In the grand scheme of things, one nut with a condom’s worth of flammability on a plane sounds a lot less scary than the 248,000 pounds of steak contaminated with it-will-kill-you-level E. coli that was recalled in six states. But which one gets nonstop coverage? Maybe we should invade Oklahoma to whip bacterial terrorism.
Archive for December, 2009
Never was determined American stupidity in starker evidence than in the reaction to the brilliant Natalie Angier column on the secret defense systems of vegetables. No one whose knuckles do not drag on Applebee’s floors could read it as an argument against eating everything in the produce aisle from avocados to zucchini. But of course the kind of cretins who take everything as a personal insult went bonkers. Me, I still remember a guide on Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, pointing out the tiniest growth of algae on lava as: “This is the beginning of life.” Nowhere was it written that we cannot eat stone soup. Eggs, after all, are unborn chickens.
I forget where I read it, but somewhere in the last week a story plugged the trend of restaurants opening in churches. And not soup kitchens, with a “who would Jesus feed” approach toward sharing. This was about profit-seeking enterprises. In churches. The institution from which the guy who wound up on the cross hanging at the front evicted the money changers. God-forsaken has never been a more apt description of McDonald’s.
The JGold Wannabe tried out yet another new voice in mystifying readers like my consort, who braved a few grafs and could not understand why the rave added up to only three stars. Poor Britchky’s fingers must have been twitching in his grave. I’m so naive I believe even a Poor would not have hurt a restaurant that does what it does so well, and has for so long — I will not soon forget walking out of the deserted Four Seasons last summer and seeing the floral Frog jammed; if you’re going somewhere for a scene and not cuisine, flowers are a fixed face’s best friend (I ate there for my long-ago Allure story on how restaurants make women look good or bad). What was most surprising is that no attempt was made to connect the news dots between that review and the profoundly depressing information that the chef on whom Ruth once lyrically bestowed four stars is now slaving at a Midtown East joint one step up from Tout Va Bien. Of course I’m so old I got addicted to quenelles before I ever had to face down gefilte fish. But I do know that there’s a whole food truck devoted to schnitzel and that people make special expeditions to Cafe Sabarsky for the strudel alone. I just can’t tell the Egotist from the Drivelist sometimes. Or understand how “blackened fruitcake” saw print. Sloppy is as sloppy ledes.
On the plus side of the newspaper ledger, the Delicious Duo discreetly signed off after a quarter-century of distilling advice from wine store clerks. No explanation was given, but considering how their employer is unabashedly pandering to the great unthinking these days, I would not be surprised to see their column taken over by Peggy Noonan, evaluating gin. Real patriots don’t drink gruner. Let alone Australian shiraz.
Crazies are my weakness, so I have to confess I do keep up with the freak show that is Sarah Palin on narcissism parade. Every day there’s new insanity to inspire jokes — after she quit her Hawaiian vacation someone on Twitter cracked that she couldn’t finish a piece of pumpkin pie. But the high point came on her book-signing stop in Salt Lake City, when Costco removed all the tomatoes for fear of pelting. Have to give her credit, though. She briefly accomplished the impossible: separating Americans from out-of-season produce.
I’m also laughing over everyone who is shocked, shocked that the world’s most famous athlete turns out to be not a tiger but a hound. (Sorry, Mr. Feed Me, as much as I admire you.) Forget how many op-eds are not written by the names that sit atop them. Just consider how much ass-covering goes on in the food world — how many pieces even in the more-ethical-than-you paper are not even typed by their bylines, how many cookbooks are published with recipes the neon name never even tasted, how many famous faces let underlings do the blogging and Tweeting, how many interviews are cobbled together with all the authenticity of chop suey, how many “signature” recipes were bought if not stolen. Today you can actually get a job on a legit newspaper when your heftiest credential is making up shit for tin chefs. As Leonard Cohen sang it, everybody knows. Good thing chefs/food writers never sleep around. Only sex is a capital offense in this country. Ask poor Craig.
Speaking of which, I guess the only amazing thing about all the long knives suddenly coming out for the world’s most famous food blogger is how long it’s taken. Once she admitted she’s into pain, the gloves were off, and I’m not talking latex. We were at a dinner party in Brooklyn the other week when another guest, one not even in the food coven, went into how she had behaved like a Palin-class asshole at a premier. Twitter has been abuzz with how contemptuously she treated 9/11 firefighters, to the point that one editor turned down the first book. And now a question that has long bothered me has even started to be broached on Twitter: Was it misery or was it fantasy? Only her poor schlub knows for sure.
