After only glancing at the heds, I was actually excited to see Bloomberg was cracking down on salt again. I’d heard on the radio before the last snowfall that he was boasting of having 250,000 pounds ready to coat the streets, and I’d seen white flakes flying as if in a sandstorm over at 97th and Park, and I’d walked home from the ophthalmologist’s with drops in my eyes feeling as if I’d gone snow-blind because the roads and paths in Central Park were already white as Morton’s. But of course he was only yapping about curbing, so to speak, the salt without which the human body cannot survive. So dogs will continue to need booties to keep from dry-brining their paws. But at least no restaurantgoer will have a properly seasoned steak or omelet.
It says everything that it took the Taiwanese animators to make the most fair-and-balanced sense of the cheval scandale. As someone who spends way too much time reading and not nearly enough writing, I already knew the issue was complicated. With hearts bleeding for ducks allowed to gorge to their guts’ content, everyone assumes inhumanity is involved in turning Seabiscuit into supper. But forcing the poor animals to be trucked out of the country for slaughter sounds far more traumatic to me. (Not that I’m whinnying, but the longest, hardest day of my life was the one spent getting from a hospital in Torino to our apartment in New York on a broken femur — and I had warm nuts in business class to ease me through it.) It’s fascinating to see people who happily eat cheap pork from abused hogs worrying about a protein many cultures regard as perfectly acceptable, even commanding a premium. I’ve tasted it only once*, the first time my too-curious consort insisted on ordering it, in a swanky restaurant in Florence where it was served in thin shreds as an expensive appetizer. I remember it was surprisingly good. But mostly I remember that the waiter kept wiping his oily nose and I later developed what felt like a particularly brutal form of bird flu. I would say “sick as a dog,” but that would be dinner in other cultures. Cooked at fever temp.
*Amended after a long walk: I remember I tasted it again, also in Italy, in Treviso, on bruschetta. And definitely not priced like dog food.
The latest “goddamn, is it time to fill up a page again?” from the pen wielder formerly known as Mr. Cutlets was beyond amusing. Whom shall we blame for obesity? Why, chefs, of course. As if all of waddling America could be flocking to real restaurants to gorge these days. I’ll just repeat one thing that came back to me over and over in the 15 days I was immobilized in a hospital in Torino, repenting at leisure for my bad eating: I did not get fat at Daniel. Even if you were privileged enough to eat there every night, you’d still be doing better than the average consumer of Crunch Wrap Supremes washed down with HFCS water. From a drive-through.
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.
As much as I admire and appreciate The Crusader Whose Name Sounds Like Bee Fodder, to the point that he spoke and I obeyed on Holy Foods, I’m not quite convinced of his new crusade to throw a diet saddle onto the health reform horse. I’m gimping evidence of the reality that you can eat well and exercise and in a heartbeat still wind up causing expensive damage to your only body. All the fast food reforms in the world would not have precluded that happening. And so I hear calls for taxes on soda and stop cold: Diet soda is no better than the fructosy crap; in fact, it may be worse. I agree that Americans are eating horribly and Big Food + Big Pharma is making it worse; Harper’s years ago pointed out that a bad diet that turned the whole country diabetic could be very lucrative for both industries. But now that Holy Foods has moved into my neighborhood, I’m starting to realize you really do catch more flies with organic sugar than even the most esoteric vinegar. I’ve only been inside a couple of times, but I am always struck by how wide-eyed other shoppers are in a neighborhood so starved of serious food; they look, I imagine, the way medieval peasants did on setting foot into the cathedral at Chartres. But this glory is accessible in the here and now. Make vegetables sexy, put the processed crap farther away, and yes, they will come. In a battle of Dunkin’ Subway v Holy F, I’m afraid I’m on the side of sanctimonious.
Turns out sausage is not the worst thing to see being made. Eat Me Daily dredged up a video of how scrapple of the sea is produced. And what was always on the lunch plate off the bacteria bar of one of America’s leading nutrition reporters? Brillat-Savarin was totally right if you only add a coda: You are not what you repeat.
