Only because the soulless Chimp has managed to cow the media into never showing the human horrors of his Operation Endless War, almost the most depressing image I spotted over Memorial Day weekend was the photo op of him promoting American exports. The sad little piles in front of his lectern made his 23 percent approval rating look huge — the only thing grimmer is that rusting old bridge you see from Amtrak with the sorry sign reading: “Trenton makes, the world takes.” If cabbages are our great green hope, we’re down to some seriously slim pickings from the fruited plains.
One question has finally been definitively answered: Who do you have to blow to get overkill coverage in this town? In the same week when no less an authority than the National Register of Historic Places was warning that the Lower East Side is in danger of extinction by developers, did the world really need a longer-than-“War and Peace” elegy to a relic in a neighborhood that was already lost? And it’s not as if the joint actually left a food legacy — I kinda doubt brunchers a century from now will be ordering Eggs Florent. Compare and contrast the silly loquaciousness with the snide stories in the same birdcage liner on any number of landmarks surrendered to rising rents, greed and the reality that this city is snakelike in its ability to shed a layer and come back meaner. Can you say Gage & Tollner, La Cote Basque etc? But into every dark tragedy a little sunlight must shine: At least readers were spared a restaurant review. Then again, that makes me wonder if the bean counters realize this little reality: Take it away one week and fewer people are likely to drop a dollar next week.
Panchito also earns the gold medal in logrolling for his online ode to a book by the friend of a too-good friend. I had taken to calling her the Drivelist, but then I started getting emails wondering if something more un-Timesian was afoot. This, for instance, arrived in all caps and boldfaced in my subject line: “Is (she) coming right out and saying her trips are free?” Funny, though, that the best solution might be what my consort has been advocating for years, since he used to shoot for British publications with writers perfectly comfortable with their system: Take the handouts, acknowledge them and just tell the truth. But that would require a collection of thoughts not easily evident in an extended headnote that your batty aunt might have written after a junket. Then again, if life gives you only wine ads, make wine copy.
I can’t read my scribbles on where I spotted this, but it has to be the next hot thing: Hairloom tomatoes. Weave ’em into your salad — or onto your incredible expanding pate. It was almost as good as the sign at the Haagen-Dazs across from Needle Park: “Free water with every cone.” What’s next? Free air with every $12 shake? Napkins with every sorbet?
Over at the incipient satellite operation I have a link to how the idiocy of beer-can chicken has morphed into something far, far worse. Worse even than the garlic roaster I spotted at Zabar’s, in fact (what, you can’t operate aluminum foil?) Now comes the counter clutter Bloomingdale’s is advertising — a machine that dispenses beer on tap. This has to be something conceived in the so-called Office of Special Plans. For the Chimp you’d like to have a brewski with. Flat beer will be greeted with flowers. And please, how soon can they introduce the pretzel maker?
One of my Paris correspondents offered excellent condolences on my passing up a night at Benoit: It’s the Mickey D of bistros, coming soon to Vegas and Dubai. But then the Eiffel Tower has been co-opted around the world. Why not a one-of-a-kind restaurant? The good news is that high-flying chefs may actually be solving a bigger problem. If they build replicas in every city, we will never have to strip down in the security line to jet off to the real deal ever again. A Bulli at every intersection? Bring ’em on!
One more justification for hoping we will all be dead when history starts taking attendance: The NYTimes story on privileged kids too busy to eat because they feel compelled to power through to college, defiling the temple at every lunchtime. If they stopped to smell the cafeteria pizza, they might realize this is a race to the bottom. Knock yourselves out, kiddos. Ain’t no jobs out here. Unless it’s going into low-end medicine and taking care of all the children growing up on poor diets right now. Substitute “food” for “feet” in that old saying about complaining about no shoes and see what you conjure.
