An app to watch someone eat it?

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.

Barista headgear, straight out of the Onion

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.

Deep-throated panini

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 . . .

Just add red, trendy as the Cat

My consort laughs at me for wandering into the cesspool that is the WSJournal’s opinion pages, but many times it pays off. You need to know the enemy to see what’s ahead — ugly so quickly accelerates. Take the letter to the editor after a rational column advocating calming the fuck down about butter, cream and bacon. Rather than attacking the writer or the science, the Astroturfer went after a dead icon, noting that Julia Child had breast cancer at 51 and asserting that she had “chronic weight problems.” (Call this anus the jerque who mistook a 6-foot woman for Paul Prudhomme.) “Child Wasn’t a Good Health Model” is a helluva hed when you consider she lived to 91 (they could look it up) and kept her bile well contained. I’m assuming the Murdoch health insurance plan comes with very good drugs.

Tucking into a “tourchon”

The WSJournal’s take on the quintupling of onion prices in India was typically clueless. The worry was not that the poor can no longer afford an essential ingredient; it was all about the political fallout. As the hed put it, complete with typo: “Indian’s Onions Make Politicians Cry.” And one sentence actually read: “The government has responded as if it were a national emergency.” Onions aren’t exactly freedom fries. As always when food is involved in the Murdoch Crier, though, more questions were raised than answered. The last graf says a Delhi restaurateur is substituting cheaper radishes for onions. If that’s possible, it should be a separate story.

Any port when you’re driveling

In the meantime, I despair at the idiocy on display in major publications in the age of the Google. The WSJ, for instance, had a dutiful recounting of a dinner promoting “real Italian,” with a billboard that had buffalo, as in milk, capped. Which was only the least of the ignorance-on-parade glitches. (Funny how the more high-end the ads in that paper, the more carefully vetted the copy is — guess they think the unwashed Palinites won’t notice all the grammar/syntax/punctuation errors.) And the hometown paper ran the most bizarre story on “single-entree” restaurants in the Metro section that quoted a Florida expert on driving for food and included in the sidebar restaurants that offer a full range of seafood. I know we can’t use the sausage cliché anymore, but I’m just glad I went back there to work and understand exactly why one hand doesn’t know the other is stinking up the joint.

Read the URL

The weirdest story I struggled through all week was the convoluted tale of the Greenmarket farmer lying down with Wall Street scum and waking up ruined. It really needed an interactive element to keep track of all the claims and counter-claims. But at least it raised a tiny bit of confused awareness that there had to be far more heritage turkeys for sale than for real this year (free-range alone does not a Bourbon Red make). Still, the most bizarre detail went unremarked: “Three barrels of turkeys went to waste”? Turkeys are quantified by barrels? Maybe the reporter meant what McSweeney’s described as a hillbilly Thanksgiving menu: Wild turkey. Wild Turkey.

Connecting the Benoit dots? Not.

Since it’s getting into the saccharine season, I’ll temper all this by noting the WSJ ran an oddly timed (after turkeys have been cooked to jerky) but very enlightening piece on kitchen math. The advice on measuring various salts alone was worth it. But my cranky side also demands to be heard: How can sections as sloppy as (Gr)Eater New York and as polished as Off Duty possibly come from the same newsroom? I read the former to count copy-editing and food mistakes, the latter to marvel at the slickness and genuine hipness. It’s even getting smarter. Slow Food Fast still uses recipes calling for grapes. But they no longer need peeling, only smart roasting. . .

“Fry-o-later,” indeed

A friend in real life and on Twitter coined another perfect phrase — United States of Amnesia — and it really applies when it comes to beef. Everyone chooses just to forget the last go-round with lethal E. coli. Especially food writers. The WSJournal had a big roundup on — stop the presses! — name chefs going into the burger business, and it included a perfectly stupid graf on how grass-fed beef is “trendy in food circles partly because of a reputation for being better for the environment (although that is a question subject to scientific debate).” Uh. No. Some of us, even we the non-trendy, choose it because the cattle are fed what nature designed them to eat. Anyone who saw “Food, Inc.” saw graphically what happens when the poor animals are stuffed with grain their systems can’t process. Can you say shit (in the meat) happens?

