Archive for the ‘onward and downward’ Category

A chicken (part) in every wok

September 2017

More and more, it’s becoming obvious that the guano is getting real with all the foxes in charge of the Orange Henhouse. A report in the unlinkable Murdoch Crier detailed how the chicken industry is carping the diem to demand rollback of yet another rule imposed by the successful black prez, the one that limited poultry factories to whacking up a mere 140 birds a minute. A minute would now have 175 carcasses flying by, sort of Lucy-on-the-chocolates-line pace but now with more salmonella. The LOL, however, may be last on the greedsters. Their racist hero and his brownshirts at ICE are guaranteeing there will be no one available to do the work. Unless, of course, he succeeds in doing away with disability and Social Security. Guys on oxygen tanks and grandmas in wheelchairs will surely flock to feather their mitts with that sweet, sweet unliving wage.

RT: The circle will never be unjerked

June 2017

Weird jetsam gets caught in my cranial sieve. Whenever I pass the Puck Building, as I did the other night on the way to a friend’s play in the East Village, I flash back on the Wall Street wedding we went to there a full 30 years ago. I commented that the passed food was surprisingly good and the best man, standing next to me, threw his toothpick onto the tray and spat: “It should be. It cost a fucking fortune.” Did I mention it was a Wall Street wedding? And they’re back . . .

Cubano, well-done, with ketchup

May 2017

If I could ever get it together to update my Trails page, I could make a very persuasive case for places like Bodega 88, which opened a few blocks from us not so long ago. In these T’ing times, a sports bar is the rare refuge from the all-orange-chaos-all-the-time insanity. You can be surrounded by 12 teevees, one on ice, and realize: Puck it, we’re tuning it out.

Following in a golf cart

May 2017

And at a time when wingnuts are actually debating whether fellow Americans need food to survive, I have to rant yet again that the best way to save SNAP would be to rebrand it as what it actually is. Not a lifeline for the poors. A huge subsidy to supermarkets.

Moscow mules. Or asses.

April 2017

And it gets worse: Climate change is killing off Champagne grapes. We will go through End Times with nothing to ease the pain.

Hamsters, fed 

April 2017

Saddest thing about the Magnificent doc? How directly My Biggest Fan nailed what has happened to the food world, and why I have lost so much interest. Used to be you had a week’s or month’s respite before being ka-slammed with a barrage of hottest/newest bullshit. Now it is nonstop.

Tattoo handouts with those phones?

April 2017

The Chinese must be laughing at us all for living in such interesting times. Immigration authorities are cracking down even harder even though immigration is way down thanks to the Kenyan Muslim. So in one day you will read that Tyson Foods is so desperate for workers willing to do hard, dangerous jobs that it’s actually (OMFG) raising wages. And that food pantries and other social services are finding immigrants are going into hiding, too terrified even to seek help, let alone sign on to suit up to whack up chickens. I guess safety through unaffordable food was always the plan?

Debeaking before a lunch on white bread

October 2016

I may be repeating myself, but for good reason: In 1992, when my consort and I schlepped to 12 states to document harvests of a dozen foods that come into season only once a year, we both got probably the sickest either of us has ever been after spending a day in a Vidalia onion field in Georgia alongside an industrial henhouse. Whatever was going on in that fowl prison would have put me off supermarket eggs even if I hadn’t already gotten wise to local=safe despite what the catapulters of propaganda will still tell you.

So I can feel North Carolina’s pain as the sad citizens, and the ocean, deal with the aftermath of the flooding from the latest storm to prove denial makes one crappy seawall when it comes to climate change. All the toxins that we inhaled a quarter-century ago are even more widespread in a country that has put a chicken into every 29-cent potpie. Add to the fowlness the 4,800 now-rotting sources of cheap bacon and you’re talking eco-disaster. The feces has literally hit the fan.

Back in the Seventies I worked on a weekly in Iowa where my job description included schlepping to farms to check out the status of the corn crop. Those were the days when farmers dual-cropped, and there were always a few hogs living high around the barn; the poop was relatively minimal and the stench bearable (think Blue Hill at Stone Barns today). Today I’m (somewhat) amused to see everyone freaking out at the photos of industrial agriculture a friend had published in the hometown paper. Twenty-five years ago Bob and I went to the pumpkin capital of the world at the peak of the season and stood by the field thinking: This is not a harvest. It’s mechanized rape of the fields. Now we’re finally seeing the shitstorm that is the reaping of the sowing. Even if a lot of deniers can’t spell the latter.

PSA, BTW: This is one of the most intense food movies ever made.

