Next time the arugula-addled wingnuts want to go faux-populist ballistic about food, they really need to check out what liberals love to eat in this country. Hint: It hasn’t been Brie since Reagan was asleep at the Iran-Contra switch. That’s nothing more than albino Velveeta in a brave new world of Epoisses/Taleggio/MtTam. Forget saltines. We are all water crackers now.
Usually I think writing about Twitter is like cooking about photography. But more often lately it seems like a blind person trying to describe an elephant. When a friend’s singular consort died the other day, I heard he was a trending topic — but not in my Tworld. The degrees of separation there can range from one to a milllion. It’s like the days before the Google, when you would type in “tortillas” and 5 quintazillion references would pop up. Suffice it to say that the chefs who were covered struck me as not just small potatoes compared with those I see RT’d. They’re fingerlings.
I swear I tried to tune out the Italian catavore story, but it kept getting sent to me, so I guess I have to weigh in. Someone I follow on Twitter noted that furry friends were desperation dining in Italy during World War II, so a 70-year-old could be forgiven for offering cooking advice. I just enjoyed remembering Felino salame, which people in Parma joked was cat salami because of the name of the town. Better yet was remembering ass salame in Monferrato, which is not made from the same part of the anatomy as culatello, at least not totally. It’s actual donkeys. All that said, there’s a reason I avoid rabbit. It looks a little too close to kitchen comfort to the nose to tail I pet. I’d sooner boil a baby.
A nailed plagiarist got all the attention last week, but every day there are more signs that the old gray lady’s letting standards slip as fast as aging bosoms as the cost-cutting gets more brutal and the hamster-wheeling gets faster. The stuff you hear about how little oversight the blogs are graced with would make your glazed hair curl. The Chelsea Market, for instance, did not evolve naturally. I remember the deals made to get food producers in there more than 10 years ago — it became what it is by calculated design. And then you get these silly opinion pieces on taxing soda that do not make the obvious point that it would be the first honest and effective Ponzi scheme in history: Take money from consumers to pay off Big Agriculture, eliminating the middleman of Congress with its farm subsidies. And finally you get the strange situation where the fact that Romania is considering taxing fast food is never reported. But a 528-pound woman giving birth in Romania is big news. Señor Slim must be messing with their heads in more ways than one as he engulfs and devours.
One swirler-and-spitter I no longer have to read won a writing prize, but from overseas, which makes me suspect translation can do more wonders for copy than editing. And another snared the Rupert gig, the ultimate deal with the Tasmanian media-devil. Maybe he has gotten more accessible since the Chateau d’Yquem splashdown way back when, but I just wonder why the Foxy news machine didn’t seize the opportunity to find an original voice. As I’ve noted to the point of overkill, I was no fan of the Delicious Duo and their dumbed-down coverage. But isn’t there someone whose byline is not blurred by moss who could bring something new to the cellar? Even as I type that, though, I realize it ain’t about the reader who might be looking for good value and honest deals at a time when Gallo has fake pinot noir on its balance sheets and reputation. It’s about image and advertisers. So, hey, has anyone taken a good look at Chateau d’Yquem lately?
It was easy to Twitterize NYMag’s story by a usually smart writer doing his part for the salt package by eating badly for nine days: “The man who mistook grease for sodium.” Please. Salt does not give you zits, or stomach cramps. You do not need to over-ingest cheeseburgers to abuse the stuff. You don’t even have to combine it with fat to fuck yourself up. Just open up a can of MSG-free soup. My stomach cramped as I was thinking about how the media is no smarter about nutrition fads than it was back when I got sucked into the fat-fearing insanity simply because the Snackwells ads were paying the magazine bills. I always used to say nutrition is an infant science (never say it to a dietician at a party), but Michael Pollan is even harsher. The salt crusade is just misguided, and the media is just playing the same role it did in the run-up to the Iraq War. But they need the eggs. Like the ad for a “doesn’t get better than this” sandwich that contains half a day’s sodium allowance in one too-dainty-for-a-construction-worker handful. I grew up watching my dad eat salt out of his hand to settle his stomach, before he could afford Tums. His kids all developed a taste for salt on cantaloupe. Six of us are still standing. No one with ads to sell is going to tell you salt is not an issue if you cook your own food. For all the bitching about the nanny state, someone needs to stop the enablers. Which is a funny thought now that the old-media blogs are the new salt mines. And I doubt they will even get the tagline on that ad: “Oh goody, it’s Monday.” We are living in a 24/365 world. It’s too late to demand: “Give us salt or give us liberty.”
