Call this “when the dew is on the tarte Tatin.” In an unnerving week for food phrasing, I saw pate goose. And oxtail beef. And I got a propaganda-catapulting email wondering if I knew quinoa was a plant product (as opposed to what, a funeral wail?) But on the serious side, I wonder if the weird wording of “pate goose” had anything to do with fear of foie gras — you can’t say anything these days without setting off the liver fascists. But I do have to admit I’m even more than normally astonished that a New York City councilman would take up the faux foie cause when kids are getting beaten to death in their foster homes and building inspectors are apparently taking bribes and cranes are falling and hungry old homebound people are getting shafted. Sure, raise our property taxes to send more inspectors out to be sure the hyper-rich can’t have an indulgence. Now that Chicago has given up the ghost of goose pate, do we really want to be the second city?
Seeing Mrs. Chimp roboting around the land of the un-routed Taliban in her inappropriate ’Lil Kim outfit (all those ill-gotten gains and she can’t afford a tailor?) was a sickening reminder that we have a week of international embarrassment ahead with her lame fuck in Eutopia. All those state dinners and so few table manners. . . .
A very scholarly friend tipped me off to the latest silliness in the cat food aisle: Chicken Tuscany. And Turkey Tuscany. Not to mention Yellowfin Tuna Tuscany. No steak, of course, and each includes rice, not pasta. Even dumber, the line is “restaurant inspired.” By the Olive Garden, I guess. (Oh, for the good old days when we had Mamma Leone to kick around.) Shouldn’t the slogan be “under the Tuscan tin”?
So much cyber-ink has been squandered on the most craven comment-seeking story since the crotch-level steak that I hate to even mention it. (Again.) But as the e-dust settles, it’s pretty clear that it was an IQ test, and most respondents failed. Not only are people unable to do the math to cut a yield, they think equipment is a required ingredient. One of the best stories ever in a food magazine was the one on the two most essential tools in the kitchen: Your hands. Now, of course, they’re just used for typing evidence that your head needs feeding.
I also wasn’t so convinced we should think like a chef after reading 30 lessons from them. I was most surprised Lord Thomas recommends bacon made from any old hogs when you can really taste the difference with the heritage kind. And any chef who cares more about carrots than the environment probably should keep it to himself. One thing that does not belong in the kitchen is a disposable razor. Buy that guy a scrub brush if he’s so anal he thinks babies need skinning.
Might be time for another story on chefs’ blogs now that I have seen my first shlog. I can’t imagine what reason but huckstering there would be for the “so French” Eric Ripert of Andorra to be devoting “his” first two posts to cooking in a toaster oven. By now I should know you can’t believe everything you see on the internets, though. One of the most persistent search strings for Gastropoda is “Bobby Flay bad-mouthing Hellmann’s.” With Rachaelesque rumors like that going around, he should be very careful about his neckwear.
A larger-than-vida chef friend was astonished that the head of Enron on 12th Street did not know who she was. It didn’t surprise me one whit. The job is not about familiarizing yourself with the players. It’s about rigging the game.
Then a cookbook editor friend was looking glum about the business, but that didn’t surprise me, either. When Tony Danza actually gets published, you know it’s grim in Recipeland. Rather than sharing his meatballs, shouldn’t he be dancing with the stars?
I know food magazine advertising is meant to get you to stop and stare rather than read what you bought the damn thing for in the first place. But the trend toward portraying meat as the nasty bits left after an amputation gone awry is still unsettling. I saw a really gruesome beef thing showing what looked to be scabs of cow. Why? Your guess is better than mine. And another one headlined “pork & nail polish” made me read every word of copy to try to figure out not just why those words were juxtaposed but what exactly those skinned penis parts above them were. Apparently you can use Smithfield’s frozen finest to fix a run in your stockings. Or something. Bring back the GE Profile kitchens with the chubbies chasing themselves in the stainless-steel mirrors. . .
