Nothing makes me feel older than watching the savagery directed at the Forelock a full 14 years after I was making my slow way on broken-femur crutches down Columbus Avenue when a then-very-influential flack crossed my path and yukked: “Oh, they got you, did they?” I was once a queen bee of bitchery. Today I’m a ladybug.
I also read a whole story that came off like a PR stunt to promote a book. Then read a review of said book that proved you can so easily shortchange your work by promoting it. There’s an actual hook there, about the rights and wrongs of supermarkets. Instead we got the oldest tale in the Kroger’s — the poison is in the center, the good stuff is around the perimeter, it’s all processed crap and blah and blah and more aisles of blah. So much for the “skillful portrait that might make you want to catch a flight to Cleveland.”
This was not a great week for reviewer/book match-ups down at the hometown powerhouse. The Forelock prolly shoulda walked away from the competition, for any number of reasons, and his assigning editor shoulda brought in the G that starts with D. Plus Panchito was clearly sulking after reading the “inevitable memoir” after seeing it, by all accounts, reviewed so much better than his own. I didn’t think I could get one more laugh out of his lack of self-awareness, but I have to say reading a guy who was criticized for TMI now bitching about another memoirist not laying out TMI was pretty fucking rich. So, Ms. Prune: Two fingers or three?
Quick thoughts: The Forelock’s review of the memoir of the decade really should have had spoiler alerts — some of us might have wanted to lean back and enjoy the read. If doughnuts were the biggest deal in the section, reefered on the front page and showcased online, maybe they should have been a real story? And any time homage to a rich fucks’ destination gets huge play, maybe a little attention could be paid to how real Americans are getting by, and not even the 43 million whose idea of food fun is of the EBT variety? But the biggest embarrassment was the piece I slogged through on New Mexico’s move to require labeling for chilies — it couldn’t seem to differentiate between the pepper and the sauce and went back and forth between Webster’s spelling for the former and the Spanish word, muddying the issue even more. Sometimes a dictionary is not a copy editor’s best friend. It could lead right to addled in Middle English.
I know we’re not supposed to blame the Chimp for anything anymore in the United States of Amnesia, but I do want to note, one more time, that I was not the one who nicknamed Panchito Panchito. But if the diminution fits, why not run with it? I kinda like “Malto,” though. Misspell the second half as Eggo and you’d have a very Boehner-colored frozen waffle to accessorize the Crocs.
I also was awed by the contest I caught on Twitter for entries in a food publication: Get your work considered. For a mere $20 “reading fee.” This is almost worse than all the competitions for recipes and photographs that acquire all rights just through submission. There’s screwed. And then there’s tattooed.
We also forget most of us were in bunkers a year ago, counting the canned food and wondering how to set up apple carts. The economy is still a disaster, but after reading about food banks running on empty and firehouses collecting food I gathered all the crap I’d been hoarding in case “The Road” really did run through our front door. Chief among that was a bunch of rice mixes and seasonings from a press event thrown by a little New Orleans company bought by Big Food. I only ever tried one, and we were first stunned by how salty/fake it tasted and then, over the next few days, by how it had stunk up the joint. Seriously. As much as I mock the Forelock, he did have the comment of the week on all this salt insanity going around: “If you eat natural foods, you don’t have to worry.” I would feel a little guilty about handing off all that sodium and MSG to the poor, but after we left the firehouse where they were not collecting food (thanks, Daily News), we passed a family unloading even worse stuff from a car, with not a fresh vegetable to be seen. People in the Depression probably ate better. At least they had apple carts.
I read but didn’t actually see that the Forelock’s book hit the best-seller list; if it’s true, big props to the writer Claudia Fleming really should have had if she couldn’t get Nancy “Desserts” Silverton’s. Nasty old me, though, suspects this will be the “Simple Cuisine” of the Oughts. I still remember the guy at Bumble & Bumble who kept me in perms through the Eighties gushing one day over how this new cookbook from this big chef was going to change his life forever — everything is so easy; you just make these sauces and oils and stuff and you get food as good as Jean-Georges’s. So, yeah, if you like exactly one type of cookie, knock yourself out with formulas. If you want to learn how to cook, know at the outset that you will never know it all.
I see Forelock is running a challenge designed to make Big Food consumers everywhere feel very smug — they may be eating hog shit off the backs of exploited immigrants, but at least they’re not whacked elitists. I mean, curing your own bacon for a BLT is ridiculous enough. But to promote the notion and dis industrial food alongside the Kraft ad I caught is almost poetic. I just don’t know why he doesn’t expect people to grow their own wheat to make the bread. Maybe mine their own salt, too.
I also see the inevitable backlash against the rather awesome “Food, Inc.” has begun. Never underestimate the power of a few monolithic food companies with so much to lose if Americans start to understand exactly what they are selling. So expect more defense of farmers, only not the Joel Salatin kind, just the ones who have to worry about the “death tax.” Expect more attacks on the messenger, as if the filmmakers and reviewers were the ones forcing poor, overworked moms to resort to dollar meals in the drive-through. And definitely expect the class war to heat up, with cretins everywhere thinking eating well is only about money. I grew up so poor I was toilet-trained in an outhouse, but my mom did an amazing job feeding a family of nine because she learned some basic nutrition in public school in New York City: beans and cornbread make a complete protein. Today an immigrant like her, brought over from Belfast as a baby, would never get any food learning in school, just junk from machines. And while I’m waxing sappy, my dad always said the difference between “poor” and “white trash” is soap and education. Now kids have to get the latter at the movies. But if it liberates them from any notion that they have to butcher their own hog for a sandwich, we all win.
The morphing of food blogs into food glossies is continuing apace, which I guess should not be surprising given the stranglehold advertising has over both. But I was still amazed to see that just about every cyber-outlet in town picked up a “story” from the NYPost about a kosher cheeseburger without ever noticing that an essential detail was dead wrong. The “popular” steakhouse in the piece was located on the wrong side of the park. Considering I walk past it at least every other day and have never seen it full, I guess I shouldn’t wonder that the repeat offenders also didn’t realize the shill potential of the original piece was at terrorist alert level. Wait till you hear the echo chamber on chefs with charitable hearts. No shit, Forelock.
As for the golden shower, my first reaction was that joke we heard long ago in Trinidad (anyone calls you an asshole, just respond: “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Toilet Paper”). But there could be worse unpleasantness — I could have gotten a Food Network gig. And I think second prize is two gigs.