All my good thoughts get burned through first over on Twitter, but even my consort can’t keep up with my Tweets and Retweets. In case you missed: Why was a woman last read bragging about her mega-kitchen renovation and 30 boxes of equipment on the radio nattering about cooking in a kitchen so small you can have no food on hand? (Our last one was half the size of our current foyer, and we did not stock up every day.) File that under friends get friends gigs. Then there was the irony of the Greenmarket opening an outpost in the Port Authority, right across the street from the scene of the amity, only a week after it was revealed that editors are too poor to buy from farmers. And my favorite comparison was between the supremely fresh local blackfish Blue Moon was selling at Union Square and the “previously frozen” basa from Mexico at Garden of Eden. Each was $8.95 a pound. Whatever would Dexter’s dad do?
Of course, just after we get in from the theater a block from the Os I stumble across more of the self-righteous hectoring that seems to be guaranteed publication in all the newspapers that were either rendered mute by the Chimp or just content to regurgitate the horseshit his handlers fed them. Now the divine Mrs. M is supposed to strap on an apron and save the world by cooking. No matter that she sends a more powerful message by dishing up healthful, affordable food at a soup kitchen, or by looking so fit herself, or just by not apologizing for hiring cooks to keep her family fed in Chicago because she had more rewarding things to do. It’s been a long, hard fight to get this country to understand a woman’s place is not always in the kitchen. The last thing we need is to have the President’s wife out “yummo-ing” on the talk shows with chef in tow when food is already on the teevee 24/365. This kind of incoherence was never on the opinion pages when the Chimp was talking with his mouth full on the international stage and forcing guests to gag down hot dogs because that was what the literal son of a bitch preferred. No one worried about the example set for the kiddles then. And really, how tone-deaf can you be to advocate roasting as one of the three essential kitchen skills right now? Judging by the crap I sometimes get for my idea of frugality, forget salmon — most families in this Bushed economy cannot afford chicken. (Let alone “lazy dinners” of esoteric salumi and imported cheese.) Cooking is like anchovies or lamb: Not everybody has to love it. If you don’t, and you work hard, you can pay someone to put food on your family.
There’s no escaping the Egotist now that he’s married up the editorial ladder. If he’s not on the radio reading self-righteously from a smarter thinker’s script, he’s slithering around trying to find a spotlight to dis teevee cooking shows. As if he never did any himself, of course. Really, could anyone seriously believe Julia Child showed a suckling pig roasting from beginning to bungholed end? Watching a lot of cooking is like watching herbs dry. Thirty minutes ain’t gonna do it. And Jeebus, the wine in her glass was not even wine. To think I always wondered how he could do a recipe or two a week without ever breaking a sweat. Now he’s barely winded on a self-aggrandizing marathon. Somehow I kinda doubt the fraud is in the prepped ingredients. It actually does matter how you chop an onion. And it helps if you have a cast of thousands.
I am never at my best in the morning, especially Sunday morning, but I still could not quite grasp what my consort was waving under my face in a certain supplement. He was saying something about patently crude Photoshopping — “Look how sharply her dress cuts in right here; that’s gotta be fake” — and I was trying to figure out why he would be outraged by a diet ad. Then it sank in, and so did I, right into the jaw-dropping editorial copy. A cookbook author who was once obese is now merely fat, and she’s got a diet book to promote. I’m sorry, when you are 5 feet, 4 inches tall (even 5/5 if you want to add in that alleged half-inch) you are not exactly a role model at 150 pounds. Once upon a time, before publishers routinely swallowed tales of cornbread and black-eyed peas as gangland veracity, an author would have been required to shrink at least to “normal” size (for a woman, 5 pounds for every inch over 5 feet). Maybe this inspiring tale with recipes will give some 400-pounder hope, but if I thought running and restricting would only get me down to the last notch on a regular airplane seat belt, I’d head straight for Dunkin’ Donuts. After all, I now know a new trick: Instead of stepping into your old fat pants for the before/after photo, you can stand behind them and keep the avoirdupois to yourself. As Stephen Colbert might say, “I am size 8, and so can you.” Except 8 is the new 14.
