If this country had had universal health care in the early 1900s, Mary Mallon would not have become one of the most famous cooks in history. Apparently we still haven’t learned the lesson. While the wingnuts kick up sand and the rest of the world marvels at the backwardness, the fact remains that without health care even the super-richest remain at risk of typhoid from the meatloaf. Sweet sauce or no sweet sauce.
Meanwhile, major “news” outlets continue to print “be afraid, be very afraid” stories about all the germs on supermarket shopping carts. Without ever noting what remain the most bacteria-loaded dangers outside the toilets in the store: dollar bills — from the bums’ poop-encrusted bums to your hands, with many unwashed fingers in between. As I will note yet again, they don’t call it filthy lucre for nothing.
Looks as if the fauxposé of cookbook “ghostwriters” is birthing zombies. The argument just won’t end. But I do wish the original had touched on a rather fascinating ethical issue: ghosts reviewing ghosts. Can you judge an “opus” fairly if you lost out on the gig as collaborator? And would your editor/readers ever be the wiser?
The other upshot of this was the flurryette of emails I got over to the Facebook. One brought up the most “galling” part of the original piece, to which I had to respond that I, too, know better about she who farts in public (or so her friend told me). There be elves in that smoke-filled townhouse.
In related silliness, I’m not sure how I got hooked up with a Facebook group that debates cookbook issues, but it has proven useful in one case if way too revealing in many others. Did anyone ever make a living producing a recipe-with-headnotes collection a year? In my nearly 30 years in this business, all I have ever heard is whining. We eat for a living. It beats working. If you want to make a million, start putting the Rose’s Lime in the Coco Lopez. Or, as Wynton Marsalis famously said, start with $2 million . . .
Which brings me to the grotesquerie that is the doughboy Bake-Off. I see the winner is “ravioli” made from crescent roll dough teamed with whipped cream spiked with caramel syrup and dusted with cinnamon sugar. How “ravioli” can be baked-not-boiled things is never addressed, although my suspicion that these are really empanadas was countered by the fact that some other diabetes-inducing travesty won with that name. I’m sure I’ve written before about going to the bake-off back in the last century and being horrified at how much processed crap could be combined into new weirdness — those contestants made the Semi Ho look like an fantasy-deprived amateur. But I’ll have to reprise what I learned: A million-dollar prize is pretty cheap for a business most interested in getting a sense of how America gorges. The cagey company reveals only that “tens of thousands” of entries are received each year, but no consultant could map the territory as effortlessly as letting the sheep herd themselves into the pen. And now, with the internets, the contest can probably cut the prize to nothing more than publication online (shades of the hometown paper’s payoff for its “ethical meat-eating” contest, which I will not encourage by linking): Dreamers of the industrial dream are giving away all their flavor fantasies in “the community” it has created online. Black garlic ice cream, indeed.
Nobody could top Andy Borowitz’s Tweet observing that G.F.Y. Cheney had gotten a new heart while the Chimp was still awaiting a brain transplant. And probably no one can figure out why Panchito confessed to the condition his condition is in. As my consort asked: “He has gout? Why would I care?” As always, though, the round one revealed more than he intended. No one who thinks “revolting in its bloat” is the best thing in fud should ever be a restaurant reviewer. Images of Nick Nolte assessing ’82 Bordeaux immediately come to mind.
This is turning out to be the lyingest campaign ever, so I shouldn’t be surprised readers were informed that a woman who owns and rides $100,000 horses, and whose husband is worth a quarter of a billion, makes meatloaf. And it’s his favorite! Back in the age of the Fairness Doctrine all the other candidates’ wives would have been able to showcase their bogus recipes, too. I’m sure Mrs. Gingrich III makes a mean tuna casserole. But even she doesn’t bake it in two ovens.
