I’m starting to think there’s something in the water in this country. And I don’t think it’s fluoride.
At least the dots have finally, finally been connected between what Rick Perlstein memorably dubbed E. coli conservatism and the obscenely huge egg recall (which overshadowed news of the cold cut recall, and the latest tons-of-ground-beef recall). There’s way too much trust in the free market policing itself when greed is the national creed, and when profits are all that matter, shit inevitably happens. It’s always mystified me why Americans just take manure in their meat for granted but can be fanned into hysteria over “killer tomatoes.” At least eggs have finally have hit home. About the sickest my consort and I ever got was after spending a day in an onion field in Georgia that abutted an egg factory farm, in 1992. And that was just from breathing in. Anyone who thinks a clean egg can ever come from that environment should enjoy all the lovely products to be made from the befouled ones from Iowa, which are being “salvaged” and pasteurized. If you want cheap food, you get the filth for free.
Apparently I was the only food writer/blogger in town not invited to any of the opening parties for the Seconda Venuta. Was it something I wrote?
I see the EVOO one has a new show, built around the profoundly depressing idea of cooking enough on one day to feed everyone the rest of the week. Maybe that’s efficient. But it seems like a recipe for dread. Back before automatic washers/dryers and laundry anytime, washday was the most dispiriting day of the week, all work and no rewards. Red beans and rice originated as a way to get the cooking and the laundry done — the housewife could wrangle the latter while the former stewed. (To this day I despise Spanish rice because it was my mom’s solution.) With schedules so crazy now, who would want to go back to that routine? Wouldn’t it be better to spread the work out through the week, maybe cut the time invested in daily dinners? To, say, 30 minutes?
One of the hoariest chestnuts in journalism is the “secrets of food stylists” story. It just resurfaced, again, but the spin was how food photography is changing. Unfortunately, the evidence was attributed to the same names who were in all the early pieces I read that revealed the ice cream in the ad is not ice cream. Fossils make strange trendsetters.
Almost as chestnutty is the “McDonald’s has a classically trained chef” script handed out for “journalists” to dutifully regurgitate. Inevitably, that one winds up quoting some VP for chemistry more than The New Escoffier because, really, what the chain serves is anything but creative cooking, burgers du jour. And I would believe the catapulted propaganda more if just one Pierre Franey or Jacques Pepin ever emerged from those corporate headquarters.
Another flack-planted piece I read was about a Mexican restaurateur creating a “diabetes-friendly menu.” I think the addled reporter meant diabetic-friendly menu; otherwise everything he indicts Mexican food for being would work just fine to cause the disease. Neither the chef nor the nutritionist he hired seemed to see the easiest answer to “how do you make Mexican healthful?”: Serve real Mexican food. Which is not all “drenched” in cheese or deep-fried. Which does not need to be saved by low-fat sour cream. And if the chef sees himself at risk for diabetes because he’s Hispanic, he might wonder why a cuisine that evolved over centuries only became unhealthy in the land of plenty. Name a chain after tits and look what happens.
I can’t remember where the list was, but Buffalo was ranked among the “10 worst American cities,” written off as “irreparably damaged.” Whoever compiled it was looking only at the loss of population and industry. And showed a rather impressive lack of understanding of how cities can not only survive but regenerate these days, thanks to the most essential essential in life. Slums can be razed and converted to urban farms. Artisanal producers can take over abandoned factories (can you say Chelsea Market?) Ambitious chefs can take advantage of low rents to open quality restaurants with affordable prices, supporting those local farms and producers. Not sure when old media, itself heading for obsolescence, is going to wake up and smell the coffeehouses. A country that doesn’t make anything anymore still has to eat. And the future is in food.
Finally, the most ridiculous thing I read all week was a guy filling four screens with type contending 140-character Tweets are boring. Yeah, I was awed by the deep insights on the chicken at Bofuckingjangles, myself. I gave him more than 10,000 Tweets to choose from, and that’s the worst he can dis? I always say writing about Twitter is like dancing about patisserie, but everyone new to it seems to turn out the same stupid macaron, maybe because it’s like stumbling onto a party where you don’t know anyone, or what the drinking games are, or the catch phrases (can you say Gastropoda’s Cat?) Until you’re immersed in it, you’re the proverbial blind person trying to describe an elephant, because everyone uses it differently. You also miss the fact that Tweets, as a smart friend of mine said, are like lightning. What you cull two days before a deadline piece for an increasingly marginal magazine might as well be a year old. If you want to mock, buddy, don’t get out the Bartlett’s. This is how it’s done. In fact, I reTweeted it. Noting that the parody did not even get into the most embarrassing stuff: the fud coverage.
I knew way back when Bill O’Reilly misused a falafel things would be heading nowhere good. But this “mosque” nonsense is seriously out of control. I’m starting to think the real terror threat is what the planned community center will include: a school. It’s a cooking school, but that five-letter word is obviously pretty frightening to the easily misled. Or, as they spell it, morans.
Also, too, anyone mystified over why twice as many Americans now believe a lie about the Big O’s religion must not pay much attention to nutrition coverage in this country. Far more than 18 percent of the public can be sold absolutely any nonsense about margarine or Snackwells, pomegranate juice or gluten. Put the ad- and profit-driven media behind it and you can even get anyone to believe sugar is a vitamin when dissolved in bottled water.
The disconnect between media people with steady paychecks and the real world is getting wider — I got an e-release suggesting a few ways to simplify your Labor Day menu: Just add lobster. And caviar. Oh, what the hell, why not serve Cristal instead of Kool-Aid?
Back when I was very new to recipe development, I came up with one that haunts me to this day — something involving leek whites cut the long way, rolled up and cooked with stuff inside. It was like doing a back-flip through multiple burning hoops when a simple vinaigrette would have been enough. But I don’t feel so bad since seeing the Egotist’s latest overworking of chicken breasts — something involving many, many extra steps in the quest for minimalism. And the illo? OMFG. It looked like what you’d see in a typically unattended gas station ladies’ room. But I guess when you have no ads, you have to run the photos bigger. . .
A friend emailed to chuckle at the Rudest Woman in Food writing her own etiquette questions (because who would actually ask such silliness?) But I just skimmed her and thought of that all-purpose caption for the New Yorker’s cartoon contest: “Who is that fucking asshole?” And thought of it rewritten as one-answer-fits-all, essentially what I heard yelled into the phone for 46 months: “Eat shit and die.” Really, would Miss Manners ever boast about scamming her own husband?
Six weeks into our Great Window Restoration, I’m finally returning stuff to my office (the old maid’s room) and trying to be ruthless about what I keep. And I realize I have only been hanging on to a pamphlet on the “caviar lifestyle” because it brings back one of the more surreal experiences at a press event over the last quarter-century-plus: Hearing an older woman stand up at a lavish lunch and warble: “Caviar is virgin sturgeon. . .” The booklet is from 1987, but it’s amazing how many of the names from today who contributed recipes. Which means I have to keep it. I kinda doubt a search on nytimes.com is going to turn up Craig’s favorite New Year’s sandwich. Or give any clue of who got paid for the reuse of other newspaper food people’s recipes.