No wonder schools in America now teach nothing but how to pass a test, though. If kids learned math, they would have to be diapered from cradle to Reaganhood, because the future really is the shitz. Just think about the fact that Burger Death recently settled its dispute with farmworkers in Florida by grudgingly agreeing to an increase of a penny a pound for tomatoes picked. One penny. As in: The coin most elitists think should simply be discontinued. And the other half-cent-a-pound goes to the negotiators. Somehow this makes it less surprising to read that fast food chains are struggling to hold the line on dollar meals when the price of cheese is soaring (and — face it — what lies down with Whoppers is about 6,000 degrees removed from real Cheddar). The one constant is beef, cheap as shit (excuse me: as E. coli). And what’s even more wrong with this picture? Already immigrants have solid reasons to be very, very scared. But if they ever stop and think about why they are being rounded up from slaughterhouses so aggressively lately, they, too, will need to be diapered. Halliburton can get away with building unusable detention camps in Iraq. Here they might actually work.
If there’s any consolation for the degradation of the news business, it has to be the fact that flacks are debasing themselves even faster. How much did the one who sent this out get for her soul? Within hours of Ted Kennedy’s receiving his death sentence, she actually offered a cancer expert available for an interview. It was like Ghouls Gone Wild. But what does this have to do with food, you may ask? I had the same question. These people must get paid by the inappropriate overture.
Speaking of flacks, I kept hearing that stupid country song, “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille,” while scanning the e-release on how the snootiest of British food purveyors is finally opening an outlet in the United Colonies. Somehow mustard priced like caviar sounds like “with four hungry babies and the crops in the field.” Already I’ve found Zabar’s has replaced the wondrous fresh lasagne sheets from Italy with clunky, gummy stuff made closer to home, apparently for price reasons. Even for those of us fortunate to love subways more than gas fumes, this is now officially a populace under de facto rationing. And a $24 jar of jam sounds as reasonable as a $175 burger.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the one mission actually accomplished in the last seven years has been the vanquishing of the English language. I actually heard a newscaster referring to “food insecurity” among the cyclone and earthquake victims. When raging hunger escalates to rampant starvation, will it be “calorie deprivation” on the BBC?
News that McDonald’s has gotten rid of trans fats (unless you read the fine print) is also pretty laughable. I never thought those were what made the “food” so bad for you. It’s like a heroin addict boasting about giving up coffee (or a Chimp sacrificing golf). On the same page of the WSJ that I read that, though, I also saw that Mr. Flay has finally achieved superstardom, as the instructor at the mayonnaise school. He’s actually pretty good, and not just because Hellmann’s is my own private heroin (something I would have to stop saying if I got paid). At least shilling for a comestible makes more sense than this bizarre new trend of placing chefs and restaurateurs in ads for banks and investment companies. I always think of the food world as being as profitable as Branford Marsalis famously said jazz is: How do you make a million? Start with two. To which I would add: Would you buy a used broker from this realm?
The award for worst “Are You Shitting Me?” e-release has to go to the one touting a Father’s Day booze-and-golf package priced at a mere $118,000. But I know just who should spring for it. The lying Sacrificer in Chief must have enough ill-gotten gains from his insane war by now to buy 4,080 of them for the dads who won’t get to have a beer with their kids this June. To him and his blood-sucking overlord, that’s just Chimp change.
Second prize would go to the business improvement district that’s staging a chefs-on-parade event to raise money to pretty up the streetscape while so many people are taking it in the gut thanks to cyclones, earthquakes, drought and greed (you know evildoers are making money off rice big-time right now). I’m all for nicer trash cans on every corner, and I’m as happy as the next Isabellaed-out denizen to have better eating options within walking distance, but $100 to $1,000 for tidbits under a tent seems a little excessive when Haitians are down to dirt for dinner. I’m not surprised to see Mr. Maroon billed as “special honoree.” But how in restaurant hell did someone who wants her legacy to be mobile meals get roped into this parochial exercise in onanism?
From up-close and personal experience I know rats are the Al Capones of the food world. Why do they infest bakeries? Because that’s where the sugar is. So the news on the NYC Health Department’s shutdowns of some famous cookie outlets was not exactly surprising. I remember we always had to leave one tray of shortbread uncovered at night because the owner figured the resident vermin would choose the easy dinner over gnawing through plastic film. Now it turns out it’s another way of saying: Leave the droppings. Take the cannoli.