Amplifying: I’m so old I lived through a whole restaurant era when Mr. Magooish Luddites could only gift each other little flashlights and credit-card-sized magnifying glasses as the lights went down and presbyopia went up on some victims’ radar. Thanks to my style-forward consort, though, I had the coolest accoutrement early on, so early on that none of the stodges among whom I worked seemed interested. Today I suspect why: A monocle is not a lorgnette. But an asshole will always be an asshole.
I’m sure I’ve ranted before that there is nothing more foul-smelling than a Subway, and I don’t mean the kind that allows the people to ride around in a hole in the ground. But suddenly the chain is looking more alluring, now that it has brought out the kkkrazies to protest its teaming up with Mrs. O to try to get kids to eat (somewhat) better. Their racist hysteria is so over-the-top you have to laugh. As you do on thinking the Big O has done it again: tricked them into either boycotting everything until they starve off or, better yet, making themselves roundup-ready for when he opens those FEMA camps.
Also to be filed under Haterade: The fury incited when a chef uses Kickstarter. It’s not as if there’s a limited supply of beneficent cash out there. Why not appeal to patrons who are willing to support you rather than settle for $4-a-month interest on a $50,000 deposit? The .01 percent may be hoarding their megabucks, but real Americans are clearly willing to underwrite farmers’ markets and goat farms and, yes, restaurants, whether for the greater good or the personal high. Banksters, as anyone who has been paying attention understands, are not exactly willing to open up their vaults for entrepreneurs in an industry with a fail record just slightly lower than man-on-dog reproduction. . .
Interesting to see the world’s most-starred chef swinging both ways: touting fresh and developing processed. I’d be more scornful if I couldn’t also see the potential, even though his partners in the deal happen to have links to Rmoney of Fail. Eons ago I did a story for Food Arts on how the negative opposite of fresh is not always frozen (think peas, just for starters). But lately fish is entering a new Ice Age that could be good for oceans, fishermen and consumers, assuming the fossil fuels hold out long enough to keep the freezers powered. Glacierized foie gras, though? J’doubt it.
Why has no one started a true reality show of chefs behaving badly? A “Virginian Hustle” scriptwriter could not come up with anything more entertaining than the tale of the chef who brought down both a governor and a “first lady” after they tried to get him to take the fall. You never want to mess with the guy who knows what you eat and how you drink. And drink. Just as amusing is the potentially litigiously unfolding tale of a chef who thought you could just make up a resume, lard it with bogus restaurants and awards and expect the Internets to STFU. Of course, there are those (ahem) who would argue that awards are generally bogus. Suddenly it’s primavera.
Consider this a confession of what a sloppy journalist I can be — I saw on my FB feed a hosanna for a new book devoted to cooking in your dishwasher and am now just going to trash it without delving deeper. My first thought was that the “pitch” was derriere- backward: “You can clean your dishes and cook dinner at the same time.” My second was that I really hoped author/agent/editor/fact-checker all understand food science at a very deep level, with “canning jars and vacuum-seal bags” involved. (Shall I mention one of the great lessons of restaurant school, that sautéed onions left overnight under a cover on a griddle can kill with botulism?) My third, saddest reaction was the reading the excitement that “it’s with a major publisher.” How long till we get “Mix Your Margarita With a Cat on a Roomba, in a Super-Lucha Cape”?
And I know yellowcake in the mushroom cloud set a low bar for what qualifies as front-page news, but was there really a day when a mayor not shoving pizza into his pie hole with his hands merited a refer and story? As MoDo went on to show, this was the BFestD with pizza since Bill Clinton stuck a cigar where the sun don’t shine Amid all the ridiculousness, I wondered why no one noted the new Fed boss was also photographed eating her slice politely. Of course that shot turned up in a magazine now notorious for cluelessness on the food front. Its “kohlrabi is the new kale” idiocy was like a tree falling in the forest and the pines sacrificed for paper silently weeping.
This odd, dispiriting, dispirited but “ain’t ancient hippies cool!” piece should have been headlined Funereal Is the New Modern for Farmers. But it did contain one valuable nugget. “An Oregon seed farmer” notes that he got into that corner of the business because he saw “seed was the key to wealth and independence.” Whatever else you think about the GMO issue, know that the key to Big Ag’s patent&destroy strategy is exactly that: Control the seeds and you control everything. (Sorry — nothing funny about it.)
Bodega had a handwritten sign for Clif bars. F looked like T. // Worst abomination yet: “Panino’s.” // The fuck — putting a Wienermobile ad before Werner’s “Abyss”? // New game after “Thousand Island or Pepto-Bismol” is “XXX or Martha.” // I never mind being the most geriatric person in the room at food events. Hate it when olds ask me if the sidewalk is too slippery. // Italian somm friend in late 80s always lamented Americans wanted only insipid pinot grigio. Clearly, we’ve come a long way. // You know who also wasn’t a chef? James Beard. // I suspect MFK is glad not to be around to have to read entries in any contest named after her. . . // I saw what you did there: “Sitting around on Sunday? Make pork butt.” // And as some Monty Python character must have said: At least I never had to make listicles.