One of my favorite Twainisms is, roughly and politely, that a misconception can travel around the world before the truth can get its pants on. And that appears to be the case with the closing of El Bulli. Diner’s Journal reports, Adria denies. Maybe they should leave blogging to the professionals.
Funny to see news outlets scrambling to be sure Mrs. O’s huge anti-obesity movement is covered by all the wrong people (“eat as I say, not as I do,” in one case). But at least the Time Tool was not unleashed on the anti-Big Food beat. Following in the sordid tradition of the Coulter/Molto blow jobs, he let the fastest food take him for a royal ride. Did you know the Big Mac has a chef behind it? Yeah, and so does all the shitty airline food. He actually swallows the catapulted propaganda and mentally transfers a high-end lunch with celeriac and salmon to the crap wraps the “most influential chef in America” claims to have innovated. And believe me, the reason the flack freaked when the chef mentioned poached pears was not fear of copycat competitors. She had to know the chance of something like that winding up on the diabetes menu was about as likely as a frequent flier ever tasting Todd English’s food in steerage.
I’m not a bit happy that Hachette is now sending me the bullfighters’ magazine (El Decor!) instead of Metropolitan Home, the publication I subscribed to ever since it was Apartment Life and I first lived in a real one. And not just because I lost a reliable and lucrative outlet when they shut down the better magazine, or because it’s damn near impossible to tell ads from editorial. The food column carries the Big Homme’s byline, but if he typed the text and the recipe I’m Meehan Chang. Worse, the wine recommendations come from his own sommelier, and you would never guess what the first one is. (Starts with D and B on a Champagne label.) Once again, I hear the woman in North Wales railing against the government that assured them Chernobyl was no biggie: “They think we’re stoopid.”
I have mixed feelings about Mexico asking for Unesco protection for its cuisine: on one mano it’s laudable, on the other I had a kimchi tamal at Momofuku Noodle Bar that could convert a whole new generation to the religion of masa. But then I think maybe all national cuisines should be protected. Consider Italian. Saturday my consort and I wound up meandering around the West Village in search of lunch after the Union Square Greenmarket and were depressed to find the wonderful little shop across from Minetta Tavern selling focaccia col formaggio worthy of Recco now just bakes any old pizza. The guy I’m convinced proudly sold us our first slab looked beaten. And then we wound up at the newish Quinto Quarto, which looks Italian to the Tuscan Sun max but turns out food so bad it would convert your average Milanese to the McItaly. And it’s still in business. At least we evaded the worst New York food: Glasian — gloppy Thai/Vietnamese/sushi.
As I Tweeted the other day, those who do not remember e-food are doomed to repeat it. Onefatass is the latest zombie. Anyone who signs on to the new “we are the food world” scheme might want to check back and see how that turned out for all involved. . . .
A big mystery of the snowpocalypse week was why Americans will bow to weather forecasters and run out to strip supermarkets bare of milk and toilet paper at the first hint of flakes that may never arrive but then sit idly by as the same combination of science and intuition points to certain global meltdown. All those extra groceries cost bread, too. As always, my big fear is reincarnation. See you on Pandora. . . .
I confess to wandering over to digital monkey cages on occasion just to watch the occupants smear themselves with their own feces — there’s no entertainment like wingnuts posturing, with flagrant disregard for reality. So I’m quite enjoying the arguments that farm subsidies are inalienable rights for the corporations that really control agrarian food. Aesop had a fable or two for this, but I wouldn’t count out the impact of a First Family who walks the walk. You can’t grow high-fructose corn syrup in a backyard garden.
And if any more argument could be needed that the industrial food chain is seriously slimy, now comes Consumer Reports to document the obvious: There’s shit in the masculine (as way too many grocers spell it). The biggest reason to buy pre-washed salad fixings is that they are . . . pre-washed. Don’t tell me to bring them home and suds them all over again. I could do that with a fresh head of lettuce.
I was also pretty amazed at how craven Fresh Direct sounded as soon as the Blizzard of the Millennium was being talked up all along the Eastern Seaboard: Get your orders in NOW or you all die. Come on, we live in a city that can take a licking and keep on eating. Even after 9/11, when credit cards didn’t work anywhere and no semi-food trucks could get onto the island, I don’t recall people starving in the streets. All the delis in my neighborhood were open during the last blackout, for cripe’s sake. The worst snowstorm is never going to keep exploited immigrants from bicycling to your building with steaming Vietnamese or sodden pizza. But it would keep trucks bearing way too many underpacked boxes off the streets. Plus, everyone hyperventilating about salt should look at what this same hysteria did to the streets and sidewalks: They’re inches deep in white stuff, but it doesn’t melt. How dangerous is inhaled sodium?