One of the many old gray legends is how an idiot on the Op-Ed desk once declined an Elie Wiesel piece on the ground that “we don’t need to hear any more about the Holocaust.” He wound up quaffing on the side, so I kinda doubt the editor who got suckered into the indictment of “free-range” pigs is going to suffer anywhere near the ignominy he/she deserves. But I at least hope in his sty of sties he/she does wonder how a piece so contradictory of all things reasonable ever saw print. Given that even the bureaucrats, not to mention the Big O, have already dropped the S word when they talk about flu, the factory farms that create such ecological havoc still rule the roost (not a mixed metaphor when you remember bird flu). But really, why would any legitimate publication ever have printed a rant damning pigs raised the way nature intended them to be? Rather than snidely blogging about a blogger code of ethics, the Chilean Payback Journal might want to take a look at its own rules. Otherwise, next we’ll be reading that industrial spinach is safer than locally grown because the worms crawl in and the worms crawl out of real earth.
If I hadn’t worked there twice I wouldn’t be so suspicious, but who on the masthead do you think is the circus geek? I don’t know when I’ve last seen a small documentary lavished with such extensive coverage in a paper that apparently rates a Springsteen sold-out run beneath critical notice (H/T Altercation). Luckily, ours is one of the last four-rag towns, and the other hometown paper piped up to say it was all much ado about musty old rich people. No wonder the recession coverage is so schizo. It’s hard to sound authentic in down times when your theme song is “One of Us.”
My life these days seems to be all ideas, no income, but my latest brilliant concept, I’m convinced, would be like winning the publishing Lotto: a parody issue of The Bible According to Chris. Then again, it might be indistinguishable from the real thing. I just read the Quick Tips and had to pick my jaw up off the bathroom floor. Use uncased sausages as meatballs (illustrated). Chill your can of tuna for salad (illustrated lavishly). Grill your sausages on skewers so they fit tidily into a hot dog bun (TWO illustrations). And the one on measuring butter made me hear Grace Slick caterwauling: “Use your head!” At least there were no safety instructions included.
Some read a new memoir and were moved to cook. I read the first few chapters and smelled Seabiscuit excreta. Even having swallowed “Running With Scissors,” I have a hard time believing anyone, even the most obsessive keeper of journals, can reconstruct a life in such microscopic detail, down to the most idle conversation. Then again, maybe I just didn’t read far enough to learn the author had friends in FISA places. It worked in “Lives of Others.”
Just bitching as the BS backs up: Is there anything duller than someone else’s struggle to knock off the LBs? Am I cynical in thinking Southern is seductive but necrophilia is creepy? Could anyone really be shocked, shocked that ol’ Rach’ might not actually consume the crap she endorses? (I was happily surprised, however, to see some smart editors jumping off the SS Cretinous.) And if you’re not even a real critic, what is the point in writing about a neighborhood restaurant for millions of readers merely to trash it? If it sucked, why would you even go back? I can’t wait for the flat-out rave for the one-step-up-from-Olive-Garden headed for the mothership. . . .
Sorta sad to see a prodigiously talented young thing go from zero to Mariani so quickly. I can’t tell if “intern” is code for “unpaid,” but anyone who needs help in attending parties is getting too many invitations. Food is a first-hand experience.
Sending an emissary to the starchefs.com book party at Barfry, for instance, would mean missing out on a physics lesson, some great banter, a little bitching and a surprising admission. Not to mention the most effete slider ever: foie gras. I learned that a little bottle of Champagne will bubble over wildly unless you remove the straw, which funnels the effervescence straight up and out. I heard that a bright young chef with a great resume is already anticipating trouble in bringing a venerable but tired Village restaurant up to critic speed (can you say FOH?) And while everyone was wondering why the Frialator was off, I was impressed by the steady flow of raw tuna creations from the kitchen. Only as I left did I find the table with the big pile of brochures promoting “Superfrozen tuna — ‘fresher than fresh.’” But those are just my impressions. I wonder what an untrained kiddle would think.
The fat-with-details book the party was promoting was also worth the journey. I would say it’s intended for Trotter wannabes, but for some reason Charlie is not among the 500-some “Chefs to Know.” And while I wondered why a web site would need to produce hard copy, I can already see how handy it is to have all that information to flip through while my overburdened Mac is wheezing. The birth years alone are fascinating. Until a certain Mexican starchef showed up, I was easily the oldest person in the room at the affair, and I rode home flipping pages and taking comfort in how many chefs are actually my age or older in a young guys’ game. And the interview questions could come in handy for those already bailing on what a friend called couture food-writing. . . .
This year’s Thanksgiving issues of the food magazines are better than they have any right to be, at least the two and a half I have ingested. Bon Appetit’s is very smart and beautifully designed, breaking down the meal into dishes and cooking the hell out of them. And Saveur’s is taking me many tries to get through simply because it’s readable. Unfortunately, while I did learn that hybrids have taken over the cranberry world, I was surprised at how pumpkin can leave such water on the brain. Apparently since my last expedition to the bogs around South Carver, Mass., when Howes and Early Blacks were all any grower produced, Big Food has shifted toward genetic monkeying to such an extent that a couple growing organic can warrant a story just for doing what came naturally only 15 years ago. But I can’t imagine anything similar has happened off in another harvest capital my consort and I trekked to for our ill-fated book. Even if you bought a Dickinson pumpkin in Morton, Ill., you would not get a great puree for your pie next month, simply because what the cannery does best is extract liquid: One ton of raw pumpkin produces 600 pounds to be tinned. Try that at home, and not with a jack-o’-lantern.