I only watched “Top Chef” a couple of times, and only because I had to, for a story. But I think that was often enough to know these showmen are not exactly selected for their mastery of the art of cooking — Julia must spin every night the inanity is on. Whatever that circus is about, it is not about learning technique, purchasing, thinking on any level. But now I see a couple of the contestants are going to be “teaching” in New York. As I’m typing, I am being aurally pummeled by the 65th rendition of one of the only two Santana songs an over-amped band can play at a street festival three avenues away. Anyone who signs up for this “instruction” should be sentenced to fry mozzarepas in hell.
I know I heard this on the radio, but the Google is pretending it never happened, so I am going to rant anyway. The short segment was on baking your own bread — how wonderful, how simple, how cheap it can be in these cash-strapped times. One of the closing lines was that a loaf from scratch will cost 25 cents. Maybe in some alternate universe. Yeast these days is at least $3 for three envelopes, and you will have to open at least one. And has Mr. Frugalbaker been shopping for flour lately? A pound costs what five did not so long ago. Better advice would be to spin gold into flax.
When my usually super-efficient ophthalmologist kept me waiting nearly an hour, the only consolation was getting to plow through stacks of magazines I never see, most of them recent. I can’t believe the Jersey Shore is still being discovered (oy, as they say in Charleston), but I was more amazed by the jaw-droppingly stupid story in Newsweek about the recent flurry of books recounting extreme eating odysseys. Could anyone really think Julia Child, MFK Fisher and Alice Waters were all contemporaneously “writing” about their eating epiphanies in Europe? Someone should start a new soap opera centered on food media in the age of so many buyouts of institutional memory: The Young and the Clueless.
In a similar vein, I was pretty amazed to read the blackening of White Lily’s reputation using such fair-and-balanced evidence. When I think of a blind test, I imagine rules and witnesses and, maybe, ya think?, science? To let two obviously prejudiced bakers have at it in unwatched kitchens strikes me as a bit, shall we say, un-Timesian? The most unsettling part was having a paid spokesperson turn on the new product with no disclosure of whether said spokesperson had any millstone to grind. As often as I think I was born at the right time, I do wonder why I had to sit through so many shitstorms over far more innocuous pieces just a Saran Wrap away. Being an editor in the high-tech chicken coop these days must feel like listening to an endless loop of Bruce Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere” — Is there anyone alive out there?
At least I read the whole damn floury mess, a feat I could not replicate with the green, green garlic of confusion. But at least I tried. Most people who brought it up raved about the recipes before admitting they had not read a single word of the babble. So I guess this is an improvement over the British Bosom, who also filed stream-of-consciousness with no proofreading, but did it with recipes as well as “stories.” And sometimes crimes are so egregious they can only be punished with quotations. As the inimitable Trex would say (and did say about someone else): “She’s not so much a writer as a serial killer of ideas.” Stick a stake through her laptop.
And of course it is not only the copy-edited who disseminate shit. Consider just a few gleanings from my writeme inbox. I got an e-release touting a restaurant with its address omitted but the flack’s bold-faced, not to mention a misspelling of ragu (the six-letter word goes not on pasta but into a French oven). I got another talking about a restaurant having a “modern flare” and saying classic Italian specialties can be “transformed into gastronomical creations” (which came first, the birth or the makeover?) I am also not sure I would want a meatball that has been roasted for six hours unless I were a golfer, although I do love the idea that you can “heat up, serve and impress” the thing (dinner is always what I want to dazzle). And if you are going to make French fries to seduce kids, why in the hell call them pommes frites? Finally, when you want to promote cupcakes in LA, I think you mean “begone.” Use two words after “hot dog carts” and it sounds like ghetto English. And they ain’t be coming back.
As always when the Chimp goes jackassing overseas, there’s a depressingly ridiculous moment, and this one came when he started blathering about German asparagus. It’s not surprising he would be taken with it considering it lives the way he does, head buried in the sand. I just cringe to think what his reaction was when it arrived, not green but ghostly, as if his grandfather had underwritten it.