Delta dusk

August 2016

I am way, way behind on collecting my thoughts and images from an amazing revisit to Torino, which is an entirely changed city since our last trip in 2005. But I have to share a couple of thoughts from the flights to and from. On our way over, Bob and I were seated far apart because the photo center where he was teaching had booked his travel; he worked the American gate agents hard to get us together, but we boarded with me in like 86E and him in 23E. He gently asked the woman in the aisle seat in his row if she would consider switching and she instantly snarled: “I PAID FOR THIS SEAT.” Okay, bitch. It all worked out fine because two Italian guys in two rows near Bob figured out a way to win this game of musical seats, and then the crew came through with even better seating with tons of legroom. But it really struck me how the greedy airlines and their gouging are turning passengers on passengers. I mean, it’s bad enough you have to walk through the rows of business luxury to get to steerage these days (life was better when first class was curtained off). And it’s even worse when Turdblossom is seated in one of those fuck-you-peasants seats on your homebound leg from Milan.

The better part of my recollections involves the food and beverage service. I’ll give huge props to AA for generously pouring (decent) wine from jugs rather than handing out stingy little, cluttery bottles. I’ll take back half those props for them serving “Italian” dressing with the salad with the craptastic pasta on the way home. But the LOL came just before we landed at JFK and the bitchy flight attendant was condescendingly handing out the “hot pocket.”  He offered one to my Italian seatmate, who waved it away, and got a snarky “Oh, you’ve had it before, have you?” And it was one scary slab of starch with a thin layer of processed cheese product in the middle, with so little flavor it actually verged into negative taste. This was on July 8, 2016. And the “best before” date on the box was 24 May 2017. Doomsday preppers need to fly more. . .

Water for your face, honey for your hair

April 2016

As an unabashed booster of Buffalo not least for its cuisine, I was as appalled as the restaurateur who FB’d the other day about a new food truck there by the name of Gourm-Asian. Even that, though, is not as bang-your-head-on-the-desk-worthy as a new product from one of those processed-crap conglomerates: Artesano (in big letters) style bread (finer print, hyphen omitted). How cynical could the suits be in envisioning “real Americans” wandering the Kroger aisles and stumbling upon Portlandia? Spell much?

Hiding the quesarita

March 2016

If I were prone to conspiracy-think, you’d find me walking into a Chipotle, lunging over the sneeze guard and grabbing a stack of burrito wrappers with which to craft a tinfoil toque. It really is hard to wonder if the whole scandale was not some sort of sabotage, given the glee the processed-crap media took in reporting that people claimed to be sickened by food marketed as clean. Even I never imagined the day would come when the Murdoch Crier would run a hed shaming “fresh ingredients.” Seriously? Jack-in-the-Box did much worse than inflict the squitters, and it’s still cleaning up. I’ll admit the higher-standard-bearers were a little late in confessing they’re using beef imported from Oz. But their pork integrity should still be the standard. Meanwhile, someone actually died after eating Dole greens, and there’s not a hint of Kochian outrage. No one will ever know if Chipotle’s troubles were leaf-driven, but maybe all those salad startups with megabucks could get their McComeuppance as well.

“Local farmer speaks out”

October 2015

Speaking of diets, news that kids are getting fat from too many antibiotics should be news to exactly no one who understands the food system. They fatten chickens, don’t they?

Reformable torte, now with no artificial flavor

June 2015

Maybe the wingnuts should actually want the poors to be able to buy beans with food stamps. The Cat WCTLWAFW once snared edamame at a dinner party and wound up too full to steal the magret.

Actual hed: “When E. coli becomes a biz opp”

June 2015

Apparently brown lives don’t matter much either — this story of a worker who was baked in a tuna oven, with a pittance charged as the fine, reminded me a construction worker was recently buried alive on the Pastis renovation site. And then I read another story about a day laborer in a hummus factory ground up like so many chickpeas. Upton Sinclair wrote in vain . . .

No tattoos, for a reason

April 2015

I always joke that I recognize more names lately in the paid death notices than in the socially vetted wedding announcements. One reason I scour them is to keep up as food legends fade away. The latest was our old neighborhood butcher, who was a real character who did things right back in the competitive days when every neighborhood had at least one butcher. His shop over on Broadway was very Old World, with gleaming tile and a sawdusted floor, and he was always behind the counter, wearing a bolo tie that looked doubly incongruous as soon as he started barking. The great Irene Sax summed him and his business up well in her still-invaluable “Cook’s Marketplace” in 1984: “Yes, he has prime beef, pale veal, game, does 50 percent of his business over the phone. But you don’t have to be rich to shop at his market. Specials are always posted, and his butchers are glad to sell an elderly woman a piece of Romanian tenderloin or some lamb breast. That’s why, Oppenheimer boasts, his shop is busy all summer, when other butchers go hungry because their customers are in Maine and the South of France.”

As his family said in paying to memorialize him, he was a butcher to the stars as well as to us earthbound cooks. Maybe if he had played bass on a one-hit wonder back in 1968 he would have merited a real obit.

Our most memorable encounter came the day after one Thanksgiving, when we went back to bitch that our “fresh” turkey had freezer burn. He just said, with his German brusqueness: “Take anything you want. I know you’re not trying to put one over on me.” He bought an awful lot of goodwill with a few veal cutlets. And don’t get me started on the butcher farther south who once sold us a turkey with a tumor and pretty much told us where to stuff it . . . .