Amid all the doomsaying on the economy lately, a graph in the paper that runs Turd Blossom columns as its funny pages was rather revealing: Americans are cutting back on poultry, beef, cereals, sugar, pet food and alcoholic beverages but spending more on eggs, fresh vegetables and fresh milk and cream. No wonder the catapulters of Spam propaganda have had no success boosting that scary product. Shoppers are skipping Alpo and flipping omelets.
Down at the mortgaged Taj, meanwhile, it’s increasingly clear the last competent copy editors have turned out the lights. In the death knell posing as a Metro feature that was the At Vermilion agglomeration of words, the steak that queered the deal with critics was either a skirt or a strip — depends on how far you could read. Even so, I’d take 16 anal editors on Eighth Avenue for the one at a propaganda catapulter who let a description of chicken confit go through as “gossamer.” One thing schmaltz never is is filmy.
Good luck to the Chimp in “creating” a legacy at this late date — Rocco would have better luck. Really, if he were a cook he’d be Typhoid Mary.
Williams-Sonoma just emailed to say I could save 70 percent on a panini press, and I don’t think they’re talking $3 down from $10. Actually, I could save 100 percent just by cobbling together one with two skillets. But even that narrowly avoided hustle is not as annoying as NYC’s own Trader Gourmet’s new “New Deal” promos, complete with FDR caricatures, as if a store could be offering Depression salvation when it sells Illy espresso for $4 more than Zabar’s (which is actually not as infuriating as realizing too late that the Carr’s crackers I paid $2.79 for at Fairway are $4.29 at the Food Shitty, which used to be the cheapest place for miles). And I kinda doubt “half-portion entrees” for $20 at the poor man’s Jean Georges are going to save anyone’s bacon anytime soon. Maybe that chalkboard sign I saw outside a takeout shop on Broadway was not kidding about its “beggie” sandwich.
Sorta interesting to see the new mouth of sustainability showcasing asparagus in December. It would be one thing if the Greenmarkets were barren, but Bialas in my neighborhood had great greenery (and orangery) two days later. (No eggplant, though.) At least Dr. Pollan/Mr. Ray didn’t tout a commercial version of his own recipe just to get the goddamn thing into print one more year, though — and at the top of the chart of the Republican boondoggle-with-veal to boot. Retire that baby already. (Why was I reading this stuff? Mostly because I was looking for the Oo La La, but wasn’t the rest just ads? And that wouldn’t bother me if the selling-out had done anything for my sad stock.) The meanness toward the budding children’s book author continues, too — the peculiar correction on her predating UPI was like a spoof, of “Things Older Than John McCain.”
Call me cynical, but the tale of the kiddle who wants to be a restaurant critic strikes me as just another Joey the Plumber with $25 for hummus. Everything about the too-cuteness reeks, from the timing to the placement to the surfeit of product detail (not just hazelnut spread but fine hazelnut spread) and the paucity of facts (who’s his mamma?) Shill probability: 90 percent. The only question is for whom, the Maroons or a place too tiny to benefit from klieg lights. The chef’s a great guy, but give me a break. And let’s not even get into the reality that real news would be even one soon-to-be-“hip” place pulling out all the stops for a walk-in who happens to be a single woman.
I started my week railing at the obvious BS that the wearer of the yachting cap is only now tasting Spam. For pork’s sake, she ate Elvis, and he was older than this PR stunt (adopted most recently by NPR, whose reporters clearly have not been supermarket shopping to comparison-price a 12-ounce tin against a pound of fresh meat). But I finished the week feeling oddly sad for her having to hit the streets like everyone else these days. At least she has a gam up on the left-behind, with her internet presence. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be worth much these days unless you are young enough not to know whom Craig consorted with professionally. Apparently only the Kool Kidz got invited to the Shangfest. And I’m sure they’ll rush back to drop real money on the sweet meat.
I’m a little distracted lately, but I scribbled a couple of things worth considering. First is that my heart bleeds icicles for binge eaters stymied by rising food prices. Anyone who can’t get engorged on the cheap is not a true American. Then, the Porcine Pantload is doing quite well by milking the teats he has already corralled in his reeking barn. And imagine how ridiculous it would be to send a Mexican chef out to taste-sell top-of-the-food-chain fish. Maybe I’m naive, but why does it necessarily follow that a piscatorial whiz understands the ethnic fit? Send Charlie Palmer DC to Taco Bell!