And this trend toward running readers’ inanities in old media has already gone too far. Tip of the week in another waste of trees was jaw-dropping: If you don’t have fresh tomatoes in winter, keep a can of diced handy — for your salad. Because nothing is more satisfying than red mush on your good lettuce.
I keep seeing the union rat in front of food establishments lately and am glad to see some push-back against the race to the bottom, the endless attempts to make workers give up more and more for greedy overlords. If even cashiers have no money after paying for their own insurance and pensions, who is going to buy the groceries? And while I don’t want to jump to judgment on seeing chefs accused in lawsuits of cheating employees, I do keep wondering why the Wage Theft Prevention Act was even needed. Wasn’t that guy at the Last Supper all about “thou shalt not steal”?
I could swear I heard the top editor of the hometown paper give an interview saying journalism comes first there, but the very next day I went to a media event where the question of the day was: Which food section reads like Page 6? After two stints there, I really can’t imagine any other part of the fit-to-print paper running a piece with so many anonymous accusations, with none of the indicted given a chance to respond. Even worse, there was zero comment from the ghostwriter with one of the longest lists of cookbooks to her credit. You know, the one who might really have some stories to tell, or at least be able to offer a defense of the good clients. Guess peeing in your own pool is not advisable (don’t get me started on the public farter). Which is probably why there was no mention of the Egopedist, either, although average readers would be stunned to realize even Mr. Knows Everything doesn’t write all the words/develop all the recipes. Almost the worst part is that this all of this link baiting came off as a glass house situation — as someone on Twitter asked: “Do all New York food writers have chefs cater and provide spaces for their weddings?”
And I changed my mind about the Heartland “reviewer” once she got her chance to go on “Dining With the Stars.” She dropped her dignity faster than you can say “I’ve got five columns to write” and jumped on a plane to New York with a flack in tow. I’m sure her employer was as thrilled as Dining with all the traffic, but it was a little unseemly, to the point that I was not alone in cynically wondering if maybe the authentic Tuscan farmhouse chain wasn’t underwriting the media tour. The alacrity with which chefs leapt to cook for her was also queasy-making, given that she and her attention-craving son admitted a discerning palate is not her strong suit. But the low point was the giddiness the former JGold Wannabe exhibited on inviting her to the Page One meeting. If all it takes to get that entree to big-decision confabs is to be an internet sensation, we should thank Allah that Keyboard Cat and Charlie the Finger Biter peaked too soon.
As if the clown car’s race to the bottom could not get any more amusing, two of the losers are now campaigning on which of them is the more true-red aficionado of grits. So I guess I shouldn’t point out that grits are the new arugula, heritage and coarsely ground for a new generation. Or that they go really well with truffles. Or that of course the serial adulterer would be the one to express his devotion to the white stuff three ways.
And if the Egopedist ever actually read Descartes — and not in the CliffsNotes — I will buy my first hat ever and eat the goddamn thing. Two sentences in and this old editor wondered: Who writes that stuff? Rousseau?
One of my friends-through-Twitter has been back-and-forthing about how soon it will be until we see ramps on menus, and I feel even sadder about being shortchanged of winter. Already green garlic is in Greenmarkets, and it’s way too soon (I only recently finished off the last of Keith’s Farm’s amazing hard-neck cloves). At this rate we’ll be through with pumpkins by June. The cherry blossoms are already in full bloom in Washington, I saw geese for the first time among the ducks over in The Pool in Central Park and all the suddenly-trusted climate experts are warning mosquitos will be rampaging within the month. All of it makes me think humans were smarter in the age of mythology, when the seasons could be rationalized and so were respected. The explanation of winter is my favorite, how the ruler of the underworld spirited away Persephone/Proserpina and made her stay half the year for eating six pomegranate seeds while, as Kate McGarrigle lyrically put it, her mother, the goddess of agriculture, “punished the Earth” and “turned every field into stone.” Millenniums ago people understood the world needed a respite. With all the information available to us, we still think we can eat pomegranates all year and not pay a price. No joke.