Archive for May, 2011

Serpent and quince

May 2011

I hope no one who believes Jesus rode a dinosaur caught up to Jasper White’s review of a couple of lobster books I’m glad he read (and liked) so I don’t have to. Did he really state, unequivocally, that the Red Crustaceans “today are in fact very similar to the original members of their biological family, which appeared about 250 million years ago”? If the chain’s namesake is older than Earth, how is any creationist going to be able to eat mislabeled fish while stiffing the server again?

Fancy grits

May 2011

I felt the teeniest twinge of remorse about being mean about the AP Stylebook’s venture into food. Because I now wish I had a copy just to see what it has to say about the biggest confusion in the biz: Food writer versus food critic. An organization that you would expect would have a pretty clear take on that let the whole journalism world down this week by doing a roundup Q&A confusing the two. I’ve spent 28 years now answering “What’s it like to be a food critic?” with “I’m not a critic. I write about food.” If the institutions don’t know better, no wonder everyone wants to be a blogger.

All that ranted, I really wish the inimitable AA Gill’s main outlet would open his reviews up to the big wide world again (and not just so I can get more people looking here for “porn star’s scrotum”). His writing is so great I can almost forgive him shooting a simian. Luckily, he also does interviews, and one in Oz made a fascinating argument against one of my “food critic” idols. I find the way she thought and stitched together words so seductive that I have actually read her late at night and considered getting out of bed and heading out to find grape leaves and mushrooms to bake with garlic. But Mr. Cranky makes the good point that her romanticizing of Mediterranean food, in a country still gasping for real chocolate after wartime rationing, set British cuisine back for decades. His review of the new St. John, scanned and emailed by a friend of ours in London, was caustic enough to make me wonder if he might have been appeased if a shooter’s sandwich had been on the menu. But I do trust his take on the pork & beans, far more than what a critic closer to home said with not even a quarter of his ease with the King’s English.

Dispirit in the diet aisle

May 2011

One of many things that amaze me about Al Gore’s invention is how huge it is and how niche it is at the same time. Fud people wanna talk fud, that’s it. Luckily, political types can eat and think at the same time, so you get great links that put fud frenzies into perspective. I have said before that I was paid to consider the cookbook from Molto Ego’s traveling companion in Spain, which could very well have skewed my judgment. But really, it is any more ridiculous that she’s on the cover of a magazine targeted at Middle America when you remember the King of Siam also got his “own” recipe collection in bookstores? And without even including her banhi mi and other Asian accents.

Pyramid on a plate

May 2011

I have mentioned this probably as many times as the government has issued recall notices on spinach/sprouts/scallions, but it was 20 years ago that I actually got an op-ed published in the hometown paper on “which came first — the salmonella or the egg?” And I am now wondering how E. coli could infect Spanish cucumbers badly enough that tourists are dropping like Montezuma flies in Europe right now. Did the salad buffets serve the things unpeeled? Did what a certain travel writer calls “the stinking Germans” not wash either their produce or their hands? I grew up thinking my family was German because of our surname and my parents’ deception, even though my mom never cooked anything sauer. So maybe I’m just ignorant, but the biggest surprise in this deadly outbreak is that Germans eat anything raw. . .

Frothy: Not a good food word these days

May 2011

Apparently I’m not aware of all internet memes — after the Facebook founder got press for saying he only eats what he kills, meatwise, I Tweeted that the competitive twins should be very nervous. (Guess they’re Winklevi, not Winklevossi.) But even his admission was not as unnerving as McLame’s daughter’s. Who says her last meal would be “my father’s ribs.” Did torture make them tender?

Momofuku, singular

May 2011

I’ve dutifully trudged through all the debates over whether the Google is destroying recipe searches while wondering: Why not just refine by clicking the blog option? That filters out megatons of crap. And the other night I had a chance to test my theory, when we had a great-looking pork loin from Ray Bradley and I didn’t want to cook it to jerky using the old rules (“60-Minute Gourmet” is foolproof on cooking times for most ingredients to this day, but the “other white meat” pigshit screwed things up big time). The first blog I landed on had a tantalizing technique and adaptable recipe (rub meat with a mix of ancho chile, salt, pepper, garlic etc., grill). It did say to cook the loin to 155 degrees, but I pulled it off earlier and let it rest on a carving board and it was amazing: juicy, tender, pink at the core. The very next day, the government issued the new rules: 145 degrees & three minutes’ rest. That’s change you can believe in. Maybe the USDA knows how to search real cooking today, too.

