Now with Shinola

Why it so difficult for people who are paid to gather and disseminate information to grasp what trans fats are and what the damn things do in food? (Hint: not make it taste better than butter or lard.) I hate to keep pointing out the obvious, but doughnuts and cannoli and muffins were invented long before Crisco was ever perpetrated on the planet. The latest prize for most blatant exhibition of willful cretinism was the inclusion of a quote in the NYPost from a guy who loves him some trans fats and puts “a stick of butter on everything.” To steal from the superb “Passing Strange,” whoever edited that story let his ignorance fuck his stupidity and called the bastard journalism.

Carpe taco

Relish is not a magazine where I expect to come across any Elizabeth David-level gracefulness, but I was still stopped cold by this: “As a Mexican food ambassador, he beats Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua hands down.” Now there’s a contest: trained chef with seriously endowed genes versus crap-food cartoon — what else could result but a knockout without a pawito lifted? I guess it could have been clumsier, though. The Latinizer could have could have trotted out an allusion to Montezuma’s revenge.


Just some random thoughts: Root beer is truly the bottom of the barrel. But let those who do not run Gucci ads on section fronts, and design whole sections around wine ads, cast the first stone at magazines too cozy with advertisers. Still, old media looks pretty good compared with the two silliest things I saw all week, both on the same food blog. One was a post on produce carts in poor neighborhoods in Manhattan that was illustrated with photo clip art from the tropics (yes, we have pineapples, but also every other fruit). The other was a rant against “sardines” on pizzas. Would those be anchovies on steroids? I’d love to hear the idjit complaining in a restaurant: Waiter, there’s a sardine in my Caesar.

Andre Soltner was booked?

I only watched “Top Chef” a couple of times, and only because I had to, for a story. But I think that was often enough to know these showmen are not exactly selected for their mastery of the art of cooking — Julia must spin every night the inanity is on. Whatever that circus is about, it is not about learning technique, purchasing, thinking on any level. But now I see a couple of the contestants are going to be “teaching” in New York. As I’m typing, I am being aurally pummeled by the 65th rendition of one of the only two Santana songs an over-amped band can play at a street festival three avenues away. Anyone who signs up for this “instruction” should be sentenced to fry mozzarepas in hell. 

She forgot Rachael

When my usually super-efficient ophthalmologist kept me waiting nearly an hour, the only consolation was getting to plow through stacks of magazines I never see, most of them recent. I can’t believe the Jersey Shore is still being discovered (oy, as they say in Charleston), but I was more amazed by the jaw-droppingly stupid story in Newsweek about the recent flurry of books recounting extreme eating odysseys. Could anyone really think Julia Child, MFK Fisher and Alice Waters were all contemporaneously “writing” about their eating epiphanies in Europe? Someone should start a new soap opera centered on food media in the age of so many buyouts of institutional memory: The Young and the Clueless.

Bad men

I’m sure I totally annoyed all the photographer friends to whom I forwarded a very funny blog post about the worst job in the world: microstock reviewer, that poor sucker who has to sort through all those quadrillions and quadrillions of super-shitty photos submitted for sale online for literally pennies. But now I see there is actually something emerging that is far worse. The Guardian says a chips-and-chemicals producer is running competitions for amateur ads. The latest winner was made for less than 10 pounds (not exactly chimp change: that’s almost 20 bucks, U.S.) “Bet you can’t eat just one” transmogrified by entrants internationally sounds like a call to Dr. Kevorkian.

Ortolans, you’re next

Call this “when the dew is on the tarte Tatin.” In an unnerving week for food phrasing, I saw pate goose. And oxtail beef. And I got a propaganda-catapulting email wondering if I knew quinoa was a plant product (as opposed to what, a funeral wail?) But on the serious side, I wonder if the weird wording of “pate goose” had anything to do with fear of foie gras — you can’t say anything these days without setting off the liver fascists. But I do have to admit I’m even more than normally astonished that a New York City councilman would take up the faux foie cause when kids are getting beaten to death in their foster homes and building inspectors are apparently taking bribes and cranes are falling and hungry old homebound people are getting shafted. Sure, raise our property taxes to send more inspectors out to be sure the hyper-rich can’t have an indulgence. Now that Chicago has given up the ghost of goose pate, do we really want to be the second city?

