More and more I feel as if I get up on Sunday to find myself back in the late Eighties/early Nineties. A certain slinger just ran a recipe calling for skinless chicken breasts, nonfat milk, low-sodium chicken broth and phyllo dough rather than pie crust. And called it “healthier pot pie” at 615 calories a serving. Trust me: No one who wants to eat a potpie is going to invest time in it rather than nuking a Swanson’s. And anyone who might would just say the hell with it on breaking through toasted toilet tissue to get to the glop within.
Apparently there was some dust-up in a Harlem restaurant. Why it was covered, and at length, in the hometown paper eluded me. And having worked there twice, I remain mystified at how Yelpers came to be validated as sources fit to print. Savvier observers than I just say Metro has gone to the dog, but I suspect there’s something more insidious at work. And then there was the pandering with the slavering coverage of the archbishop in Rome, the guy who considers spinach a local delicacy (also, too, tiramisu, a creation of Treviso). I hate to ask the obvious, but when did gluttony stop being a sin?
Finally for now, I see advertisers are voting with their absence down to the hometown paper and its gutted fud section. Forget chewing. Your jaw will wear out while dropping at the banality of the display copy (and if you wander into the finer-point type, it’s worse: “taco or tortilla base” — WTFF?) But the cretinism is creeping farther afield. I read a bouillabaisse piece days away that came pretty close to journalistic malpractice. Forget the copy-editing sloppiness — the description of the second-largest city in France as a town, the mischaracterization of rouille as saffron-based, the misuse of hardy for hearty — and the lack of history and context and depth and the cluelessness on cooking. Etc. I’m done driving rubberneckers to the train wreck, but it’s really amazing that a newspaper that once prided itself on editing the merde out of every piece of copy disseminated just in print will now slop out slop for all the world to see. I know bloggers come cheap-to-free, but couldn’t spambots go out and eat and regurgitate for even less?
No wonder my 200 shares of stock in the hometown paper are now worth about one copy of the weekday edition. On the day of the “Superball,” as a flack dubbed it (I hope intentionally), the top recipe for snacks linked on the home page was for chicken wings. While all I’d heard mentioned on the Twitter and in real life in the whole week beforehand was Momofuku’s pork bo ssam. Having worked there twice, I really hope there’s not still an indebted-to-Columbia U grad slaving away as an intern dredging up cliches. Because algorithms would do the work for free.
And this is why the cluelessness matters: Everyone should have such problems, but my consort emailed me from Costa Rica to ask me to reserve somewhere nice for his first night back/my birthday, and it was hell trying to find a place with both exciting food and creature comforts. As taken as I am with the Changization of fine dining, there are times when you want pampering with your pyrotechnics, particularly when you’re reconnecting with someone who’s been in another world for 10 days. We settled on Aldea, and it was the right settling, at the chef’s counter, but it really made me realize how big a revolution is happening on the food front. Redwoods are falling in a shrinking forest. But we can put pickles up ourselves.
Idle thoughts: I’m guessing Holy Foods bagels are not really “hearth-baked.” Red Waddle would actually be a better name for a heritage breed (especially if we’re talking mandrills). Plus it turns out “a new way to eat a burger” is not with your toes; it involves trying to turn beans into a Reuben sandwich and confusing the headline writer, not to mention the reader. And please alert the Page One editors: A hero may be just a sandwich, but it isn’t made with a bun.
I did my spleen-venting on the Butter Guzzler elsewhere, but I guess we’ll never be “Deaned” out. One thing that got lost in all the bloviating is that diabetes is no joke. And for all the knickers-knotting over the Photoshopping of an amputee who really isn’t, that poster says more than 500 magazine pages of ads for a $500-a-month treatment that may not even work. But it is amusing that the same paper in high dudgeon would run clearly Photoshopped photos of the poor, poor celebrity victim.