At least canola’s cheap

Who could be surprised no one wants to ask Panchito about the Chimp, only about restaurants? It’s awkward for everyone to bring up that epic fail. But I was actually on the side of the Section Formerly Known as DI/DO when it came to the nonsense about covering cheaper restaurants. The embarrassing new public editor is really embarrassing, and not just for comparing the food pages to a moribund design magazine. Smart people without money are probably reading the Village Voice (online) rather than wasting $2 a day on a publication that still thinks $25 and Under has meaning 16 years on. Democracy is no mission for a paper with $4,900 bags to sell.

100 free turkeys in a city of 8 million

I ran into a friend the other day who said the flacking biz is tough lately because clients who want placements in the NYT and WSJ can’t understand people don’t read newspapers anymore. (No comment.) So you’d think one who got great exposure in one of those outlets would be smart enough not to boast about using tons of an endangered fish. There is such a thing as bad publicity: Las Vegas has to be the clearest sign of End Times. And another learned you can certainly flog your cheese. Just don’t say the words “raw milk.” Dance around for a few sentences. . .

Domino’s and the right to birth

Apparently I was the only one not stunned by the hometown paper’s exposé of a cheese scandal: An unspecified amount of tax money is spent helping the USDA work with Big Food to use more cheese when more cheese makes Americans fat. My only surprise was that it was the lead story. Really, the most important news of the entire Sunday? With a lede based on a promotion “early last year”? (No credit was given to the first report of this, of course.) And of course my contrarian side was on high alert as I slogged through the acres of type. Question 1: Did the high-fructose guys plant it to distract attention from their contribution to obesity? (This is a paper that got played with Spitzer, not to mention with WMD.) Tax dollars pay farmers to grow the pound-packing corn to excess while the same department warns about fat. Question 2: Didn’t most of the evildoing happen during those lovely eight years when the whole government was for sale? It takes time to root out rot in bureaucracies, especially of the Christian College variety. And we’re supposed to be shocked, shocked that government agencies exist to enrich private business? Question 3: Isn’t the fact that farmers are fucking with nature to produce a glut of milk worth more than an aside? Also, too, would it be better if they just handed out cheese to the poor, as Ireland has started doing? (Neighbors in Arizona who qualified for government commodities always got cheese in a can back in the Fifties and Sixties, when the teabaggers of the time were skinny.) Still, the most serious question is this: Is the American cheese on a Wendy’s burger really even cheese? It has more in common with the plastic encasing each individual slice.

“We are the white”

For some reason I cannot convince my in-law equivalent she’s wasting her money buying me a Christmas subscription to the world’s highest-circulation fud magazine. So it looks as if I’ll get material to mock for yet another year. But I really am not sure how much sillier it can get as it aspires more cravenly to the GE Profile level of ad. Of all the things Champagne is made for, basting a goddamn turkey ranks pretty far down the wine rack. And “the secret is to use lots of fresh parsley” only adds insult to injury to reader intelligence. If you’re going to bust out the big booze, at least reach for sage. And hold the canned consomme. The funniest part is that the idiotically pretentious recipe comes with a “test kitchen tip” to buy a full bottle of the fancy sparkler to have some left over to sip (I presume they needed at least a case to ease their consciences). And it has a prayer printed alongside. I do hope the mercy it asks from God our loving Father is destined for the editor who chose it. Because Champale is not quite Pol Roger.

Start fresh: Stick 2000 in the lede

I forget where I heard someone on the radio noting that it’s the anomalies that now make news — the old three-is-a-trend rule seems to have fallen by the spent-teabag wayside; the lone wingnut always gets the spotlight before three sane minds. But it was still sad to see the new game played with Halloween candy. A few cretins with issues hijack a holiday, and a foodstuff, and get the kind of coverage someone who discovered a new meat or a cure for the oyster die-off deserves. It’s almost enough to make you quit wearing deodorant. No matter that the stranger-danger-is-a-myth take gets even less coverage than what’s actually in candy corn. Me, I’m looking forward to all the gluten-free Thanksgiving stories.