Mrs. O in a Walgreens

I keep thinking doughnuts are an overlooked trend story, but then I’m so busy gobbling digital doughnuts I can’t even keep up with my own work. So I’ll just start by ReTweeting myself: This country needs an #OccupyPanchito. He gets paid megabucks to dribble drivel after selling the “ambler” who drove the country into the #OWS ditch. I’d suggest the foie gras treatment, but apparently that would not be painful. . .

Bad lip reading

ReTweet 3: Why in the name of crap would you want to make your own Velveeta? Spam I could see — it’s apparently the next best thing to the most-written-about “sandwich.” But this recipe would cost more than what the cheese substitute was invented to replace. And when you’re all done you have . . . orange grease. Or solid Olestra.

Eyes like butter, teeth like Halloween

Back to fat livers, I have often wondered where the food fascists are when it comes to octopus. I can’t recall ever having read a single word about a protest outside a Greek restaurant or inside any trendy plancha-equipped restaurant. But these fierce creatures are almost too close to human for cooking comfort, and wasting their awesomeness is far more of a crime than letting ducks be ducks, capitalizing on their lack of a gag reflex and natural propensity for gorging. But I guess even the plebes can afford octopus, and that is an “American” word, so the “animal rights” activists will continue to stomp all over humans’ right to eat whatever the hell they please. While no one will speak for the industrial chickens.

Excised parsley: The bland leading the bland

The saddest thing I’ve read lately, at least in fud, was a Tweet praising Ireland for jumping on the burger train. I only spent a lunchtime in that benighted country, long enough to see how quickly the roads deteriorated once you crossed over from the British side, but I still think it’s profoundly sad that any passport-requiring destination would sell its soul for high-end McDonald’s. Did they learn nothing from dependence on one food (and can you say mad cow)? Why not at least reinvent the bangers with the champ?

Brace for the Cleveland food scoops

Time to start the generational alphabet over and jump to D, for doomed. Some study allegedly found crap, crap and more crap ranked highest among “Americans ages 8 to 24.” Really, they could do no better than Cheerios for top cereal in an age when the oat aisle is all “natural,” all the time? Hershey’s for chocolate candy bars? And Sprite? Sprite? When was the last time that name was heard in a school? At least the study revealed its methodology: conducted online. Knowing how many wingnut polls are skewed once sane people start weighing in, I can only think again of that classic dog cartoon: On the internet, no one knows you’re a marketer.

“Balsamic” ketchup

In a similar artery, my favorite “Food Day” newspaper blog post (it had goddamn better not have been an actual story) was the one offering gruesome recipes from some organization fronting for a dairy marketing group. Nearly every suggestion for healthful, wondrous shit for dinner included cheese/butter/cream/cheese. To which, being Mrs. Sprat, I would have no objection. But can’t newspapers just pull back the curtain and show who’s manipulating minds?

Short answer, given the news on the latest attempt to make nutrition labels easier to understand: No. As long as avocados and pistachios and spinach and other foods straight from the tree/field are not what most Americans are presumed to consume, the subterfuge can continue in the guise of elucidation. Whatever the “Institute of Medicine” might be has the bright idea of giving processed crap labels like the Energy Star ratings, but of course they would only apply to processed crap, which is where all the money is in food. The real answer would be to educate consumers from kindergarten on, to train them to think, but that’s not going to happen in what’s left of my lifetime, although it did back in the last century. One of the best classes my small high school required was General Business, in which we learned everything from how to make change and balance a checkbook to how to analyze the propaganda catapulted at us in advertisements. One assignment required reporting on a single ad on what it both revealed and hid, and I remember one of my choices was the then-new Pop Tarts, which even my relatively poor family had started eating. As I recall, the ads told you nothing except “eat me, be happy!” Imagine that exercise in a school where the vending machines are loaded and the corporate insignias are on everything and you raise money for uniforms by selling . . . processed crap. As always, my big fear is reincarnation.

$16 muffins

I’m sure I’ve ranted before about how clueless the hometown paper has been in its coverage of how Washington evolved from brown-liquor backwater to serious food scene even as the country went down the Bush tubes. Exhibit A was the DI/DO piece back in the reign of error that went on and on about all the new restaurants but never mentioned the scarlet letter: A for Abramoff. Once lobbyists moved in, the food scene changed. My first plane ride was to Dulles in the mid-Seventies, and I’ve been back more times than I can count thanks to my consort’s connection to the yellow magazine. Through all the fat years the Alzheimer’s patient and then the cigar manipulator were in power, Washington  was what it was; prosperity somehow passed it by. Now I see it’s the wealthiest city in the country, and of course restaurants do very well on expense accounts. But one thing has apparently not changed. Kal Penn told USA Weekend he was mugged there shortly after going to work for the Big O. Bloggers I follow often have similar scary stories you won’t read in the papers. So basically the elephant in the room never gets covered. The nation’s capital is America’s Jamaica, where the super-rich are prey to the desperately poor. You’d think they’d do something about it, but they’re too busy trying to figure out how to cut Social Security to enrich the cat food companies. Jean-Louis never knew how easy he had it.