The only reason I ever set foot into Duane Reade is to use the Chase cash machine rather than gimping all the way over to Broadway, so I always feel like an Estonian in my first supermarket — there’s so much stuff in one place in this neighborhood dominated (so far) by independents in tight quarters. Lately I’m feeling so cheap I waited behind two other users rather than surrendering two bucks to Banco Popular, and so I had lots of time to scan the merchandise. Which is how I spotted Natural Cheetos. Could there be a more absurd oxymoron? I actually went to the web site to see what might make them qualify and am still mystified (is it the expeller-pressed oil?) But not as baffled as I am by a crazier question: Considering who the biggest consumers are (literally and figuratively), why would you use that word as a selling point? Aren’t all those guys sitting in their moms’ basements typing in their adult diapers more likely to respond to Intelligent Design Cheetos?
Speaking of weightism, I can only hope the latest Time magazine makes the thin-skinned fat-is-fine crowd reconsider just a skosh, although I’m doubtful given how Dick Cavett was slammed on the NYTimes blogs for mentioning classmates at his 50th-year reunion at Yale were not lumbering. But the stories on childhood obesity in the new issue make it very clear that more than aesthetics is in play here — one shows very graphically how avoirdupois affects not just joints, heart, liver and other vitals but also the brain. And kids have no say in the fatter. But as good as the whole thing was, my cynical side has to note that this was the fattest Time since my consort re-upped his subscription. Why? Nearly every other page is an ad for some “healthful” processed food. And snacks is snacks, sugar free or not.
Don’t mess with Panchito and his posse — it gives him double incentive to dredge up his inner A.A. Gill wannabe. This was the week that was for bloggers scooping dead trees. And for from-pink-lips-to-gray-pages payback. If the stock gets any lower, they’ll have to start running press releases.
We’ve come a long way from those scary old days of duct tape in every room, judging by the reaction to the media-induced killer-tomatoes frenzy. CNN’s poll the other day showed respondents were about equally split on giving up the salmonella balls in wake of the news that our bureaucrats have let us down once again. This story has yet to unfold completely, but what’s fascinating me is how a whole food group was condemned when increasingly it looks as if the problem was what it so often is: One “restaurant” chain. We need a new Agatha Christie to write food who-dun-its. Was it the tomato or the egg, or the spinach or the cantaloupe? But that series wouldn’t last long. The culprit would always be greed. Enjoy your 99-cent burger while you can.
I’m sure I totally annoyed all the photographer friends to whom I forwarded a very funny blog post about the worst job in the world: microstock reviewer, that poor sucker who has to sort through all those quadrillions and quadrillions of super-shitty photos submitted for sale online for literally pennies. But now I see there is actually something emerging that is far worse. The Guardian says a chips-and-chemicals producer is running competitions for amateur ads. The latest winner was made for less than 10 pounds (not exactly chimp change: that’s almost 20 bucks, U.S.) “Bet you can’t eat just one” transmogrified by entrants internationally sounds like a call to Dr. Kevorkian.
How can one section produce something as amazing as a graphic look at real estate hell in the age of avarice less than a week after publishing the most inane local story since I wrote about a purple martin apartment house in Iowa more than half a lifetime ago? I assume everyone else was wondering which Rubeville they were living in on waking up to find their hometown paper driveling about a drunk who wanders into a bar and can’t get back out. Come on! The guy could be president with those instincts.
Smarter commentators than I have had their say on the live-blogging that went on at the Enron on 12th Street awards. We can only hope the perpetrators are not credentialed for either presidential convention this summer. But right now I’m wondering how pathetic you would have to be to be sitting home at your computer waiting for the latest Kim Cattrall utterance to be transcribed. No one is a bigger defender than I am of food as the third most important thing in life (after air and water). But this is only rock and roll. And it’s silly.
I always used to say the best steak I ever had outside Spain was a slab o’ buffalo at the Bridge Cafe way back in the last century. Because I’m not a “real” food person, though, I can also admit that flesh from non-cows does make me queasy, so I have to say I don’t exactly seek out the other red meat. Even so, the Harper’s story on the savage efforts by cattle ranchers around Yellowstone to wipe out the last descendants of the beasts that were here when Columbus landed is sickening. If the argument is not ironclad, the descriptions of the bison themselves and their indigenous world are heartbreaking. Read it and shit (from salmonella and E. coli).