For all the carping about the menu for the Hu state dinner at the People’s House of America, it’s worth noting that the last time the Chinese president was in the capital the Chimp couldn’t stay alert past lunchtime. But I guess we’ll have to wait 30 years for the “everybody knows” admissions by the media that there was a problem — not Alzheimer’s but Jack Daniel’s.
Of course, I’m such a cynic I suspect Mrs. O let the Lump in the Bed’s holdover chef do the dinner just to make it obvious that the Chimp’s legacy of disaster extended right into the kitchen. The other state dinners, for India and for Mexico, were planned and executed by celebrity chefs who actually cook. This was left to someone who spent years grilling cheese and apportioning pretzels. Asked for “quintessential all-American,” is it any surprise she would come up with goat cheese salad, lobster, steak, baked potato, creamed spinach and apple pie with ice cream (or, as they say in the pure and simple Heartland: a la mode)? What this mostly makes clear is that we’re no closer to defining American cuisine than we were 28 years ago when I got into eating for a living. Even then, all attempts to codify it splintered into regional styles (Southwestern, New England, Cajun, California etc.) Judging by what passes for American today, we’re lucky she didn’t whip up pizzas, burgers and cupcakes. And that makes me almost want to give Cristeta (or Yosses) credit: By serving apples in a crust, she validated all those silly media sorts nattering that pies are the new cupcakes. Too bad Hu wasn’t invited for a sleepover. He coulda had the next lukewarm thing: pizza for breakfast.
And speaking of the burger blight, the Daily News made it very clear why not every American should be allowed to vote. It’s running “best of New York contests” this year, and the latest was a readers’ poll on cheeseburgers. Which decided Corner Bistro ruled. It’s been donkey’s years since we succumbed to the hype, but I still remember the most gruesome thin patty of overcooked, tasteless ground cow on a supermarket bun with processed cheese. We’ve had better incinerated off a grill by friends who buy the kind of big-box beef I’m sure is cited in the latest recall. All this proves is that you can lead your readers to lapin a la moutarde. But you can’t make them think.
Who could have guessed, 25 years ago, that the top bastion of haughty attitude would one day be reduced to a sports bar? Thanks to the Twitter, I saw a shill on game day promising an open bar plus “Mama’s artichoke pizza, Tuscan fried chicken, mini burgers, Caesar salad, $50.” And that reminded me of the incomparable Seymour Britchky’s observation 20 years ago that the ringmaster was “not aware that, though the moneyed and powerful are his clientele today, in any reverse revolution, they and he will be separated at the first cut.” Wait long enough and all jerques get their due.
If I were into weird juxtapositions, I’d be contrasting the discovery that the first domesticated dog was also dinner with the WTFness of the hometown paper’s celebration of hand-crafted organic dinners for companion animals. I know how removed you can get from the real world when you make over a hundred grand a year, but did anyone in all the story meetings ever bring up the inconvenient reality that 43 million Americans are now on food stamps? Blog after blog is challenging readers to try to live even a week on a food stamp allotment. And the paper underwritten by ads for $3,000 shoes and bags puffs up kibble from scratch. Hope no one tells the poor they can’t burn wood. . . The only good news is that this gives me an excuse to dust off the bulging can of Whiskas on my desk. I bought it on my first trip overseas, to Cornwall in 1986, when I had the crazy idea of collecting cat food from every country to which I traveled. And almost every one of those two dozen-plus countries came through, including Cuba, where people were so poor kids begged for gum (and soap) wherever we went. The only place I was ever stymied was in Bangalore, probably the most Western city in India. My consort’s fixer for National Geographic indulged me with a trek to a supermarket, one where a guy dressed up as Uncle Sam was even waiting at the door. So I mustered my courage to ask about local Friskies. And will never forget how flummoxed everyone was. Not food made from cats but special food for cats? What planet are you from?