Seriously, what the Besmirched House dishes up for state dinners is almost parody material. Why, if you were serving smoked quail, would you cite “fruitwood” and not whatever the hell tree you chopped down? Can you actually “thyme-roast” lamb? (In a burning bush, maybe?) And how do you jus a chanterelle? Just like everything else in the last miserable eight years, it’s a heckuva job passing as competence. Pretty bad when even Rick Bayless would be an improvement over the affirmative action chef.
Okay, the Depression is officially here again. The requisite Spam-is-selling-like-cupcakes story has surfaced in the hometown paper, although with no indication anyone involved understands that processed crap that sells for $2.40 for 12 ounces is not exactly a bargain when overly subsidized meat is the one steal left in supermarkets. My Sunday paper had ads for chuck steak for all of $1.99 a pound (not three-quarters of a pound). Of all reflexes, the urge to reach for a cliché is hardest to break. Guess it’s not so surprising that business reporters missed the whole buildup of the housing bubble if they can be so easily conned by a chestnut of spiced ham.
One of the many stories I have never been able to sell is “why Thanksgiving is a food writer’s most-hated holiday.” As I am probably repeating myself to say, never does so much effort go into reinventing a wheel that rolls itself. We rewrite the Kama Sutra every goddamn year, and readers are totally happy with the missionary position: turkey breast up, guests face-down in overloaded plates. I’ve done my duty for this November and can now lean back and relax contemplating the hoops others are hopping through: Serious Eats is working itself into a lather with a countdown on a meal that really, come on, is the fucking easiest of the year. And USA Weekend had to trot out Sorta Slim to push a menu focused not on flavor but calories. Maybe I’m a math dunce, but 1,211 calories for a feast sounds downright abstemious compared with your average Blooming Onion. Cutting to 682 on a holiday seems mean enough to send the Puritans right back onto their boat. What is most insanely stupid about a feature like that is that the last Thursday in November is the one day most Americans actually eat well, with not just good protein but the full complement of fruits and vegetables. My big fear is reincarnation, but sometimes I wish I could come back as a culinary archaeologist to wonder why Americans would obsess on the calories in a once-a-year feast. It’s like angsting over the carbs in a Communion host.
It sounds like nighttime in the switching yard down in the Bloomberg HQ’s commissary. I guess John Tesar was tied up, because the rumored choices for new chef are not exactly super three-stars; their resumes are long but not deep. When the only requirement for the food is that it can be inserted tidily between Botoxed lips, though, why would you need an Adria?
I know frugality is the new truffle oil, but it’s still odd to receive a flack pitch offering probably the most trusted name in editing as an expert on dining on a shoestring. And in a Velcro world, at that. Maybe it’s not too soon to get out my apple cart.
At a time when newspapering has become a business of whiners, though, why is our hometown burden so determined to drive readers away? I don’t want that damn Metro trudge crammed into the national and international news. I like to throw away sections I will never even glance at; I don’t want sports crammed into Bizday. But I really have to wonder whose bright idea it was to send DI/DO back to the dark ages (and not just with gender horseshit). Food photos that were bad enough in color now look as if Weegee was involved, and Bellevue, too. Is that a loaf of bread, or are you just glad to see a cow plop? Then again, maybe it’s a concerted effort to make the illos match the content: dull. That Ambien packager obviously never sleeps.
Maybe I’m losing my edge, though, because it took an astrologer friend to point out the hole big enough to drive a truck through in the elegy for a dying Jefferson Market. At a time when rent greed is running rampant, why no mention of a landlord? Do they own the space? The finger was pointed directly at the bloodsuckers in the NYPost’s piece on the end of the line for the Emerald Inn, but then that piece had a fatal flaw, too. In the mid-Eighties, I can attest, Columbus Avenue was far from “a rough stretch” of bodegas etc. It was so overrun with wannabe trendy bars and cafes and shops that it was impossible to retrieve my dry-cleaning on a Saturday; the sidewalks were mobbed. We were constantly tempted to dump buckets of water onto the sots carousing below our second-floor apartment at 72d Street. Memory is a tricky thing. But, as with Mama, you could look it up.