Crottin, floating

May 2011

Panchito’s new gig, with which the NYTimes adds insult to the readers’ injury of losing Frank Rich on Sundays, escaped my cranial sieve when I finally got around to posting this week. But I could not have had a more blistering reaction than Eric Alterman did. Who could ever care what the useful idiot had to say about restaurants or booze after he happily sold a dangerous dunce as a good ol’ boy in fuck-me boots? (Even if he did know the McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps so well.) It’s the old gray shuffle, and it will put Ambien out of business.

Hide the fracking

May 2011

The only surprise of the un-Rapture was that the Pom people were not behind the big con. Then again, they spent a mere $10 million to get an obscure juice certified as a miracle elixir. The cult of the gullible dropped $100 million and still couldn’t get naked Christians into heaven.

Yes, we need no marionberries

May 2011

Speaking of pomegranates, though, I’d been wondering why they’re turning up everywhere on menus and online when this is the season to be eating strawberries (almost) and rhubarb. Turns out they’re coming from Chile, maybe by air. Apparently everyone has forgotten the cautionary myth of Prosperpina/Persephone. And just as we’re losing winter altogether in a tornadic tsunami of melting polar ice caps.

Like liquid flavor for water

May 2011

And speaking of earth off its axis, I was appalled to come across an ad in a Working Mother that accidentally landed on our doormat. While the Very Serious People are ranting about the risk to future generations from the deficit, the nextest generation is being targeted with Lunchables, easily the most wastefully packaged processed crap in the history of plastic fud. Now, the copywriters boast, they contain “fresh fruit,” in the form of pineapple chunks in sugar water. I’m so old I remember peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in wax paper in a brown bag refolded and used over and over. Now kids generate a 1950s family of nine’s trash in a single “lunch.” But I understand cooking is just so much more difficult these days . . .

No canned peas + butter recipes

May 2011

In other petrified newsstand news, I’m seeing some buzz over Red Bull starting a magazine. My consort trash-picked an issue from the recycling bins in our back hall, though, and you would need a case of the stuff to get through it. . .

18 pounds, 5 feet 7 inches

May 2011

The latest “goddamn, is it time to fill up a page again?” from the pen wielder formerly known as Mr. Cutlets was beyond amusing. Whom shall we blame for obesity? Why, chefs, of course. As if all of waddling America could be flocking to real restaurants to gorge these days. I’ll just repeat one thing that came back to me over and over in the 15 days I was immobilized in a hospital in Torino, repenting at leisure for my bad eating: I did not get fat at Daniel. Even if you were privileged enough to eat there every night, you’d still be doing better than the average consumer of Crunch Wrap Supremes washed down with HFCS water. From a drive-through.

Cupcake for one

May 2011

“Bridesmaids” was worth my consort’s $26 for two for the alimentary canal lessons alone. There’s a reason Trump’s mouth makes you want to look away, and not south. But when the fat sister of the groom erupts after Brazilian (food, not wax) and can’t determine from which end, you realize why writing about food is such an ephemeral pursuit. Chick-fil-A or foie gras, it all comes out the same.

Big in Lebanon

May 2011

I understand the mixed reactions to news that Cuba is finally loosening its restaurant rules. It is bad to consider tourists first in a country with such serious shortages that people drink brewed ground peas as coffee. But that may be what prevents the country’s cuisine from disappearing. When my consort and I were there, at least a decade ago, the food in the state-run restaurants was about the worst we found (aside from one meal in a private home where no one had the clout to break the laws and I went without rather than eat the scary chicken). Paladars and hotels at least could get the ingredients to make the classics even as home cooks were scrabbling harder in the depleted markets. When the land of the free finally liberates its citizens to travel to that little island off the Florida Keys, maybe the cooking will be up to the mojitos.

16.1 The consultant is not the chef.

May 2011

I worked my way across the country without a college degree thanks partly to having memorized the AP Stylebook. But the Twitter-shattering news that it had added a 16-page section devoted to food struck me as too teeny and way too late. One of the many things I love about what I obsess about is that you will never know it all, which makes it difficult to codify much about the immensity of the subject (business-speak is nothin’ by comparison). In some cases, doing so just looks dumb — everyone knows orecchiette is the pasta shaped like a diaphragm. And I haven’t seen the full addition, but I was not encouraged to see palate defined in early posts as “the top of the mouth.” Yes, and a pallet is where you keep your palette.