I can’t imagine surimi is any better for you than the steak of the sea even with mercury in it. But I’m no expert, and the one Time magazine found said it best: Readers are done no favors by single-food scare stories. On a petty level, I did wonder why the store next door was, yet again, given a pass in the testing; it only is about the biggest seafood retailer in town. And it should not have taken a listen to Brian Lehrer to hear from a real authority how the dangerous stuff actually gets into the tuna to begin with. Phyllis Richman predicted many years ago that sushi would become the new hamburger. If we can swallow the reality of mad cow and E. coli, what’s a little industrial spillover? We do like to leave the lights on and the microwaves humming in this country. . . .
In other nutrition nuttiness, let the “consumer advocates” rail against NYC’s new rule requiring certain restaurants to post calorie counts. As I must have said a thousand times, I have not eaten a Mrs. Fields cookie since learning back in the last century that each one contains about 260 calories. And I was, back then, a scholar when it came to the back of Fritos bags. So all those defenders of the public’s right to be stupid, the ones who say anyone can easily discern the difference between a bucket of chicken wings and a salad, should be sentenced to Southwest-salad-with-crispy-chicken hell. With Big Gulp cholesterol drugs for the ride.
By contrast, I was happily surprised by the junk brochure from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia that my consort dropped off on my desk the other day. A promotion for a health web site, it included not just a notice of a “dark chocolate and red wine reception” but a photo of and recipe for a salad made with warm goat cheese in a panko crust. We’ve come a long way from the “pasta makes you fat” attitude toward healthful eating. I’m not sure, though, I would want a tour of the Mutter Museum after that reception. Elephantiasis is a terrible petit four.
A more clever writer than I had the perfect take on DI/DO’s bizarre take on food allergies in children: Someone looks to have been poached in the crazy sauce. And if Mr. Sneaky Food gets away with saying worse than that on national teevee, why are we all so hesitant to call a pignoli a nut?
I had actually dropped $6.95 on a copy of Harper’s in December after spotting a cover line on how hyped that “trend” is, and I had actually thought the debate was closed after reading that taut takedown. Fear is America’s most lucrative industry anymore, though, so it’s no wonder the next allergy item I read was on Slashfood: Some delis in Wegmans supermarkets will no longer allow unaccompanied minors to order food for fear of the big A. As if it wasn’t bad enough that you can no longer get a peanut on a plane and have to suffer pretzels that would choke a Chimp. Forget the nanny state. The crazy mommy state is going to be the death of all of us.
Talk about a confederacy of dunces — the great WSJ story on how horses are suffering as the economy goes to hell is a telling example of what happens when the Chimp’s incompetence meets the cretinism of bleeding-heart airheads. Letting high-maintenance animals starve because the slaughterhouses have been shut down is not exactly enforcing their rights. There are worse things than butchering Trigger for dinner.
Thanks to Chow’s Grinder, the one clog with bite, I see Chicago is not stopping with banning a food only a minuscule fraction of its population even eats. Now that the village idiots have come for the duck livers, they are turning their evil eyes on chickens raised in backyards. The justification is that chickenshit attracts rats. And if that’s the case, the City Council chambers must be overrun.
Judging by the dustup over a piece by a Murdoch refugee granted asylum at the Taj Sulzberger, bumper stickers on nutrition nazis’ cars should read: Figures lie and liars figure. The dutiful regurgitation of a “study” finding that “healthy eating really does cost more” prompted literally hundreds of comments, some of which actually made sense. A smarter lede would have laid out the truth that “empty calories cost less,” which is no accident given a Congress in thrall to Big Food lobbyists rather than sensitive to small-scale growers. It’s the same kind of sleight of word that made a Coke seem a better nutritional investment than a small cup of Haagen-Dazs at the height of the low-fat insanity, when crazy studies were flying by wildly. The most amusing part was when the verbal scrum turned into an ode to lentils, which Ms. 401K angrily insisted “no one could eat every day.” Tell that to nearly a billion Indians. . . .