Call this the buyout that was heard around the world. After I Tweeted that Ferran Adria would not be weeping over the ashcanning of a certain silly reporter who abused his paper’s power for a cretinous stunt, I got a DM noting that the news had indeed been mentioned to him. And “the barest smile crossed his face.” His cooking may be over the top, but his restraint is admirable. I’d be breaking out the cava.
With all those buyouts, though, I really do wonder if any copy editors are left down at the glass house of hubris. Not only is Drew described as a chef, but his Sunday special is lowercased as buffalo wings. What state are we in? Good Enough to Eat is called a sandwich shop. Sentences that would not hold up to diagramming wind up in the restaurant review. Then again, maybe the bought-out ones are now writing restaurant menus. My writeme inbox was graced with one mentioning “butter filet of beef” and “farmed Vermont goat cheese,” not to mention “creme fraiche light as a feather.” The killer, though, was “pan flashed” duck. Which I could only assume was the skillet exposing itself to the breast.
For all my trashing of everyone else, I’m starting to think anyone who listens to me might as well follow Yelp. I’ve been flagellating myself for two weeks now since suggesting a Milanese reader try Keens for his steak fix on a trip to NYC; it had only come to mind because we were heading there again. He and his poor spouse soldiered through the $90 porterhouse, eating it all because in their country you consume what you pay for. In my nightmares, they, too, were shunted upstairs to the Disney DR rather than being seated in the charm space. The only consolation was heading to Fairway’s ambiance-free cafe and noticing the steaks there were $37. Admittedly, with potatoes rather than the $8 addition on 36th Street, but still. In between lashes, I’ll remind everyone I never claimed to be an expert on steakhouses. But I’ll take 260 extra for suggesting Les Halles, too, which he found to be both too Europeanesque and too loud. The awful truth is that great meat is so accessible in regular and farmers’ markets these days there’s no reason to shell out big bucks in hopes of decent creamed spinach. Nothing is easier to cook, especially if you buy from a good butcher who knows exactly how long to sear or grill it. (And let it rest.) For steak, there might be no place like home.
I’m behind on all our magazines, but I did spot some travel-themed cookies touted in The Week from a bakery I remember too well from my second sentence at the NYTimes. Twelve go for $75 at a time when families are lining up at WalMart just before midnight the day before their food stamp debit cards are filled for the month. Whoever buys them should know they will be getting all decoration, no satisfaction. Only Peeps and king’s cakes lingered longer on the swag giveaway table.
Seeing SD26 advertising as frenetically as Dunkin’ Donuts would be sadder if the whole NYC restaurant scene weren’t going through such craptastic changes. On the plus side, Mama Mexico in my neighborhood has been seized by the tax man after the quality police failed to do their job (was there a margarita mill in the city with worse food and worser service, not to mention the gall to post a certificate claiming honors for service?) On the downside, we walked out of the excellent Part One of Horton Foote’s “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” the other night and passed what now thrives where Bistro du Vent succumbed: another fucking Ollie’s (no orgies in noodles). Maybe all bad things come to an end, though: Irving Mill is dying so that another Brother Jimmy’s BBQ can subsist. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tavern on the Green or Cafe des Artistes converted to a Saint Shack.
Maybe the nutrition nazis were the useful idiots paid to hack climate scientists’ email to sow absurd doubt about the reality that we humans are shitting in our own nest. A little misinformation is a dangerous thing. Works for sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and butter. Why not for global meltdown? Once you know people can be scared into soiling their adult Pampers over carbs, dupe them into denying a fishless future on the Omaha beachfront. Someone must believe there will be very fancy restaurants in hell. . . .
Then again, Americans have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the falsities of food that there’s actually a debate online over whether butter can be successfully substituted for shortening in xmas cookie recipes. For Crisco’s sake, butter has been around since the first udder squeezer realized you could whip cream into a solid state of bliss. Of course spritz cookies can use butter. Once upon a time whole squadrons of home economists had to be enlisted to convert all those time-honored butter recipes to use oil chemically converted into a scary solid. And now here we bake, baffled about the basics. The funny thing is that there is actually a fear-free substitute for shortening, the very ingredient it was invented to replace. It’s a four-letter word, but lard makes amazingly crisp cookies.