Someone more clever than I has coined the moniker “egopedist,” which really does sum up what the hometown paper has unleashed on the world: shallow thoughts gathered from here and yon and tediously presented as if they were original. At least this new gig is exposing how many gray dittoheads are out there, waiting for their preferred outlet to “inform” them the great American food chain is kinda fucked up, when the Eric Schlossers and Marion Nestles and Michael Pollans etc. have been the Davids catapulting at Big Food Goliaths for years. Wasn’t there a movie called “Food, Inc.” in many, many theaters not so long ago, now available for free from libraries? Oh. Well. While I’m braising my CAFO short ribs, I’ll be wondering: Who is this “we” of whom he speaks with all that faith in the food supply? And what’s worse, carbon emissions or carbon copies?
Also, too, you’d think with such a dazzling debut on the horizon, various sections would have coordinated their disparate offerings. Was that pepperoni or scabs printed large over the “Italians don’t eat meatballs on their spaghetti, either” WTF? Was it meant to be a zig, or a zag, on authenticity? And shouldn’t grease-on-grease pizza be taxed as “hazardous to health”?
I pissed in the teapot at an impromptu party in our co-op on a snow day by bringing up the awful truth that thunder and lightning are not normal in a January blizzard, and by wondering how we the little people can push back against undeniable global warming. The Guardian ran a pretty good story recently noting that rationing in World War II actually strengthened British society, and by chance one of the guests had firsthand tales of trading kitchen scraps for eggs, surviving on powdered eggs from America and watching her mom weigh out candy once a week. Surely we could do something, anything while our “leaders” dither and pocket checks from Big Oil and “Clean” Coal. While I wait for suggestions, I was happy to hear a report on PRI’s The World on the teacups of Kolkata: They’re made from clay, used once on the street and crashed to the ground, where they dissolve to be recycled into fresh containers. The rest of India is giving in to plastic, but the reporter interviewed a family responsible for baking these eternal-life cups for now. And she had the details down to the little bit of grit in the bottom of each cup — I can still taste the chai we drank one long morning while my consort was shooting there in 1993. I think of it every time I go into some snooty coffee joint in NYC when the dishwasher is (inevitably) broken and the clerks are serving in disposable cups rather than having someone get his/her hands clean scrubbing the china ones. My big fear will always be reincarnation, but if I have to come back, I hope it’s to Kolkata.
Friends gave me another copy of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” for my birthday and I may very well keep it. One in every room might not be enough for sourcing the newest opinion columnist’s deep thoughts. Echoing forever in my head are the words of an editor who warned “he’s not a very sophisticated writer,” and I’m still marveling at the zucchini soufflé in kabocha season. Really, someone should remake “Zelig” with a food theme. Helen Mirren can play Marion Nestle.
Not sure why I don’t feel very amused lately, because I’ve certainly had no shortage of annoyances. Like false analogies and seasonal sins and general “how did that see print?” as in octopus “legs.” Describing anything as being as complicated as a Thomas Keller recipe makes me think no one ever heard of butter-poached lobster, and this from a paper that just advised how to cook a Christmas tree. And what was up with saying New Year’s resolutions fizzle like a glass of chilled Champagne? Even in one of those Marie Antoinette tit glasses, Champagne does not fizzle. And then there’s zucchini mock soufflé in butternut season. Apparently summer squash is okay if it’s “flown in from Peru”? But at least no quote whores were dragged out to offer improbable origins of restaurant color trends. Oh. Right.
And while all the media attention is obsessing on the nitwit nominees in this kkkrazy election season, the bigger news is out of the kitchen. A cookbook author who became a friend when she was the NYTimes recipe tester is running for the State House in New Hampshire, while a Southern notable is running for Senate to try to keep South Carolina from becoming even more of a laughingstock. Maybe someone who claims to be able to cook everything could offer to try to roast the Buffalo goose?
Taking a short bile break to restart my wit engine. But first have to wonder if anyone knew you can grate shit in a Cuisinart. Everything but a whole snapper, apparently. And last I read, the iPad was the Typhoid Mary of tech — touching one in an Apple store would give you serious cooties. Now it’s the greatest thing to caress before eating? I need a drink. Or a week’s worth.
I didn’t bother with the gray print, but I did stop to wonder: If a cake is so awe-inspiring, why not credit the source? (And will there ever be any escaping that fucking torte? It’s a newspaper. No need to report the swallows are returning.)
