More and more, it’s becoming obvious that the guano is getting real with all the foxes in charge of the Orange Henhouse. A report in the unlinkable Murdoch Crier detailed how the chicken industry is carping the diem to demand rollback of yet another rule imposed by the successful black prez, the one that limited poultry factories to whacking up a mere 140 birds a minute. A minute would now have 175 carcasses flying by, sort of Lucy-on-the-chocolates-line pace but now with more salmonella. The LOL, however, may be last on the greedsters. Their racist hero and his brownshirts at ICE are guaranteeing there will be no one available to do the work. Unless, of course, he succeeds in doing away with disability and Social Security. Guys on oxygen tanks and grandmas in wheelchairs will surely flock to feather their mitts with that sweet, sweet unliving wage.
Every morning’s food news should come with a warning: If the libertarian in the clown car gets anywhere near the White House there will be no Big Gubmint to get between you and sick chickens and listeria-laden ice cream. The United States of Somalia will have no mandated kills and recalls — live free market and die. But on the lighter side, I was reminded of the first guy I ever heard rave about Blue Bell, a supervisor in a soft-shell crab processing plant on the Chesapeake who described how those beautiful swimmers molt: “They have to be real still after shedding. It’s like a hangover, a bad one, where you wake up and your skin is in the bed next to you.”
I had to stop and take a snap after emerging from the stories-deep, gleaming-clean, efficient-and-cheap Metro and seeing this. To be fair, my lunch hostess the next day did say the place is wildly popular. She won’t go back, though, because “they’re too friendly — you walk in and eight people want to help you.” And that’s from someone who lives in a city where, when I couldn’t find a particular restaurant, I stopped in a graphic arts gallery to ask for directions and the mailman who happened to be dropping off letters insisted on walking me to the nearest corner to point to where it was.
I do, however, wonder if any of the diapered xenophobes calling for bans on flights from West Africa have any idea where a lot of chocolate comes from. Or how it’s made . . .
On the plus side, the hometown paper did publish this fascinating look at the robot the Thai government is going to employ as a finger in a very large hole in the digital dike. The world really is awash in bogus Thai food, not least because it is part of what I’ve come to view as Glasian — global Asian. Eons ago someone did an excellent story tracing the mediocrity of pad Thai to the fact that most “chefs” were immigrants just trying to get by doing anything they could do to stay afloat here in the promised land (which also must account for the abysmal state of Mexican restaurants). And a metallic palate cannot possibly do worse than some of the paid tasters these days. Does anyone give a petite merde about what the tire guy says anymore?
Plus I went to a media event the other week where you could almost hear the ka-ching, with so much splashy investment in promoting supermarket products. A certain someone would ride shotgun all over the grilled cheese in the video. But at least someone else probably got a full week at the George V.
As for “Chef,” it has its problems as a film, but it definitely lives up to the chef hype. We usually never talk in movies, and still Bob had to lean over and say: “This food looks like real food.” Later, I said that just reflected all the other social media themes in the script — people now know what real food looks like thanks to all those much-maligned Instagrams and Tweets and Vines: No stylist involved. Otherwise, my favorite line was “the nanny can’t get on the airplane.” But my second favorite was “what if I have to poop?” Because that subtly cut to the real issue with rolling kitchens. Where do the food handlers do their business? A whiz behind a wheel is one thing. There really had better not be Adult Pampers stocked along with the rubber gloves.
Also, too, a little trip to the Women room at the bag-checking theater we braved reminded me of an observation by a friend while we were all in Paris many years ago on what I called a corporate boondoggle and they knew as serious hard work: “It smells different in the bathroom here.” And what was emanating from the stall next to me literally brought that home. American poop stinks; there’s a sweetly sickening aspect to it. You won’t smell that in Italy, or Turkey, or Spain etc., most likely because denizens don’t live on processed crap. My one trip to India was a nasal revelation. I’d gone there with a photographer friend’s tale echoing through my cranial sieve, about shooting the gorgeousness of the Taj Mahal while standing in what he soon realized was ankle-deep “human waste.” But all I smelled for two weeks from Kolkata to Bangalore to Mumbai was the opposite of GI/GO. It was spices in, almost perfume out.
Wrestling with an overdue story, I turned up what was billed as an Arab proverb: Better to have bread and an onion with peace than stuffed fowl with strife. And nothing brought that home more than hearing from a big name who said he is giving up on a plan to lure investors into tasting the potential of Modern Israeli cuisine. No peace, no hummus. . . .
