I was half-relieved when the Big O was seen around the food world reaching over a sneeze guard (and who hasn’t been tempted to do that while trying to communicate with the salsa sloppers)? At last there was a true scandal to get worked up about! But then he went and jumped the line for barbecue, and that was a brisket too far for libtards. Still, imagine the shitstorm if he had had his retinue stand down for that $300 worth of smoky bliss. The kkkrazies would be foaming at the mouth over the billions in tax dollars wasted by the wait. Instead, they have to pray away the gay.
Archive for July, 2014
Maybe you can’t judge a cupcake chain by its abysmal scones. But the news that Crumbs up and folded did not surprise me, not least because the chain had already been retrenching and fudging why. You can get by with mediocrity in the food business for eternity. Crappy will kill you. But the bigger lesson: Mom&Pop, don’t let your startup grow up to be taken over by the likes of Bain capitalists. Just as I suspected, when the going gets tough, they’ll dump the debts, sell the assets, and only the little people get screwed. Maybe the Food Network should consider a “Zombie Bakeries” show, cast with some screwed-over Twinkies types. Anyway, banksters are never the best judges of either portion size or how much overkill the market can bear, so I do hope the quick-buck guys are heavily invested in froyo. Half the storefronts on the Upper West Side would be open for real businesses if that oversaturated concept had a meltdown.
I always half-joke that I recognize more names on the obit pages than in the Vows columns these days. But I’m seriously surprised whenever a face and name pop out in the news or arts or other sections. Mostly recently both brought back a memory from 1988, and my first trip overseas, where my consort was shooting a story on what today seems like an unimaginably lavish expense account. The writer was a famous one, back in those days when magazines paid for marquee names who liked traveling large, and he’d brought along his wife, who spent most of the trip sitting in their car as he went interviewing. (Not to brag, but the first thing Bob did was take me shopping for a wax jacket so I could join him in the damp and cold.) Our time together was minimal, but one Sunday we all wound up at a big, fancy, drafty restaurant in the countryside. This was in the early, early days of what would become New British cuisine; we were still operating under the old “you can eat well in England if you eat breakfast three times a day” rule. But the menu here would not have seemed unsurprising in Berkeley. Still, she made a royal fuss with the waiter, insisting she wanted her fish with no sauce, no garnishes whatsoever. Bob ordered the same bright, jazzy dish while drooling over the description. And when the team of waiters arrived and pulled back the gleaming silver cloches on each plate, her fish was fully accessorized. And his was completely naked. Both he and I watched in sadness as she blissfully, and obliviously, tucked into hers. Guess you can guess what the first line would be if I wrote her obit. . .
I like that there’s a new sheriff in Cookbook Town. I don’t even want to think how often I was told there was no money for test-cooking whenever I got a freelance gig to pass judgment on others’ “Blood, Sweat &” compilations. And for 30-plus years I’ve contended there is only one way to assess a cookbook. Get it down and greasy. Even if you have to eat the “profits.” Imagine a world where no “first the duck must be dead” corrections would ever be needed. Best of all: Now it will be harder for ghostwriting drivelists to get away with the verbal equivalent of punching out microwave sandwiches for drunks.
As always, food writers discerning mega-trends at the food show were like blind people trying to describe an elephant. I thought there was more popcorn, and an encouraging amount of non-GMO labeling, and more Korean and Indian inroads, but any of those perceived phenomena could have just been the trunk, or the tail. Also as always, the most popular ingredient was either “no” or “-free,” especially with gluten. When I ran into a big importer friend, we were laughing about all the fads we had seen come and go over the decades as companies seized on anything to get consumers freaked about. I noted that sodium-free used to be the buzzterm, and now there were no end of booths showcasing nothing but . . . salt. And I’m also so old I remember when Brooklyn hipsters were so scornful of the show they staged their own little rebellious counterpart. This year they were in the soulless Javits Center themselves, having ponied up the big bucks to push their artisanal jerky and $7.50-a-quarter-pint mayonnaises. At least none of them appeared responsible for the kale chips that foretell the end of that craze. These crispy messes weren’t just the leaves, as has been the style; instead the greens had been converted into Lay’s salt+grease. Only the bacon cheeseburger cheese from another producer was more absurdly American.
Don’t ask why, but I had to spend way too much time recently in the baby food aisle of every store in our neighborhood. And there was not a jar of lamb and rice to be found, as the vet prescribed. There was, however, a generation of diabetics foretold. Nearly all the options, jarred or pouched, were fruit or fruity vegetable. Even the turkey had to be sweet-potatoed up. Maybe Darwin is intervening from the Great Galapagos Beyond, though. All those thirsty kids set loose in a water-deprived world will speed up extinction. And then the planet can finally right itself.
Usually I jump right on any armchair activism, but I’m resisting hitting send on emails pushing a boycott of the Hobby Lobby of food. How can you promise to stop buying shit you gave up already because it totally sucks?
Speaking of in-your-uterus wingnuttiness, I have been reveling in the squash blossoms from a certain farmer this summer. And every time I prep and cook them, I realize they could be banned because garden-variety babbies are being thwarted. No Planned Zucchinihood here. You seed-sluts plant ‘em and it’s up to you to sort out what to do with the overpopulation.
Butter may be back. Ghee never went away. // Couples’ fights at a farmers’ market are always the most revealing. // Great piece on lobster, tail to taste. // Had occasion to flip thru Fho file just now. Jeebus, what they let her get away with, to this day. // And I second Yuet Lee’s salt-and-pepper squid in this “10 things to love about SF.”