op’s elevator, and I kinda doubt they’re yearning for links to execrable writing online. If the editors had been smart, they would have done what even good, legit aggregate blogs are acceding to these days: taking promo posts. The copy would still make you gag, but it would be short and tight and income would be involved. And copy editors, too. My suggestion for the wine guy: Buy a box of apostrophes. ASAP.
And a third hometown paper ran a good piece on the motherfucking cookbook but chose to quote two of the old-timers in the business on the realistic language. I have nothing but (unreciprocated) respect for Julia’s editor, but it was odd to see her dissing something she admitted she had not read. And of course hearing that Jane’s ex is appalled by all the F bombs is about as surprising as the fact that fucking seats at the fucking counter are fucking hard to come by. Cooking was never “the province of polite people.” That sort goes to Washington and resists uttering “Go fuck yourself” on the floor of Congress. Besides, haven’t recent studies shown that the best way to relieve pain from a grease burn is to shriek anything but “fudge”? If you can’t take the language, get out of the kitchen.
I also was amazed by the WSJ’s story on canning. Isn’t that the house organ of the bailout bonus babies? Do Goldman partners in crime really need to worry about how (in the immortal words of a sly headline writer in my distant past) “you can put cucumbers up yourself”? I’m less worried about swine flu than about the looming epidemic of botulism as Ball newbies go wild with this silly trend. I mean, really. Tomatoes were a disaster this year. Peaches were problematic. Move on — it’s squash and apple season. And if frugality is really the point, newspaper editors need to take a stroll through the Food Shitty in my neighborhood. A 28-ounce can of Red Pack tomatoes was a buck fifty the last time I bought them. The jar alone would consume three-quarters of that price. I can’t wait until they start advising us on how to make our own Joy. . .
Out in Second Life in food, I was not surprised that Mr. Cook’s pulled back his asbestos gauntlet so soon after throwing it down before Mme Ami. Someone must have reminded him he relies on a Maroons-style cadre of cooks to test recipes before the serious sort has at them. Live by the mob, fry by the mob.
I never thought I would say this, but I really hope all the union-busting going on in the NYC restaurant world suffers epic fail. I always thought unions protected the weak and thwarted the strong — when I was hired by the NYTimes the first time, at 29 and with no college degree, I got less pay and benefits, because of Guild rules, than all the old gray ghosts with their proper credentials. But more and more we’re really paying the price for Addled Reagan’s fantasy of a disunited America. Airline pilots are living on food stamps and sleeping in lounges before reporting for work transporting hundreds of fellow travelers. Too many people in food service cannot afford to take a sick day, let alone see a doctor when they are oozing in agony, and now restaurateurs want to bust the last bastion of protection for them and us? I understand all the problems of an overprotected work force, but I put in five years on our co-op board and know that if you want to get rid of a lame employee, you can do it. It’s not easy, and it is far from pleasant. But it also makes the other workers better; ebbing tides prove all boats can sink. Whoever takes over Tavern on the Green or Cafe des Artistes could even use a union workforce as a selling point: If a chef spits in your food, you can be sure his/her hawker does not carry a virus. Which is so much more appetizing than having it your way to the ER.