Also, too, every time I use Aleppo pepper (like once a day) I feel sad for the actual place and people. Finally someone has addressed the horribleness, with a bittersweet angle.
Interesting to see the world’s most-starred chef swinging both ways: touting fresh and developing processed. I’d be more scornful if I couldn’t also see the potential, even though his partners in the deal happen to have links to Rmoney of Fail. Eons ago I did a story for Food Arts on how the negative opposite of fresh is not always frozen (think peas, just for starters). But lately fish is entering a new Ice Age that could be good for oceans, fishermen and consumers, assuming the fossil fuels hold out long enough to keep the freezers powered. Glacierized foie gras, though? J’doubt it.
The first time I went to Istanbul I thought a majority-Muslim country would be my own private Betty Ford Center. And what a lovely surprise it was to learn Turkish rosés were not just poured in every bar, restaurant and museum around our hotel in Beyoglu, but they were close to world-class. Wine (plus raki) meant as much to the Istanbul experience as sexy lingerie shops catering to women in burkas. So I should have known the reports in the last year of crackdowns on sidewalk cafes were ominous. From there it had to be an easy slide to jacking up the price of booze and then, eventually, simply prohibiting the secular stuff. Still, I didn’t realize just how grim it had gotten until my consort and I trekked to Grand Central in the cold the other night for a reception for a friend’s work on a promotional photo collaboration. It was billed as a “cocktail and exhibition opening,” but what they were pouring was barely mocktails (as in: syrupy lemonade). I’m no marketing genius, but if I were trying to make Turkey look as alluring as possible to the big wide/NY world, I might at least try to make it taste worldly. I kinda doubt the rich-looking older woman I overheard saying “let’s get a glass of wine before we walk around” is going to be booking a flight to Istanbul anytime soon. Unless she wants to dry out.
I’m no marketing expert, but if I were trying to persuade the world my product was the world’s best I wouldn’t be enacting absurd laws that will do nothing but contribute to the world’s plastic glut. According to this mishmash, Spain is forcing restaurateurs to jettison their refillable cruets for olive oil in favor of single-use containers. I guess, although I can’t quite tell, that will have the advantage of, maybe, a label? Why don’t producers just do what the Italians did and hype the hell out of their product? Bring a buncha American food writers over to taste a little oil, soak up a lot of sangria and then spread the “news:” Spanish oil rocks and rules. And it wouldn’t even have to be all hype. You can’t make a tortilla without either breaking eggs or breaking out the good oil.
*No shit, Sherlock
As I keep saying, I am so glad I’m old and really hope there is no reincarnation. And I especially wanted to yell that the other Sunday when my consort and I were sitting at the window counter eating our Luke’s lobster rolls while watching a family with two little kids out at a sidewalk table. Partway through lunch the mom calmed the shrieking baby by giving her plastic tubular food, in the kind of unnecessary packaging that contributes to the garbage continents (no longer islands) clogging the oceans. I never understand how people can even bring kids into a doomed world to begin with, but seeing the obliviousness was as unsettling as reading this. Heckuva extinction you’re bequeathing her . . .
But apparently when it comes to the foulest fowl, there really is no end to insanity these days. Most recently there was the airlift of potential “nuggets” from West Coast to East because some loons were willing to spend 50 grand to try to make a loony point — that animals raised as food are not food. Not even for the millions of “food-insecure” human animals in this country alone. And then there was the weirdness of a new regulation that allows the Chinese to export processed chicken as long as the birds were raised in North America, shipped all the way around the world and processed before being shipped back in suitably unidentifiable form. Somewhere, the Wright Brothers and Marco Polo should all be weeping at what they wrought.
I’m sure I’ve nattered before that I persuaded my consort not to invest in the evil golden-arched empire after he asked for a non-gut reason beyond “processed crap bad.” Two words worked: mad cow. Just the potential made the stock a crazy risk. But increasingly my second premonition is materializing: The main ingredient is literally unsustainable. The world simply can’t raise enough cattle to fill buns for a population of 8 billion. And now the reports are starting: Drought is taking a toll just in this country, with herds shrinking and prices rising. I’m sure Dubai is loving its falafel alternative. But the burger bubble is about to burst.