Very glad I took my lazy time processing my thoughts on the war story of the “veteran” vegetarian (“nearly lifelong” wouldn’t sound as ruff-and-tuff a struggle at 30ish, I guess). So many other blogs/sites/commenters have laid into the parochialism, condescension and general cluelessness on full display under the most idiotic graphic. What I’m savoring is how it took a silly food story to expose just how under-qualified Dash, Son of Pinch really is for that huge job in an age when no one else invests in standard coverage of “real America.” Way back when, I learned there’s a reason Madame X was hesitant to fall for pitches from correspondents aside from Johnny Rotten: Very few who had not invested the time and forkwork in developing expertise off the “serious news” beat could deliver. Lots of us do it, but food writing is not women’s work. Some heavy lifting is required — if you don’t know it all, you have to find it out.* Over to the national desk they’re probably fine with hiring stringers and throwing emergency ermine over the emperor’s spawn.* But eatin’ and drinkin’ and watching fud teevee is not much to draw on when you get a tossed-off salad of under-reporting and over-padding. You don’t have time to see all the odes to KCMO as the next city destined to conquer stockyard palates. So you go to press with the embarrassment you have, not the one you wish you could kill.
All the Twinkies hysteria has made me understand, yet again, how easy it is to fool nearly all of the people all of the time in this new age of endless infotainment. And how easy it has been for Trump to gull cretins into believing he’s a huge success even though bankruptcy is not his bug but his feature: It always gets him out from under the crushing debt he invariably racks up, so he can go forth to rampage another day. This Ho-Hos “crisis” has nothing to do with Americans craving whole grains and spurning artificial pastries and everything to do with how capitalism works, especially in Bushwhacked America. Going into Chapter 11 is just a nice end-around with pension plans. The processed crap will keep being processed. But for 19,000 screwed-and-tattooed employees counting on retirement benefits, it’s “let ’em eat Ding Dongs.” Or Friskies.
Even I get weary of picking on Panchito, but he really should take that huge target off his posterior. Didn’t he help keep the Lump in the Bed’s fatal distraction off the national radar until the Chimp was duly installed? And at least he could be gracious enough to address the dissing her successor is taking from the KKKrazies. He is, after all, a guy with his own twisted relationship with pretzels.
I’m starting to think I may have to start my own campaign against duck abuse. And I don’t mean against putting birds on the equivalent of a fast-food diet to keep us in foie gras. I’m more concerned with using duck fat to bake cookies that make you crave Crisco for its neutral flavor. And, even scarier, turning roast duck into ice cream. Young chefs, get a slippery grip: Just because the luckiest peach uses it does not mean one fat fits all. Bacon hogs the spotlight for a reason. It goes better with everything.
I’m sure I’ve ranted before about how clueless the hometown paper has been in its coverage of how Washington evolved from brown-liquor backwater to serious food scene even as the country went down the Bush tubes. Exhibit A was the DI/DO piece back in the reign of error that went on and on about all the new restaurants but never mentioned the scarlet letter: A for Abramoff. Once lobbyists moved in, the food scene changed. My first plane ride was to Dulles in the mid-Seventies, and I’ve been back more times than I can count thanks to my consort’s connection to the yellow magazine. Through all the fat years the Alzheimer’s patient and then the cigar manipulator were in power, Washington was what it was; prosperity somehow passed it by. Now I see it’s the wealthiest city in the country, and of course restaurants do very well on expense accounts. But one thing has apparently not changed. Kal Penn told USA Weekend he was mugged there shortly after going to work for the Big O. Bloggers I follow often have similar scary stories you won’t read in the papers. So basically the elephant in the room never gets covered. The nation’s capital is America’s Jamaica, where the super-rich are prey to the desperately poor. You’d think they’d do something about it, but they’re too busy trying to figure out how to cut Social Security to enrich the cat food companies. Jean-Louis never knew how easy he had it.
And the silliest thing I’ve read in donkey’s years was advice from a psychologist in the hometown paper, warning parents it’s risky to take their Baby Jesuses down to Zuccotti Park. “There are kids who can go to a shelter at Thanksgiving and help serve a meal,” she said, “but there are kids who are traumatized by it.” Sorry, lady. Trauma would be seeing hungry hordes in the streets with pitchforks. Which is what happens when 400 people control all the food.
All that said, half of me hopes some wingnut really does get elected, just to have his faux family subjected to the under-the-microscope treatment accorded the current occupants of the White House. Did an internet outlet really send someone out to food-stalk Mrs. O? And am I the only one a little queasy after eight years of booze-and-cigs unexamined under the former occupants? I guess we’re just lucky the intrepid “reporter” was not required to check the contents of the toilet bowls, too.