An ad wrapped in a tutu wrapped in cacao

I used to think the Chimp was the best argument ever for birth control. But increasingly I believe it is the HH III who cranks out so much No. II every week, most recently on chocolate. Junior should have been the signal to call the whole clan off — has there ever been a less worthy Plimpton wannabe? So why do I read the droppings, you might ask? Where else can someone whose motto is “once a copy editor, always a nuisance” find so much absurd pleasure in one sloppy place? Even at my advanced age, I don’t know that I have ever come across a “palate knife” before. But it is a nice image of what readers need.

What say you, Jeremiah?

When it comes to well-varnished stupidity, it would be hard to top the latest description of Alice Waters as “the mother of American cooking.” For Amelia Simmons’s sake, she wouldn’t even qualify as the midwife of California cuisine! Squanto as the father would certainly make sense, given his early-on insistence on local, seasonal, sustainable. But a woman who is younger than both DDT and converted rice hardly fits the aphorism at hand — on the long arm of food in this country, she would be the mood ring at best. You could actually make a better case for Betty Crocker and the corporate horse she rode in on. But the idiocy that really sent me to the Google to trace this nonsense back is the bigger offense, representing as it does the weird mix of toadying and objectivity on display in so much food journalism. The formula: Coin a pandering phrase, then repeat your own slobbery words endlessly without attribution. It all reminds me of that graffiti guy who was everywhere in NYC in the Eighties; his tag was always something like “I am the greatest artist.” But at least he didn’t expect lifetime access to the table of the saints.

Only the dead steers work Brooklyn

My comrade in cantankerousness describes what has been flowing out of a certain over-leveraged office tower on Eighth Avenue as “a torrent of sludge.” Which might be an understatement (can you spell Mamma Leone?) But he didn’t even mention the most astonishing clot of coal ash, the porterhouse rules. Has a writer ever more visibly struggled to crank out enough words to justify a multimedia piece? The poor fucker was reduced to describing London broil as “local and distinctive.” Stick that up against your mushy peas and slice it.

Calling Lyle — it’s closing time

As wacked as I can be, I’m always thankful there are women out there who are not just far battier/scarier but also happen to be on either side of my consort and me when we’re at a bar somewhere, like The West Branch on the night we wandered in after the exceptional “Slumdog Millionaire” and were promised a table in 30 minutes and wound up settling for just where we were. We ordered only appetizers and wine and almost regretted it when the two women to my left got their shared steak frites. All of it smelled sensational and looked even better. Between the two of them, they polished it off to the last ort and turned their attention to our too-refined vitello tonnato. Since they asked what it was, I asked how their meat was. “It was way too salty,” one said. “If you get it, ask for less salt. It was a hanger, so they must have tenderized it with salt.” Oh. Kay. The menu said it was a strip steak, but what does the chef know from tenderizing with salt? And I guess it was so bad they licked the plate — what’s that old punch line about how “the food sucks and the portions are too small”?

Just as those two were swaddling themselves to head out, two women took stools to Bob’s right and I could feel him cringing as wraps swung off and over-toned flesh came out. “They’re scary,” he whispered, and it was hard to argue with young faces that scalpel-hard. I tuned them out until we both noticed the bartender shaking a drink with Cruise-worthy vigor. “What is it?” Bob asked. And his look of resignation said it before he did: “Cosmo.” At least they were only your average consumers of “Sex and the City” who think New York is just like they pictured it on the teevee. Not Russian hookers after all.


One day, when media archaeologists are trying to determine exactly what killed publishing, I hope they come across a shrink-wrapped copy of the new popcorn cookbook. Seriously. An editor apparently with trees to burn plunked down money for an entire book on a substance you consume like, well, popcorn. What were they thinking, that someone has already done the Twinkies cookbook?

Dancing with the editors

File this under HFS*: Did the hometown paper and its trashiest Sunday competition really use essentially the same lede in paying homage to the loser-est onetime chef in town? Did none of their editors notice the pretty racist tone to both? But at least one mouthpiece did not bite on the Jamie Oliver wannabe-ism — put this notorious spendthrift in charge of the school lunch programs and even Madoff wizardry could not generate enough cash to keep them afloat. Funny to think someone so pathetic is almost getting more ink than Grant Achatz, and apparently all he’s done lately is hire a propaganda catapulter. But whoever that is hit a grand slam.