Who needs terrorists when we have the FDA? Now there’s salmonella in raw tomatoes. In 16 states. I’m notoriously bad at math, but I think that’s close to a third of the country? The NYTimes helpfully points out that the problem is with “raw, uncooked tomatoes.” Whatever that means, it is clear that whoever catapults the propaganda for the fruit eaten as a vegetable has been super-careful to manage the message. Rather than admitting most of the cottonballs being eaten out of season are at risk, every story dutifully reports the types considered safe. I know I’m sounding beyond monotonous, but can someone remind me why we are spending $500,000 a minute in Iraq when the bigger threat is a gutted agency charged with overseeing so much of the “homeland” food supply? And to think idiots worry about eggs anymore. Of course, sentient minds might wonder why the FDA is wrestling with what is clearly a USDA problem, but that might be unpatriotic. Maybe Obama can set up a new agency regulating only arugula.
I also interrupted my gainfully unemployed week to schlep to a lunch promoting Rick Moonen’s new book on sustainable seafood. You can forgive him cooking in the eco-disaster that is Las Vegas when you hear him speak so passionately about voting with your wallet (I went straight to Pescatore across the terminal and bought farmed arctic char for dinner afterward). And he is very good on his feet when addressing seafood for dummies. He noted that when the government gets involved in regulating the oceans, as just happened when the Pacific salmon fishery was shut down for the first time ever, all it means is that it is five years too late. And he did make me very happy that the right-wing crazies who have hijacked this country have had no say over what we eat from the wild. Apparently the environmentally safest fish are the most promiscuous fish, the ones having sex very young, as opposed to orange roughy, say, which reproduce at 40. Regeneration is key, as it is with all the cults we condone. If the ovary overlords had their way, we would only be able to eat immature chickens on antibiotics. Which, come to think of it, is almost the case in this country. And, of course, why no one talks about chicken rubbers.
An email with “hell has frozen over” in the subject line could not have been a more appropriate arrival in the same week one of the more insightful reviews was published under a byline old gray ladies probably would not recognize. I guess we will not be eating well anymore. Unless we do it at places like The New French, which really struck me both times as being the closest thing New York has to Le Comptoir in Paris. We are living in interesting times with food, and an analytical mind is as good as 40 years of eating for a living. Of course, the same was true 25 years ago this year, but the coven was much nastier and more insular back then. All that said, though, I have to admit I will never forget my first day back at the NYTimes after 15 years of eating for a living on my own. I later learned that Atexian instant messages were bouncing all around the Style department wondering “Who is that?” but only one person stood up, strode over, introduced herself and welcomed me warmly. Obviously she knows there are limitless second acts in American lives. Big fist bump to her.
Panchito should have been squirming this week with all eyes on the Lapdog Handler who has suddenly confessed he was had, too. (Yeah, right.) As if things aren’t bad enough, now we have to hear the Chimp is constantly boasting of his drunken days. What would the world be like today if “one of the most powerful journalists in America” in 2000 had actually reported what a sociopath he really is? Heckuva job, Frankie.
I know the poor guy can’t help what he looks like, but did anyone else wonder what Go-Fuck-Yourself was doing at Patty Brown’s potluck?
And not to kick one birdcage liner too hard, but miracle fruit looks to be the Tasmanian devil of food news. I read about those poor creatures and their contagious cancer first in Harper’s, then on the Guardian, then on the front page of the Journal. This “scoop” seems to be traveling in the opposite direction. Coming soon: Artichokes will muck up the taste of your wine! Oh, and that ricotta? I guess chefs must read Metropolitan Home from way back. And the good ones traverse the Greenmarket rather than making Polly-O facsimiles themselves.
This was a good week for flacks with Upper West Side food emporiums to sell. Zabar’s got both the broadsheet and the tab (maybe more?) to take the same bait. (Q&A ruled.) And the propaganda catapulter for the book coming soon from my favorite grocer gets mega-points for deftest dodging in describing Bedlam on Broadway. “Memorable” and “incredibly unique experience” would certainly apply to my last expedition — within three minutes of walking in, I had steered an older man in a suit with a shopping list in his hand and wife-fear on his face first to the romaine, then to the arugula, and then I was muscling my way to the portobellos when I heard “move your fucking cart!” and turned to see a Sydney Pollack look-alike in ridiculous shorts waving his fist at a black church lady slowly picking through the onions. Her howling response: “You son of a bitch!” Yep, like no other market.