One of the most depressing things I’ve read lately is that pineapple upside-down cake was the Chimp’s dessert of choice as he ended the first disastrous year in his reign of error. Once again, it brought home how we were “led” by a rich guy whose palate was as evolved as a death row killer’s. I guess I’m only amazed he didn’t want to save his slice for later. . .
Another sign that we’ll be digging out of that useful idiot’s mess for a good long time is a huge and underreported recall of salami that has people puking and squittering across 80 percent of the country. Amazing how much energy/$$ was wasted scaring everyone about furriners all these years rather than putting cops on the food beat. What’s also weird is that the salmonella may be coming from peppercorns, which once were considered preservatives, not poison. Funny to think that if the spice was imported from China, they’d be on that case like stink on shit. As it is, good luck even knowing more than a million pounds of risky meat-like substance may be contaminated. The media would prefer to keep you more focused on Edwards’ porking than on cured danger in the deli case.
Time Out deserves a fist bump for printing the most self-indicting letter ever, from some bleeding idiot outraged over a photo of a whole pig roasting on a spit: “I don’t want to see visual reminders that my lunch was once a living and breathing animal.” As they say on the political blogs: Teh stupid — it burns. Hot dogs good; porchetta scary. Please. Food does not come from the supermarket. And if you can’t face the artisanal link, you certainly don’t want to contemplate the industrial chain. “Our Daily Bread” should be required viewing for anyone who reacts to a picture of a whole hog by throwing her turkey sandwich in the trash. Tom died in vain.
That kind of denial is exactly what’s involved in one of the most unsettling processes I’ve read about in some time, how processors turn pigskins into chicharrones, aka pork rinds. The story was in the WSJournal, on a dispute over imports of skins from countries with foot-and-mouth, the disease that devastated British farms less than 10 years ago. Pigs there, of course, contracted it by eating imported meat (you don’t even want to dwell). Thank allah for the photos and relatively long text to make it clear just how processed this stuff is: In one factory, frozen skins are mechanically minced and cooked into pellets, which are then boxed up and shipped off to other factories to be fried. Forget the issue of whether the meat is contaminated to begin with. How many un-health-cared hands touch it before it lands in someone’s mouth; how many chances are there for something to go horribly wrong? And people freak out about lard?
And maybe I’m just cynical, but I thought it was rather amusing to see everyone dumping on the new McItaly while accrediting the Fast Food Diet. Domestic beef topped with asiago cheese and artichoke spread in Italy? Bad. Tacos and Subway processed crap here? Worth consulting nutritionists and other experts on whether you will lose weight. (Few of them, I noticed, brought up what that junk does for your body besides fatten it right up.) Who needs Berlusconi when we have such a free press?
One of the many great things about living in the co-op we took two years to choose is that we get mail delivered to our doorstep, by the staff. Every so often the bean-counting philistines among us propose doing away with that system to save time and labor and instead ramming mailboxes into our gorgeous 1929 lobby. Thanks to Fresh Direct, the argument may finally be over. Apparently it’s going to start installing vending machines for frozen dinners alongside mailboxes. Amazon should be setting up kiosks to deliver Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” on demand right next to them. Who would care if home looked like a truck stop?
I see people eating on the crud-encrusted subways all the time. Why not “dine” on filthy yoga mats with liquid cumin in the air? A really good trend story would be on all those women who take their Starbucks Big Gulps into the toilet stalls. Then again, I don’t even want to know what they do in there.
And while I’m trying to break myself of “gobbling digital doughnuts” over on Twitter, I do enjoy getting perspective from disgusted readers far from the hometown paper’s shrine to hubris. Brussels reaction to Paris old-timers? Same as ours, all-cap boring. Buenos Aires reaction to yet another ode to Buenos Aires? Who’s in the tank? Unfortunately, one thing leads to another and soon I’m reading a complaint that anyone trashing Ducasse for saying London’s the best food city probably should be eating in London more often; otherwise he/she looks like the left-behind. Which of course made me wonder just why or how well the JGW knows a snooty club there so well, whether from half of Jay McInerney’s travel rule (speculation) or by hanging out there personally. Which would be less surprising given the lede that ran on another guy’s piece on how “everyone” has childhood memories of suffering through cafeteria meals on field trips to museums. Earth to Señor Slim Tower: Not all Americans grow up with either food-equipped museums to visit or money to eat in them. Among the many things destroying old-style journalism, that blatant disconnect between the comfortable and the afflicted is the most corrosive. Lie down with only Ivy League graduates and you wake up believing it’s always morning with steak and eggs in America.
Sometimes people read what I typed and not what I wrote, so I should clear up one thing before proceeding here: Saint Danny got his moniker not because he pretends to be the East Coast Alice but because the press here kisses his hem so slobberingly. He is a nice guy. His restaurants would be the nicest in St. Louis. He’s done both well and good in this town. But he’s no Jesus H. So why in the name of the Maroons does he get so much constant coverage in one particular paper? That museum-trough story actually had a billboard directing leaders to “past coverage” of him, and I didn’t dare click for fear I would not get out before 5,000 stories in the last year alone. Even working there I never quite understood the way he was treated, how one negative review in particular caused ripples of weirdness toward the top. I’d wonder if he’s the McD’s of high-end restaurants, but he doesn’t advertise (unlike the place across from KK’s that gets a review for every chef). So I’ll just move on to a peripheral point: My consort and I were eating chorizo-chickpea soup at one new venue and a friend and I were splitting a broccoli-sausage flatbread at another and we all talked about how Great Performances was upgrading culture fodder all over town. So what company got touted in the Ode to Meyer? Can you say the one catering to the cult?
