I slogged all the way to the last word of Time’s cover story on the end of ocean fish and just Tweeted, then sort of gave up. But my first reaction keeps coming back to me. Why would that huge feature (by weekly magazine standards) miss the whale in the newsroom? It kept hammering away at the idea that fish farming is essential because the global population keeps growing. And it never once paused to say, “Hey, you know what? Fewer mouths to feed would solve this problem before nature has to bring out even bigger guns than earthquakes and tsunamis.” On a planet running out of water, multiplying the loaves and barramundi is not enough. But I’m just being silly. I’m sure it won’t be long till they run a huge cover story on advances in in vitro.
Apparently I don’t get out much, because I’m way too obsessed with print fud. So I noticed the erstwhile Mr. Cutlets’ ode to margarine in Time magazine omitted a key detail. Sure, the other yellow stuff is still hugely popular even after the trans fat hysteria. And you know why? The shit is a lot cheaper than real butter. Five bucks for Land O’Lakes or $2-something for suspending disbelief? Your food stamps decide. . . But at least no Spam was harmed in the nostalgia fest.
Speaking of the looming holiday, I turned eagerly to Time’s feature after seeing it blurbed as “the latest in Thanksgiving technology: a heritage turkey grown just for you.” That would be a great marketing idea for these brave farmers saving breeds. But I read the damn thing all the way to the end, and it talked about technology and heritage turkeys, but only together. The cook touted for buying an old-fashioned bird gets hers the old-fashioned way: She buys it, from a farmer’s flock. And I really wish they had run a photo of the stuffing smeared on the outside to keep the turkey moist. No amount of kumquats and sage leaves as garnishes could make that alluring, even in parchment. I would hate to be around for the WTF moment when they slit open the body bag.
The other day I mistyped a URL looking for James Wolcott’s singular snark and realized I’d come up with the perfect title for a Tin Chef cookbook: Vanity Fare. Could someone please explain to me why, in this day and artisanal age, anyone would print a recipe calling for cream of crap soup? You know what works great? Actual cream.
And speaking of cookbooks, the moribund weekly that put Coulter on the cover hit a new low with its roundup, easily the laziest I think I’ve ever read. Every day I open our front door to find new books piled up, and the best choices include one by someone most skilled at appearing on the teevee? One whose recipes are not “hers” but produced by minions while she’s off doing what she does best? And the third recommendation is a book you won’t cook from? And the fourth is more a pander than a tout? The whole column took me back to the sorry old days when cooks cooked and writers wrote and editors understood that the twain rarely met in the same contributor. Also, too, can someone please explain to me why anyone would want a beer-braised cheeseburger? Better to grill some stew meat. And wax melancholic about Atlantic City.
Had a great discussion about the Mr. Cutlets ethics kerfuffle the other night. Over a free dinner. None of us were surprised by his accepting big-name chefs’ “gifts” of expensive food. Or, really, by his not disclosing to either his editors or his readers that he didn’t pay and his judgment might be skewed in covering friends. Neither is without precedent in this funny little world we professionals eat in. (Rated D.D.) But did he have to smugly crap all over the little people whom regular brides and grooms hire? Luckily, a few of them chimed in to comment that even bigger names than he snared do . . . catering. My favorite response, though, was a question about the column that did not even need to be asked: Did you pull this out of your butt?
Funny to see news outlets scrambling to be sure Mrs. O’s huge anti-obesity movement is covered by all the wrong people (“eat as I say, not as I do,” in one case). But at least the Time Tool was not unleashed on the anti-Big Food beat. Following in the sordid tradition of the Coulter/Molto blow jobs, he let the fastest food take him for a royal ride. Did you know the Big Mac has a chef behind it? Yeah, and so does all the shitty airline food. He actually swallows the catapulted propaganda and mentally transfers a high-end lunch with celeriac and salmon to the crap wraps the “most influential chef in America” claims to have innovated. And believe me, the reason the flack freaked when the chef mentioned poached pears was not fear of copycat competitors. She had to know the chance of something like that winding up on the diabetes menu was about as likely as a frequent flier ever tasting Todd English’s food in steerage.
Time magazine increasingly seems to be going for the Onion, and not just with that subscription-canceling cover celebrating the Vick’s VapoRub tears of a rodeo clown. The new issue has an ad that outdoes the most out-there parody, with “smart choices” labels on fake butters, frozen sugar water, crappy ice “cream” etc. Whatever you wanna call Country Crock, nutritious is pushing it. It’s all part of this up-is-down, war-is-peace media environment that also allows full-page ads in hometown newspapers shilling for high-fructose corn syrup. Really, at long last, have you no standards?
What’s that old saying? Lie down with Ann Coulter and wake up witless? I would have tuned it out, but my consort looked at the latest Time cover story and offered the obvious: Muscle weighs more than fat. But I only read enough to realize this horse shit was even more dubious as “journalism.” Anyone who doesn’t know you can’t reward yourself for a workout with a half-dozen doughnuts has never gained 30 pounds while running track and field in the first few weeks of college. And the last thing a nation of lumbering whales needs to be told is to lie around and eat less. Bodies are complicated. Exercise is about more than calorie control. Then again, this is a guy who inhaled Batali fumes and exhaled Tiger Beat. I will not soon forgive his editors for putting images of his gut fat hanging over his belt in my head. Bad enough the newsstands have been filled with women upchucking their eating issues for nearly 40 years now. Men should not get equal time.
File this under Fig & Flatulence: Time.com takes a serious look at why Southerners are so honking fat and reports . . . they eat too much and move around too little. Next I’m hoping for an exposé on why Manhattanites don’t use fast food drive-throughs.
More cynical characters than I read recipes and see Marcella lurking. I just question how radical a revamping it is when you cut the butter back to the level a traditionalist recommends. And then double the cheese. Then again, all that was not as mystifying as the idea of shadowboxing urban legends without challenging Olympian appetites. But I confess I’m criticizing secondhand: My consort slogged through with no prodding only to pronounce: “It’s badly written.” I guess he didn’t recognize the rhythm from the crude message that once popped up on his laptop in my in-box in Middle Earth.
I can’t remember how many eons ago a friend down in Fort Worth sent me a clipping about a local business he had just profiled, one that had set up a center where contemporary Peg Brackens could come together and assemble family meals for a week or so in one surge. Now I see Time magazine is right on it. At least they didn’t get Ann Coulter to endorse it. And I have to admit I did come away with two new realizations. A) The Silver Palate’s inescapable chicken Marbella has been rechristened chicken Mirabella and lives on in Ziploc bags everywhere. In 25 years it’s gone from party fare to heat-and-eat slop despite the fact that it takes all of three steps to make it from scratch. B) A word popping up more often than salmonella in the food world lately is norovirus, and jeebus, does a joint where strangers meet to toss together ingredients prepped by other strangers sound like an incubator for that hot new trend. . . .