So much for the debunking of the idiocy that wives of Presidents actually cook. Mrs. Chimp, pimping the Skankier Twin’s wedding and flogging “their” book, actually took to the teevee to fix some food. I can’t imagine how it went over in Mother’s home, but I’m sure everyone panic-buying rice at Costco appreciated the message: Let ’em eat oyster po’ boys.
Speaking of the most magical city in America, something about the place brings out the most craven impulses in Republicans. The Chimp is like a dog with its own vomit, going back to the mess he caused over and over. And now his Wannabe has the gall to strut around bombasting away about how he would have come right to the aid of a drowning city — ignoring all the images of what exactly he and his pal were doing on the disastrous day: posing with a birthday cake. His message to the media seems to be let ’em eat shit.
And speaking of rice rationing, call me cynical, but I’m starting to wonder if all the food shortages are not being pumped up by Big Food just to make genetically modified crops more inevitable. None of this happened overnight, but it’s being covered like a hurricane. And so that ridiculousness of People for the Harassment of Carnivores’ offering a reward for the development of in vitro beef got way more press than it warranted. I remember the international media ejaculation over the first test tube baby and suspect that if they manage to replicate the “miracle” with meat they’ll give it a name. Which of course will bring everything full circle, judging by the cute-animal brochure a vegan handed me at the Greenmarket. One quote: “If I knew you, I wouldn’t eat you.” I guess that’s why cannibals have no friends. And MoDo is bitter.
Groffoto down Philadelphia way tipped me off to a little item on his teevee about condoms for restaurant pagers — apparently some people actually worry about germs on them, and where there’s no need there’s a huckster to fill it. I always laugh when I see the covers or disinfectants for handles on shopping carts in the grocery store. For some reason the freaked and fastidious never worry about the filth on their lucre. From a bum’s fecal pocket to your Purelled hands. . . .
Metro must be already outsourcing its reporting to Bangalore, judging by the story on the shutdown of construction on the restaurant pavilion in Union Square. Could an actual New Yorker (reporter or editor, even one from Montclair) have let into print the understatement “where a popular greenmarket has been situated for several years”? Forget the fact that the G word should be capitalized, and overlook the peculiar need to explain the obvious. But since when does 32 years qualify as “several”? Kumar, get me rewrite.
One of my sources says fixes are being downsized as part of the purge at the Taj Sulzberger, which may explain why half the stories I slog through have at least one glitch (more and more on the front page). First I read about the “complementary” treats for dogs at a cafe in the park, then there was an op-ed reference to the “complementary” potato chips HIllary served supporters. Eons ago I remember filing a freelance story in which I mentioned complimentary appetizers at a restaurant in Virginia. I opened my paper to find it changed to complementary and complained to Big Al. Who wrote back to say the best solution was to use the shorter, less pretentious word: free. He’s gone, everyone’s taking buyouts or being purged and the lesson was clearly never learned. Last copy editor out, please turn on the Spell Check.
(And you would think, with the country overrun with Mexicans no border can keep out, high-paid reporters could learn a little bit about the food. In a piece on calorie counts at Chipotle, a diner is described as “dipping his nacho into his burrito.” Would that be a tortilla chip, by chance?)
This year Enron on 12th Street should dole out a special award, for most shameless self-promotion in catering to the papal piehole. The spirit-moved one might win for sheer volume; every day the self-congratulation masked as “Benny loves me, this I know” was ramped up worse. But the “devoted” guy down in DC may have beat her by placing his own piece in the Post recounting all the ways he had brought Prada-red coals to Newcastle — plates specially made in Italy, food just the way the Vatican chef does it. Not only was it silly, it was unseemly. The Pope is not exactly Britney (although, as Bill Maher pointed out, they both have underwear issues). I just wonder which restaurateur got the autographed head shot to hang in the window.
I owe my grocer friend with the unfortunate wingnut tendencies a big favor for steering me to the most brilliant food piece in donkeys’ years: Nathanael Johnson’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized” in Harper’s. Whatever you think you know about raw milk, this will take you to about 14 higher levels. We spend all our time treating bacteria as WMD when they clearly exist for a good reason. Two great quotes from fully drawn characters: “Cheap food makes for expensive health care.” And: “Nature is dangerous, yes. But I can’t control it, and I can’t escape from it. I can only learn the best way to live with it.” Suffice it to say, that doesn’t mean with “probiotic” yogurt. Herd cows away from the grass they are intelligently designed to eat and before you know it humans are ballooning on corn converted into syrup. . . .
One of T.C. Boyle’s best stories (which is saying something) is “Top of the Food Chain,” in which cats are dropped onto an island to eat the rats that took it over after the lizards brought in to eradicate an infestation of insects were wiped out. I get something of the same uneasy feeling reading about the brave and noble women who are going to save an island by baking cakes now that their watermen are looking at an increasingly depleted Chesapeake Bay. It’s the feel-good story of the hour, but somehow I doubt switching from perishable crabs to baked perishables is exactly going to work when flour, butter and eggs are getting more expensive by the minute. The only thing more misguided might be rice cakes. With ethanol frosting.
Maybe it’s because I’m not an $8 million-a-year talking head, but I can’t wait for an elitist to take back the White House kitchen. It was bad enough that the Chimp served hot dogs to Father Time; those are what that old fart feeds his friends from the press plane. But to offer Gordon Brown a hamburger? No wonder the Pope passed on dinner.