I see the EVOO one has a new show, built around the profoundly depressing idea of cooking enough on one day to feed everyone the rest of the week. Maybe that’s efficient. But it seems like a recipe for dread. Back before automatic washers/dryers and laundry anytime, washday was the most dispiriting day of the week, all work and no rewards. Red beans and rice originated as a way to get the cooking and the laundry done — the housewife could wrangle the latter while the former stewed. (To this day I despise Spanish rice because it was my mom’s solution.) With schedules so crazy now, who would want to go back to that routine? Wouldn’t it be better to spread the work out through the week, maybe cut the time invested in daily dinners? To, say, 30 minutes?
Back when I was very new to recipe development, I came up with one that haunts me to this day — something involving leek whites cut the long way, rolled up and cooked with stuff inside. It was like doing a back-flip through multiple burning hoops when a simple vinaigrette would have been enough. But I don’t feel so bad since seeing the Egotist’s latest overworking of chicken breasts — something involving many, many extra steps in the quest for minimalism. And the illo? OMFG. It looked like what you’d see in a typically unattended gas station ladies’ room. But I guess when you have no ads, you have to run the photos bigger. . .
Only on the last two mornings at a table overlooking the water, I’m not sure in which direction, did I pick up any hint of what was happening in the world as I stayed disconnected from Twitter/email/the Internets. And that was only because Bob finally noticed there was an English-language newspaper to be had in the hotel’s breakfast room. So maybe my eyes were just a little too fresh when I picked up the hometown paper on Food Day. And saw exactly one outside ad in the whole dreary section. Guess the sales staff had the same bored reaction readers would: Sometimes a clam is just an excuse for overwriting.
And I can’t believe one of my correspondents hit the bull’s-eye when she Tweeted: “Last week: Feedlot beef This week: hothouse tomatoes Next week: Joys of iceberg?” It really is way past time to retire the notion that there is anything fresh to say about the most industrial green in the supermarket. Margaret Visser exhausted the topic in 1986, for Kroger’s sake. Beyond that, the cluelessness in this latest condescending ode was pretty impressive. Anyone shocked by $12 mesclun from far away has not spent the winter resisting the temptation of $20- to 48-a-pound stuff at . . . the Greenmarket. And, just FYI, the smart money is on margarine next.
Someone over on the social media site that ate my life suggested bringing the Egotist to the White House to consult (or some such nonsense). I’d suggest bringing the guy who actually wrote the original script for what matters. He, after all, looked at a full page in the hometown paper devoted to cult cow and saw that it was actually only ordinary feedlot beef.
A nailed plagiarist got all the attention last week, but every day there are more signs that the old gray lady’s letting standards slip as fast as aging bosoms as the cost-cutting gets more brutal and the hamster-wheeling gets faster. The stuff you hear about how little oversight the blogs are graced with would make your glazed hair curl. The Chelsea Market, for instance, did not evolve naturally. I remember the deals made to get food producers in there more than 10 years ago — it became what it is by calculated design. And then you get these silly opinion pieces on taxing soda that do not make the obvious point that it would be the first honest and effective Ponzi scheme in history: Take money from consumers to pay off Big Agriculture, eliminating the middleman of Congress with its farm subsidies. And finally you get the strange situation where the fact that Romania is considering taxing fast food is never reported. But a 528-pound woman giving birth in Romania is big news. Señor Slim must be messing with their heads in more ways than one as he engulfs and devours.
The JGold Wannabe tried out yet another new voice in mystifying readers like my consort, who braved a few grafs and could not understand why the rave added up to only three stars. Poor Britchky’s fingers must have been twitching in his grave. I’m so naive I believe even a Poor would not have hurt a restaurant that does what it does so well, and has for so long — I will not soon forget walking out of the deserted Four Seasons last summer and seeing the floral Frog jammed; if you’re going somewhere for a scene and not cuisine, flowers are a fixed face’s best friend (I ate there for my long-ago Allure story on how restaurants make women look good or bad). What was most surprising is that no attempt was made to connect the news dots between that review and the profoundly depressing information that the chef on whom Ruth once lyrically bestowed four stars is now slaving at a Midtown East joint one step up from Tout Va Bien. Of course I’m so old I got addicted to quenelles before I ever had to face down gefilte fish. But I do know that there’s a whole food truck devoted to schnitzel and that people make special expeditions to Cafe Sabarsky for the strudel alone. I just can’t tell the Egotist from the Drivelist sometimes. Or understand how “blackened fruitcake” saw print. Sloppy is as sloppy ledes.