Thank allah Mrs. O stays on food message, because the whole country seems to be becoming a Failblog on her husband, who has had exactly a year to clean up nearly a decade of tax-cutting, warmongering carnage by that dry drunk and his smokin’-and-readin’ lump in the bed. But partly because one party believes nope is a plan, crucial jobs are going unfilled, and every week brings another recall of meat, and “meat-like substances.” No one seems to understand why health insurance reform was a priority. But right now people are sick from salmonella in at least 38 states. Who needs terrorists when shit is what’s for dinner?
We also forget most of us were in bunkers a year ago, counting the canned food and wondering how to set up apple carts. The economy is still a disaster, but after reading about food banks running on empty and firehouses collecting food I gathered all the crap I’d been hoarding in case “The Road” really did run through our front door. Chief among that was a bunch of rice mixes and seasonings from a press event thrown by a little New Orleans company bought by Big Food. I only ever tried one, and we were first stunned by how salty/fake it tasted and then, over the next few days, by how it had stunk up the joint. Seriously. As much as I mock the Forelock, he did have the comment of the week on all this salt insanity going around: “If you eat natural foods, you don’t have to worry.” I would feel a little guilty about handing off all that sodium and MSG to the poor, but after we left the firehouse where they were not collecting food (thanks, Daily News), we passed a family unloading even worse stuff from a car, with not a fresh vegetable to be seen. People in the Depression probably ate better. At least they had apple carts.
If I were the despairing kind, I’d be socking back the bourbon these days. The founder of one of the literally shittiest food businesses in the country kicks off, and he’s the taco-talk of Twitter, rates obits in legitimate papers and was probably all over the teevee, too. Then one of the most influential Southern cookbook authors and cooking teachers dies at 100 and gives new meaning to “joining the choir invisible.” Camille Glenn’s hometown papers gave her sendoffs, but farther afield it’s as if she never lived. Once again, I’m very glad I’m old and won’t be around when Rachael and Paula kick the EVO/butter bucket. . .
At least the writer of one of the most compelling food songs ever warranted international attention once she was no longer among the singing, but she was smart enough to leave two super-talented children behind. “Leftovers with mashed potatoes” really is an eloquent expression of what eating involves beyond sustenance. And somehow I suspect she lived a richer life than her ex with his “how many patty melts can one man eat?”
I’m becoming more forgiving of a reporter who always sent her editors into the archives to be sure she had not written the same lame story using the same lame language in the past. Either brains shrink or cranial hard drives get overloaded, I’m slowly acknowledging. Youngsters, though, have no excuse. You want to announce a huge discovery while promoting your next product, at least be sure it wasn’t already done. Confit sans gras, my derriere.
I should have listened when a fromagey friend emailed to say he “wouldn’t go to Butter if a top model from the next table promised to blow me under the table.” But my consort reserved without putting me through the craziness of too much choice for my birthday, and I was so touched I went along after he said our friend who has infallible taste (in music) had suggested it. Calvin Trillin was right when he wrote that a relationship is not just about the pasta but about sharing the hell of finding the pasta restaurant. Plus I had no more compelling ideas; we’ve been eating so far down the food chain for so long that the usual “top chefs” just don’t hold much allure anymore. And to be honest, I was curious, having been to a good press lunch there and having heard the chef speak engagingly on a panel once. But Bob is very lucky he humored me with Mexican for lunch or he would have had to talk me off a 14th-floor windowsill after dinner. I can’t remember food that lame or a crowd so depressing: fat women, anorectic women, skanks, plus the odd beaten-looking guy. (Not across from my plate, though.) My image of New York is rooted more in Joan Didion than Candace Bushnell, so I will never understand why women feel compelled to head out on the town dressed like what we saw along the highway into Rome one Sunday morning, flagging down truckers for tricks. What’s most depressing is that the place was mostly empty when we got there at 7:30 (and they still tried to seat us downstairs, in what felt and looked like a rectory rec room where nothing nice happens) and getting zooey by 9 when we fled. Too late, we both admitted we had peeked at online reviews and noticed most of them didn’t mention the food, only disappointment at not seeing celebrities. And we’d both forged on because that was the reverse of our first experience at Le Cirque all those years ago. Somehow, though, I doubt the terror of cookbook publishing’s daughter is going to be running a Big Homme empire anytime soon.
Maybe there is a god, and she’s rubbing the Chimp’s nose in it by allowing the special needs mom to collect megabucks speaking to the booze cartel while the O’Doul’s poster boy has to dry out long enough to help raise money for Haiti rather than replenish his own coffers. I guess she was for prohibition before she was against it.
Speaking of wine, I’m still marveling that a wine bar would pour from a box. Last time I had that experience outside of a private apartment was during a barge trip along the Erie Canal, and those bartenders weren’t doing it to be cool. (We also developed a bit of a taste for schnapps on that journey with those traveling companions, if that tells you anything.) Friends we met up with afterward tried to convince me it’s the eco-sensitive packaging, and that’s certainly a valid consideration. But people still flinch when we unscrew the cap on a bottle of sauvignon blanc in our kitchen. Boxes have a way to go, especially at $8.50 a glass. Serve the stuff with a straw and I’ll believe you want to save the dishwashing water.