Funny to see the tree-testicle industry stealing a page from the faux cheese playbook to drum up demand in advance of Big Biz’s brain-busting event this month. How gullible do they think consumers are? Since you can’t hoard this particular fruit, panic buying this far out is only going to result in guacamole negro. What’s next? A Coors shortage because the piss may be running dry?
The tongue bath for the down-on-his-fancy-restaurants teevee chef reminds me I never got around to spilling this bile, drafted before I went off the grid for too many weeks:
Maybe 10 years ago or so, I picked up the intercom in my office and my consort’s studio manager said Charlie Trotter was on the line. All these years on, I still remember being shocked. I called him. He never called me.
And what a call it was. He wanted to warn me the food coven was out for my scalp after my review of a cookbook by one of their icons, who they did not feel was properly idolized. They had asked him to sign their lynch note, but he had picked up the phone instead. And so I am at the guilt level of dealing with his death. When he was trashed by a little prick at the biggest-clout paper in the country, I did not pick up the phone and give him my support. I figured he would roll with whatever the fallout was because he was, after all, Charlie Trotter, chef super-hero.
But I’m writing this here and now to get on the record what an asshole that little prick was. When the nothingburger I am once mentioned him by name here on this barely read site, he lost his shit completely. I got an ugly email from him, one even my seen-it-all consort thought was around the bend.
So his fee-fees were very delicate. But he had no problem going onto the battlefield and shooting the wounded for his own aggrandizement. Thanx allah for my biggest fan, who Tweeted about the shabbiness of the treatment one of the most revolutionary chefs in history was subjected to by a newspaper that once prided itself on integrity. And we were not the only ones with elephant memories. From what I hear, Mr. Thin Skin is very lucky he was not a fly on the wall at the after-funeral drinking sessions. To quote one DM: “Yea… That guy was all biz until the real biz gave him heat…I tell u one thing people yesterday have not forgotten nor will they.” I also heard “many folks wrote NYT last year regarding the horrible story.” [At least this new “chef not left behind” piece shows our editors is learning.]
I think my first Tweet after hearing Charlie had died was that he had always been great to me even back when my first Siamese’s name was better known than my own. You could call what he did media manipulation, but I prefer to think of of it as mutual respect. He took care of his own. (Or so I hope.) The two or three days I spent collaborating on a series of “Chef” columns with him for the NYTimes were beyond mind-blowing. I came home convinced he was worthy of a New Yorker profile (and what did I ever do about pitching that?) The guy started out as a gymnast. And drove a hyperexpensive sports car (not sure if it was a Jaguar in 2002) on which the driver’s side door did not work. He had so many quirks and contradictions. But he was a singular human being who will live on in my memory till I lose the last bit of that. As he does in the great book his best pal has written.
So I came home from yet another night of yelling and “huhing?” across the table while youngs whooped and hollered in a restaurant, only to find my Twitterstream flashing neon over @alineababy. I’m so jaded I didn’t even click through to read what the shitstorm in a linen Pamper was all about. I just took the opportunity to note that bad parenting/dining is nuthin new. As I’m sure I’ve posted before, my consort and I had our pilgrimage to Jean-Louis at the Watergate shat upon 20-some years ago because a sanctity-of-marriage duo brought their infant to dinner and chose to let the poor creature shriek through our many courses. The waiter commiserated with our lamentation that surely no one who could afford a dinner at that price could not also find a babysitter, but what was he supposed to do? I came home and pinned the receipt to the bulletin board in my office for many years because I thought we needed to be reminded we could have flown to Paris for the price of that disrupted meal. I remember nothing of what we ate, but that might be because I had to ingest through clenched jaws. So, for everyone lamenting the decline of civilization, be aware: Like the poor, over-privileged assholes will always be with us. . .
I’ve admitted before: I read crazy people. So I was quite curious to see what the wingnuts had to say about the news that butter consumption is way up, to a level not seen in 40 years. And I’m not being sarcastic in saying I’m shocked, shocked. The odd (or is that redundant?) commenter tried to spin the story into a full-gutted victory over “the nanny state,” but of course those idjits don’t know their lard history (a k a: Big Food rules). But mostly I was heartened to sense the divide between Faux News consumers and sane Americans might not be so wide after all. They know what’s good, why and how to use it. I just hope they never see this. Or they’ll be scouring kitchen history for how to spit-roast butter.
Maybe I have eaten/shopped in too many real-world joints. But somehow I suspect California’s new law requiring food handlers’ hands to be encased in latex is not gonna make anything better. Hands get washed. Gloves, I have seen too often, go into bathrooms and come back out to serve again.
Any restaurant review in Harlem really should acknowledge that “the neighborhood” is not what the cliché would have you think. But if you arrive at the next hot spot by commuter car rather than A train or shank’s mare, of course you’ll mourn for all the church ladies shut out of the fried guinea hen.