Teeny spuds can’t grow eyes

And I know I’ve been overquoting the robber baron who boasted he could hire half the working class to kill the other half. But it really applies to the lowest rung on the Murdoch media ladder, where the serfs in the 99 percent are throwing rotten heirloom tomatoes at Occupy Wall Street, using every food angle to try to discredit a movement that could only improve their lot in miserable life. First there was the dissing of hippies for eating (donated) high-quality food rather than the typical fare of the poors. Then there was a bogus report of cooks going on strike because they had to feed regular homeless sorts rather than true believers. The newsroom sounds like a sweatshop where they themselves can barely stop to eat. And yet they beaver away, never seeing the real enemy. Clearly the pay and benefits are better at the broadsheet because the coverage is much more empathetic (read: rational). So here’s a thought: Someone set up a PayPal account to send pizzas to all those working for the Australian Pharaoh. Empathy through pepperoni.

No lunch for Texas inmates

And the silliest thing I’ve read in donkey’s years was advice from a psychologist in the hometown paper, warning parents it’s risky to take their Baby Jesuses down to Zuccotti Park. “There are kids who can go to a shelter at Thanksgiving and help serve a meal,” she said, “but there are kids who are traumatized by it.” Sorry, lady. Trauma would be seeing hungry hordes in the streets with pitchforks. Which is what happens when 400 people control all the food.

Looking at old Coke cans with new hairs

As all this nattering indicates, I’ve decided all food may never be local but it is already political. Too much is happening lately that overlaps the two worlds everyone always pretended were not entwined. And two stories illustrate this well. Salmonella has now been found in pine nuts, used to make pesto. And a farm in Nevada was raided during one of its field-to-fork dinners. The company that didn’t give a crap (or, more likely, contributed crap) to the pesto will undoubtedly walk away clean; it can point more than 10 fingers to lax enforcement just as the cantaloupe killers appear to be doing. But every small farmer looking for any way to make a few more pennies has to feel a chill over bureaucratic overreach. Someone joked on Twitter that starting #Occupypasture “might lead to regrettable romanticism.” But he was on his way to real change. The fact that pastures are no longer full of manure — while estuaries and water tables are — says everything you need to know about modern agriculture. As the sign said, shit is fucked up and bullshit.

Dial 999 Starbucks

Given my equal obsessions with fud and pol porn, I spotted a Tweet the other day mentioning galantines and ballotines and my aging eyes mashed it up as guillotines. No wonder the 1% are nervous. But I notice ballotines are almost the definition of the Kkkrazies: chickens boned and stuffed with a farce.

Hold the foie gras

And Jonathan Swift must be very pleased he is not alive these days. Satire is nearly impossible in an age when “eat the rich” is taken as a serious threat. (I mean, come on — there’s no meat on the women, and the men are all gross chin fat.) How would he even deal with what’s happening on farms across America? Thanks to reactionary crackdowns on illegal immigration, tomatoes are rotting in the fields of Alabama, the apple orchards in Washington State are reeking of fermentation and even the tree testicles in California are dropping for lack of avocado harvesters. But now the “authorities” have come up with a solution: Put convicts to work in the fields. So a state can conceivably contract with a private prison to lock up immigrants and then turn right around and bus them to the jobs they were doing before big money corrupted democracy. But now taxpayers will cover the housing and health care. Somewhere Anne Frank is quailing. . .

But McRibs are back

After my consort shrewdly asked me if I would ever be pleased with the hometown paper’s choice of a restaurant critic, I was hesitant to write anything about the erstwhile JGold Wannabe’s Trocadero Ballet-worthy swan song. But a couple of great takes made me focus on what was so misguided about going out on such an obvious high. Admittedly, I know too many people who presume they’re in the 1%, but everyone I know who admits to being solidly in the 99% has left the joint underwhelmed. The price just canceled out the pleasure. Luckily, they’ll never get in now. But his overlords will be wowed by how well their table is treated when he struts in from Holy Toledo.

Also, too: Tarragon + milk = pasta sauce

Considering my lame track record with old-style publishers, I’m half-happy to see Amazon undercutting the system that made it so nearly impossible to sell something different without having its sharp corners dulled to fit into the corn hole. Especially this time of year, when every day I open the front door to find another pathetic recipe collection lying on the doormat. Either I’m on the worst mailing list in the business, or old-line publishers really have no idea what appeals. No names, to spare the guilty, but I can still recall the sludge on the plate of the latest restaurant to get a glossy homage. Anyone who pays $30 for this overproduced mess should get a coupon for free double orders from D’Artagnan.