Over at my Dr. Jekyll outlet, I’ve already commented on the idiocy of a cake mix company trying to re-target its crap to Food Network followers it thinks might be willing to put in two and a half hours on a dessert from a box. But in retrospect Ms. Hyde started dwelling more on the apparent naiveté of the reporter who brought the marketing campaign into the Timeslight. His last graf noted that Duncan Hines “began attaching his name to food products.” Licensing/franchising, you mean? I believe that’s called selling out.
I’m not speaking ill of the dead here, but I did wonder why the hometown paper would run a substantial obit of a guy whose role in the popularization of Mexican TV dinners sounded so peripheral — dad and bro appeared to have done the big enchilada lifting. The other hometowner is always printing megatype-heds over mystifyingly long homages to women who appeared to have done nothing more than give birth, which I assume is payback to some longtime pressman (do they still exist?) But given the popularity of all things food-related these days, this just reeked of link bait.
On the other hand, if you missed the rare laudable NYTimes take, on the no-win salt study, check it out for sure. So much “journalism” seems to be “some say the sun comes up in the east” even-handed nonsense, with total disregard for facts. But this laid it bare: The study was flawed, and no study ever done will be anything but flawed. If only food science reporters had been covering the run-up to the Iraq war . . .
This was a disturbing weekend for readers of newspaper supplements. In one I actually read this phrase about peeling asparagus: “it will look, taste and bite more nicely if you take the time.” Diagram that sucker. Unless you mean “good dog!” And then there was the bizarre correction on a featurette on the most pretentious dinner party hostess ever featured by T for Twaddle, one so dumb it had to be run twice. Seems to me, if a blogger changes her domain name after a piece goes to press but installs a redirect, that’s not an error. It’s a glitch. The real correction should have been on the site itself, which I looked at only to see if there was any there there. “Desperately seeking saffron,” indeed. That’s one way to do a 404.
But I got more annoyed on skimming Useless Weekend and the profoundly stupid Mother’s Day food feature. Note to the daughters attaching themselves to mom’s apron strings: Eggs without hollandaise cannot be Benedict. Substituting salsa went out in about 1995, when fat was being scorned as the high-fructose corn syrup of its time. What you “created” is just huevos rancheros on an English muffin. And I kinda doubt any mom who was presented that for breakfast on her big day would be flattered to think you were worried about her getting fat. Better to buy some lo-cal chocolates.
Okay, sap’s stopped rising. Back to bile. Is there anything sillier in a 140-character world than 30 gazillion words about a single recipe? Even without slogging through, I was reminded of the coulibiac in the marvelous “Decline of the American Empire” — all that yapping about fish in a blanket.
I’m very glad the FCC is making sure bloggers disclose all freebies they take. Keeps the agency distracted from wine writers who persuade restaurants in the top 1 percent of prix fixes to cook eight-course dinners for their wives who drink only the finest. Even if the antichrist employer picked up the tab, you still wanted to pick up a pitchfork. Not least because the chosen wines ran with no prices given. Message: Let ’em drink “Yquem.”
Woke up yesterday morning and something gruesome unfolded in my hometown paper. Something that almost took me back to a certain younger inconvenience. Clots is clots, is all I’ll say. That was it for me with that section, especially given how I did ribs-in-the-oven spin four years ago (parboil/sauce/bake/no beer can required). But then a Twitter nudge made me check out the alleged Brie Syndrome just to the left of it, and I suddenly found myself shoveling Barbero droppings out of my cranial sieve. Having actually lived through the “cold wheel of Brie” era, I wondered where the editors were. Certainly not reading the business press, which has been industriously pointing out that other people’s money is the same as it ever was — selling off assets and digging in deep with debt until the golden goose is damn near hollow. What killed the biggest scam in underripe fruit was not changing tastes, or even a world of Fast Company-anointed chocolatiers. Assholes bought a solid company and bled it dry. Just consider that Pat LaFrieda and a million “Farmer Clarks” have stepped right up to the FedEx scale lately, but it’s a rare week when I walk into the elevator in my building and don’t encounter an Omaha Steaks delivery. Maybe those organ-transplant boxes, though, contain the fixings for another food cliché — as I have written many times, fondue is the Scandinavian furniture of food: always on the verge of a comeback but never really out of style. The real news was in the third paragraph from the bottom.