Judging by Twitter reaction, this is not for the squeamish: The dirty little secret of wannabe Sex&City types was on unnerving display at FishTag the other night. Our table was squished between two crammed with big bottoms who kept squeezing in and out between courses, of which there were way too many. After about the sixth go-round, I told my consort this reeked of scarf-and-barf. He looked at me as if I was nuts. Then he exited the unisex bathroom on our way out and reported: “Greens were floating in the toilet.”
Finally, of all the sillinesses of the entire week, the Philadelphia story should have been laughed out of the queue. It’s at least 30 years too late to lede off with cheesesteaks. Johnny Rotten must be spinning in that great bath in the sky.
I shouldn’t be surprised, considering how inured Americans are to ordure in their beef. But it says it all that a few people died from drinking Four Loko and the stuff was banned. Thirty thousand a year die from guns and loons are allowed to run out and buy more after a massacre. Maybe someone should mix caffeine and alcohol in Glock clips.
Given the frenzy to concoct a cocktail for every conceivable occasion, I’m kinda disappointed in all the craven flacks on the high-proof payrolls. With the Golden Globes, they were pitching Black Swans and Inceptiontinis. And Martin Luther King Day is not worth a Dreamarita? A Mountaintop Mojito?
I had barely posted my take on the “noodles”-and-cheese exploitation of the golden-throated homeless guy when I saw I was right: He had already been arrested for a fight. Imagine the drunken carnage if he’d had to shill for a snackified beverage.
Over at the Twitter, I got some “ra-mens” for expressing my wish for a Super Bowl shelter where I could hide from any mention of that idiotic spectacle. But if I had one, I would have missed the most astonishing concoction for an idiotic spectacle known for astonishing concoctions: “Oreo truffle footballs.” And even the Semi-Ho could not have dreamed this one up — smashed Oreos mixed with cream cheese, covered in chocolate melted with Crisco(!) and decorated with Betty Crocker icing. Forget the fact that even Deen’s gorge would seize up at that mess. USA Weekend was so skinny from so few ads that the actual food story and other recipes only appeared online. Why should Big Food spend when it gets all that brand recognition for free?
One of the most pathetic stories I’ve skimmed lately was on honey buns as currency in Florida prisons. Leave aside the obvious jokes to be made on that name. Weren’t we already informed sardines are the new jailhouse dollars?
And speaking of “no new stories, only new reporters,” it was rather telling that the hometown paper ran yet another section-front piece on the magic of the Microplane without noting that it, too, had been part of “the press fueled the hype.” I remember the planning meeting well, in 1998. But it took a political blog to point out the creeping crud in the latest feature. Why did the company’s worker-stiffing negativism have to be sold as a positive in the food pages? No one opens a factory in Mexico to benefit the local economy, or America’s. I’m glad I’ve already learned the original grater cannot be improved. Because I’m not sure I’d buy another. To the paper’s credit, though, it was amusing to watch Mimi speak and the JGold Wannabe obey: The food moved to the head of the four columns. And the hed, at least in print, did double duty: Winning by Not Trying So Hard.
Never having been able to rinse “arriving at the table with its legs splayed like the town prostitute” out of my cranial sieve, I do tend to read some stories only to surmise how much work they took to make printable. And so I found myself watching cabbage get bitch-slapped, and not with any wit (or wits). Probably like most readers, I got the message: Move along; nothing enjoyable to see here. Apparently editors at the newish and very slick Saturday competition were in the same blinkered mode, because its gorgeous feature on winter greens, with its enticing recipes, was packaged with an intro that pretty much said “eat kale and puke.” As a Twitter follower noted, though, at least we could be certain the writer was not on the take from either farmers’ markets or the leafy-greens industry. Still, one more lede like this and it’s a trend . . .
The latest sign the rich are far, far dumber than you and I is an offer at a certain four-star restaurant. How pathetic would your life have to be to pay $1,425 to spend the night in a hotel just so you could get up at 5 in the morning to watch the royal wedding with strangers on “monitors strategically placed around the room”? I guess megascreen teevees would make the WTF miniature french toast look too small.