*Holy. Fucking. Shit.

The bloom is off the primavera

Unfortunately, the lede was totally buried (billboard or no billboard) in the piece on the Oedipal issues at the relic in the Bloomberg building. Layoffs, selling wine to raise cash — HFS. After reading it, though, I see why one scion was so mellow in mockingly reintroducing himself as “the prick’s son” at a press event in the last couple of years. Public appearances count. Not to question any editorial judgment, but if I ruled the food world I would have gone for the circus over the sideshow as a feature. It had much meatier material than “they mug white boys, don’t they?”

Stevia dollars, reporting for duty

I like clean water and nonlethal drugs too much to want the government totally off everyone’s back. But the more the short-term bosses of us muck with diet regulations for our own good, the more nervous I get. I used to live on Coca-Cola but now have one maybe every couple of years, so a tax on the stuff would not be a biggie. But letting Tab off the hook is the bureaucratic equivalent of empty calories. I always thought there was something to the studies that found people who drink diet sodas tend to eat far more because their appestats never get the “full-up” signal. Given that coffee and tea would not be covered by this silliness even though they can rival Pepsi when sweetened, it’s a slippery slope to taxing french fries and letting the 8,000-calorie taco “salad” slide. Where there’s a law, there’s a loophole.

Wait, wait, don’t tell us

Anyone wondering who you gotta suck up to down at the Taj Sulzberger these days had the answer in a kitchen renovation. Just please tell me we are not going to be subjected to endless pieces on motherhood and postpartum poop and, far worse, what to feed the Baby Jesus. As I always say, human reproduction is not so awesome when you consider cockroaches do it 40 at a time.

Now if she could bake 600 hot dogs in 5 minutes. . .

I actually liked the Seawinkle piece on the nutcase who bakes so many cookies her husband barely knows what to do; my consort and I thought it was sidling toward worthiness of the other hubby’s publication. But while I’m happy to acknowledge math is far from my strength, I kept dividing 11 pounds of butter into 500 trillion and coming up with wallboard — I seem to go through that much for an average company dessert. No wonder people would rather die than get another rewrapped candy box. But as I noted over at the satellite operation, the whole enterprise sounded misguided, especially in this new Depression. Why go through all that insanity just to inflict cookies on friends when you could put your oven to charitable use?

Lies, damn lies and urban myths

I had high hopes for journalism after the new study showing there really is no such thing as a cure for a hangover, a lethal ailment that needs a pound of prevention. But nope, the “hold your head, New Year’s is coming” stories are being churned out as fast as the “average American gains 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s” BS. I’m just amazed no one has ever made the movie of “If This Is December, We Must Be Stupid.” Of course, cretinism takes many forms: Eating sushi twice a day to the point of mercury poisoning. (Uh. Huh.) Reading a story about calcium for PMS and seeing only the word “supplements” and never hearing “milk.” Or swallowing the notion that Oprah has found the secret to the svelte life — as recently as August her latest miracle was all over the internets; today she’s Macy’s float size again and they’re giving the stuff away in email scams. It’s Viagra for fat girls.

Lobbyist of unintended consequences

I must not be as cynical as I’m accused of being, because I am constantly amazed at how predictably the food blogosphere has started to emulate the food coven. A dieter gets dissed, for instance, and they’ll throw Rusty right out of the club. Which is just one reason why the most interesting food stuff I’m coming across these days tends to be buried in political blogs, like Kevin Drum’s musings on how California almonds took over the world. You would like to meet their tailor for sure. But I think it was in the comments that someone noted that farmers were paid not to grow other crops, and now new farmers are jumping on the government gravy train. Coming soon: smoked walnuts, more walnuts in your mixed nuts and more walnuts than you could ever eat, with a nutrition campaign to boot. The free market works in mysterious ways, and somehow I doubt appointing Alice Waters secretary of food would have changed that anytime soon.