As I contemplate, for the 40gazillionth time, upgrading to more frequent posting rather than Twittering my life away, I do want to say my jaw nearly hit the 6 train floor last Saturday as I skimmed the WSJ: It actually had a great take on how exactly the calories in any given food are calculated. In all these decades of obsessing on food, I have never seen any MSM outlet act as explainer. Too bad there’s no way to link unless you subscribe. So much for Father of Smidge’s pipe dream.
Not to pick on the WSJ, because its Off Duty really is best in show these days, almost enough to compensate for the slovenly copy-editing in other sections of the paper and the batshit insanity in its opinion pages. But, really, how could such a savvy section fall for the Chatty Cathy string-pulled salad spinner? Sure, it seems like a good idea in a quick test on a weekly deadline. Use the sucker for a few months, though, and you’ll see why old fucks prefer the OXO with its pump. What’s saddest is that I feel as if I’ve been watching this argument get lost for easily a decade (I was overruled at the NYT when I pointed out the obvious — that string goes flaccid faster than Newt’s patriotic organ). A seltzer maker is a wondrous thing on its first shot, too. Not so much when you try it without a fresh cartridge.
And I also made this point over on the Twitter, with a nice acknowledgment from the guilty party, but a feature attacking restaurant websites for what I always attack them for could at least have noted that the pot was calling the Creuset black — to read the assault, you had to register and click 65 times. I’d almost prefer a PDF menu after annoying music.
I should ignore the great redesign of the Sunday magazine just the way advertisers did (11 non-house ads over 56 pages on debut weekend?) But I was pretty awed at the miscalculation of the premier food column. Weekends are when home cooks want to kick back and think about cassoulet and other Everests they can take the time to climb. Not “git ‘er done” soup formulas from Dinings past. (Don’t even get me started on the Lives column on the “tamale” I read months ago on the infinite internets.) I’m no admirer of the Wicked of Oz, but the WSJ’s Saturday food coverage shows how it’s done: mini recipes that are almost haikus in their lyricism and precision but come from a plethora of different palates. Not from one “boil an onion in plain water, then add spinach” recycler.
Quick thoughts: The Forelock’s review of the memoir of the decade really should have had spoiler alerts — some of us might have wanted to lean back and enjoy the read. If doughnuts were the biggest deal in the section, reefered on the front page and showcased online, maybe they should have been a real story? And any time homage to a rich fucks’ destination gets huge play, maybe a little attention could be paid to how real Americans are getting by, and not even the 43 million whose idea of food fun is of the EBT variety? But the biggest embarrassment was the piece I slogged through on New Mexico’s move to require labeling for chilies — it couldn’t seem to differentiate between the pepper and the sauce and went back and forth between Webster’s spelling for the former and the Spanish word, muddying the issue even more. Sometimes a dictionary is not a copy editor’s best friend. It could lead right to addled in Middle English.
I’ll admit I’m a skimmer not a careful reader, but why in the name of Edna Claiborne would you run a story about devotion to Southern ingredients with a single recipe calling for miso paste, soy sauce, yuzu juice etc.? Talk about burying the lede — who knew the South has risen again with farro? At least I could identify with the ode to slave cookin’, tho: I’ve been on too many gigs where the best food is always at little joints off the feed-the-advertising-beast list. Kabocha, kombucha, let’s call the whole thing off. At least by the time we get to Brooklyn.
Also, too, you’d think with such a dazzling debut on the horizon, various sections would have coordinated their disparate offerings. Was that pepperoni or scabs printed large over the “Italians don’t eat meatballs on their spaghetti, either” WTF? Was it meant to be a zig, or a zag, on authenticity? And shouldn’t grease-on-grease pizza be taxed as “hazardous to health”?
If I were the cynical sort, I’d almost suspect formerly arboreal media had something to do with the Taco Bell lawsuit pointing out the obvious: 99 cents cannot buy you an all-beef anything. What else would sell full-page ads in these desperate days?
Felix Salmon sent one of the best dispatches out of Davos, verifying why great wealth is wasted on the obscenely wealthy. He described a wine gang-bang where the only thing that mattered was price/label/cachet with what was guzzled. It sounded like 1987 all over again. Or 1929. But it figures it ran in an outlier outlet. Newspapers have some Zachys ads to sell.