Litter-bound Chianina

A very scholarly friend tipped me off to the latest silliness in the cat food aisle: Chicken Tuscany. And Turkey Tuscany. Not to mention Yellowfin Tuna Tuscany. No steak, of course, and each includes rice, not pasta. Even dumber, the line is “restaurant inspired.” By the Olive Garden, I guess. (Oh, for the good old days when we had Mamma Leone to kick around.) Shouldn’t the slogan be “under the Tuscan tin”?

Can’t you get pig’s blood online?

So much cyber-ink has been squandered on the most craven comment-seeking story since the crotch-level steak that I hate to even mention it. (Again.) But as the e-dust settles, it’s pretty clear that it was an IQ test, and most respondents failed. Not only are people unable to do the math to cut a yield, they think equipment is a required ingredient. One of the best stories ever in a food magazine was the one on the two most essential tools in the kitchen: Your hands. Now, of course, they’re just used for typing evidence that your head needs feeding.

First they came for the crappy coffee

What’s left to say about the Ping-Pong ball shot straight into the CEO’s office at Dunkin Do Nots? I guess “foie gras.” How’s that Chicago crackdown going? Oh. Right. So well that the original Saucier’s Apprentice jetted straight off to wallow in the resurgence there now that Prohibition has nearly ended. It almost restores your faith in America. Idiots may pull ads when lunatics insist. But banning an indulgence just ramps up the demand. (Or, take away gin, birth a mob.) I’ve only wrangled the raw Hitchens-esque livers once in my cooking life, but even I was ready to run to my nearest dealer to get a couple of lobes to poach in duck stock after reading the Journal. Imagine the stampede if they outlawed felafel in a keffiyeh-print napkin under an anchor baby’s butt.

Stimulus? Check.

I can’t read my scribbles on where I spotted this, but it has to be the next hot thing: Hairloom tomatoes. Weave ’em into your salad — or onto your incredible expanding pate. It was almost as good as the sign at the Haagen-Dazs across from Needle Park: “Free water with every cone.” What’s next? Free air with every $12 shake? Napkins with every sorbet?

Save the church key

Over at the incipient satellite operation I have a link to how the idiocy of beer-can chicken has morphed into something far, far worse. Worse even than the garlic roaster I spotted at Zabar’s, in fact (what, you can’t operate aluminum foil?) Now comes the counter clutter Bloomingdale’s is advertising — a machine that dispenses beer on tap. This has to be something conceived in the so-called Office of Special Plans. For the Chimp you’d like to have a brewski with. Flat beer will be greeted with flowers. And please, how soon can they introduce the pretzel maker?

The vampire must have been booked already

If there’s any consolation for the degradation of the news business, it has to be the fact that flacks are debasing themselves even faster. How much did the one who sent this out get for her soul? Within hours of Ted Kennedy’s receiving his death sentence, she actually offered a cancer expert available for an interview. It was like Ghouls Gone Wild. But what does this have to do with food, you may ask? I had the same question. These people must get paid by the inappropriate overture.

Otherwise, no girls allowed

Second prize would go to the business improvement district that’s staging a chefs-on-parade event to raise money to pretty up the streetscape while so many people  are taking it in the gut thanks to cyclones, earthquakes, drought and greed (you know evildoers are making money off rice big-time right now). I’m all for nicer trash cans on every corner, and I’m as happy as the next Isabellaed-out denizen to have better eating options within walking distance, but $100 to $1,000 for tidbits under a tent seems a little excessive when Haitians are down to dirt for dinner. I’m not surprised to see Mr. Maroon billed as “special honoree.” But how in restaurant hell did someone who wants her legacy to be mobile meals get roped into this parochial exercise in onanism?

But the appliances are green

One thing I have abandoned all hope on is a vaccine against the Stupid. And so the future will inevitably bring more people who are paid to write about food not knowing that you don’t spell it “pallet,” that the shoes are not Minolos, that there is no way to carve a steak off a catfish (even one recalled for bacterial contamination). Chefs will always be doing “seasonal” menus with Brussels sprouts in springtime; big food companies will always invent garbage like a dressing called — seriously — Tuscan Romano. (As opposed to Venetian Reggiano?) But the true proof that there is no stopping idiocy was the layout in the magazine of the newspaper that simultaneously ran a big story on Americans wasting food. Showcasing stylish kitchens, the shoot squandered enough fresh vegetables to feed 17 Ethiopian villages. And the irony is that those are the kinds of kitchens that once installed will never make contact with fresh favas and fennel again. I guess it could have been more ridiculous, though: The prop stylists could have used Chicago foie gras.