Speaking of the guy in the dress, this recovering Catholic noticed Molto’s partners certainly did a tap dance in basking in publicity while “protecting papal privacy,” with stories published on both the menus and the family wines. Only hints were given of the former, but they did include a mention of the Istrian chef using “local, seasonal vegetables.” I went to Union Square the day of one dinner and came home thrilled to have bought ramps and spinach. If she found asparagus, favas and baby string beans, that’s a miracle bigger than loaves and fishes.
As for the purloined recipe kerfuffle, it looks to have been good for all concerned. With luck, voters will no longer have to be force-fed bullshit cookies now that a chef who would know has pulled back the curtain on the big lie that any amateur cooks once she gets staff. And the Bud heiress was able to distract attention away from that little junkie episode when she stole drugs from her own charity. If there’s any outrage to be had, it’s why a mega-fortune from ketchup was sold as being somehow effetely un-American but one derived from beer makes the beneficiary jes’ folks. I’m sure a consultant could make up a good answer with arugula and granola and get it played big. . . .
Is it just me, or has hostility become longhand for host? My consort and I stopped at Q Bar on a whim early one evening and the suit at the front mumbled: “We have no availability.” What? That’s more verbosely ridiculous than “fully committed.” And a “sorry” wouldn’t have killed him. Then there was the teeth-clenching woman manning the door at Bouchon who looked to be one Uzi away from a postal incident. Separating the paying customers from the rigidly arranged tables in a mall can’t be any more fun than getting dressed up in a suit to stand at a silly podium and mumble all night. But if you’re that miserable-to-condescending, there are better jobs out there. Flack with spelling deficiencies, say (I got an e-release touting 10 questions for “Rachel”) or with fusion confusion (tortilla chips topped with crab, avocado and salsa are not “taco bites” — they’re nachos, for crap’s sake). And just as I was typing this, an e-mess landed that inspired a whole new verb: dracking, for catapulting the propaganda after a little too much vodka. What else would explain “fresh hunky potato salad.” Do you fork it or fuck it?
Now that the NYTimes expose on spokesPinocchios has made it sickeningly clear why we’re staying in Iraq — to launder money for GoFuckYourself’s contractor cronies — beef is looking even scarier than ever. The WSJ, whose new owner should be covering up the E. coli, actually ran this headline: Meat Inspectors Can’t Keep Up, Official Says. As the story elaborated, the USDA is “so understaffed that some inspectors are assigned to as many as 24 plants.” And worse. Meanwhile, we have billions and billions to squander far from the land of cheap food. Don’t get me started on the whimpering for the poor children separated from their moms in a wacko religious cult in the Chimp’s wacko state while not a word is heard about the offspring of illegal immigrants rounded up in raids on slaughterhouses and packing plants. When the roll is finally called wherever it’s called, America is going to have some serious ’splaining to do about 99-cent burgers in a drive-through world. But to paraphrase the Language-Mangler in Chief, who cares about hell? We’ll all be dead.
Some weeks I can’t get invited to the opening of an envelope, let alone yet another celebration of yet another bogus set of awards. And then there are stretches of five days where I start out at a downtown soiree that would make Dawn Powell envious and wind up sucking dessert out of a rubber tit, with a little Robuchon tossed in for good measure in between. Fete No. 1 was in honor of our friends Dr. Bugs and his new bride, Lady Bugs, who were married on Easter Island in a Vows experience apparently deemed unworthy of glass cubicle notice — maybe because they were (barely) wearing native garb rather than Marc Jacobs. Their best-selling novelist friend provided the dramatic SoHo venue for a dumplings-to-duck Chinese buffet (I am a total sucker for crab Rangoon), with superb mezze from Sahadi’s (I’d forgotten hummus could have flavor) and Chilean wine in seemingly bottomless bottles. Everyone I talked to was fascinating, whether the crinolined ex of a famous fromagier or the 76-year-old Explorers Club member who instantly recognized the porn star in the room.
After a day off to recover, I suited up and headed over to Atelier for a small press lunch with a hotelier who is opening a Japanese joint with the JR of France. Oddly enough, food insecurity did not come up in conversation, although “elephant polo” did, which made it very hard to worry about the ducks that gave their diseased livers for our starter and our stuffed quail. Babar was not meant to play in rich men’s games.
A book party for a friend who has just published one on “fiber farms” was almost as surreal, at a yarn shop in the West Village (babies and wine always strike me as an unsettling combination). But nothing compared to the festa where I hooked up with a friend and really wished I had wangled an invite for my consort and his camera. This was a design/food thing that started strangely, with all the guests corralled near a tiny bar dispensing Bellinis, and ended downright bizarrely. It was a cross between a scrum and a Jewish wedding, with the hordes swarming the tables once screens were pulled back and the concepts explained. The actual dishes dictated the cooked dishes, so we were treated in one instance to a little metal tube, like one for lipstick, packed with a tuna mixture that was meant to be pushed up as you nibbled. Another was a cold pea soup served in a little cup with a handle for your finger; Russian salad came in a plastic cube for some reason. At one point I looked at the empty containers on our bar table and thought it could be a bad morning at the gynecologist’s. But it got weirder, with the aforementioned dessert packed in a condom-like baggie attached to a rubber breast. The idea was to pump the mousse through the nipple into your mouth. It had its moment, but the image I will need brain bleach to remove is of a roomful of guys of all ages blissfully suckling. I always thought Dennis Kucinich was right in advocating a Department of Peace to replace the warmongering one. Now I know exactly what would make it work — the replacement of MREs with Tits, Ready to Suck.