And I may have to quit the Twitter that ate my life if I keep seeing so many “think positive, lift up others” Tweets. But I finally succumbed to the amazement that was the Tampa Bay Times’s exposé of the farm-to-table myth in that state and have to give a shout-out. Leave aside that the place is led by a Florida Man who felt compelled to attack a constituent who shamed him out of Starbucks, and that it is also a state where, as the story notes, “little people wrestling” is a championship played out in restos. It was an impressive piece of investigative reporting on real issues; it makes a serious case for paying farmers more for all they do. What was most amazing to me, though, was how food-strapped Florida appears to be. I never got around to pushing back against a ridiculous push-back against eating local/seasonal in New York, but a big reason to schlep to the Greenmarkets in dreariest winter is to try to do a tiny part in keeping the Hudson Valley and Long Island and what’s left of New Jersey from being bulldozed for McMansions. Shorter, though: If you see local peaches on a menu in the climate-changed Northeast this summer, close your eyes and think of Georgia truckers.
Interesting business plan: You provide the content. They collect the profits.
No one ever went broke underestimating the allure of cloud sourcing, I guess. Plus it’s funny to see an e-operation operating as sluggishly as Thanksgiving-in-July old media. Ain’t no asparagus in farmers’ markets now. And testing with industrial blueberries to publish at the height of local season signals a certain . . . disconnect. Still, Betty Crocker lives — I baked something remarkably similar that very a.m. I guess “she” is just being tweaked for a new generation.
My suspicion that the crazy increases in food prices could not be blamed on the usual suspects, or even natural causes, was confirmed by the WSJ’s front-page story on allegations of collusion among egg and milk producers. You know everyone is just jumping on the greed wagon anymore, certain there will be no accounting for evil as long as the personification of it remains in office. And I guess we are supposed to consider ourselves lucky our milk is only afflicted with gouge pricing, not poison as it is in Lender Nation. Or at least it is not so far. The USDA seems to be ramping up its “let the consumer beware” campaign and distributing food handling information rather than forcing beef producers et al. to clean up their shitty act. Can you imagine what it will be like when there is no money left for inspections because the banks ate it all? The only justice will be that fat cats will be accidental coprophagists, too. But literally, this time.
I can’t remember how many eons ago a friend down in Fort Worth sent me a clipping about a local business he had just profiled, one that had set up a center where contemporary Peg Brackens could come together and assemble family meals for a week or so in one surge. Now I see Time magazine is right on it. At least they didn’t get Ann Coulter to endorse it. And I have to admit I did come away with two new realizations. A) The Silver Palate’s inescapable chicken Marbella has been rechristened chicken Mirabella and lives on in Ziploc bags everywhere. In 25 years it’s gone from party fare to heat-and-eat slop despite the fact that it takes all of three steps to make it from scratch. B) A word popping up more often than salmonella in the food world lately is norovirus, and jeebus, does a joint where strangers meet to toss together ingredients prepped by other strangers sound like an incubator for that hot new trend. . . .
The wiliest chef in town has to be the Big Homme. We passed his newest place the other night after the underwhelming “Before the Devil,” and I was laughing that it could not possibly start serving New Year’s Eve, given that the front was completely covered in brown paper and work permits. Bob, being a real reporter, noticed a few strategic holes torn in the paper, so he bent over to peek in and said, “It’s full of people eating.” And it was. The inside was completely finished, down to art on the walls, and the tables were all occupied (not by anyone I recognized, interestingly). It was almost as surreal as the party scene in “The Shining.” Even for a guy with many unlikely skills when it comes to self-promotion, the striptease is impressive. When the camouflage comes down, he’ll be beating the throngs off.
As scornful as I’ve been toward food porn in all the glossies, with their impossibly perfect whole roast turkeys and forbiddingly gorgeous cakes, I find the new trend even worse. Showing a slab of beef carved up, or a turkey being taken apart, just leaves way too little to the imagination. Blood congealing, greasy fingers in the flesh — it’s Hustler when Playboy would do.
When my little book was prematurely being taken out of print, the asshat publisher offered to let me buy as many remainders as I wanted for like five bucks a copy, and I stocked up on three cases mostly to dispense as gifts. Now I see I should have scarfed the whole press run in hopes of jacking up the price of a rarity. How else to explain the $100-a-copy going rate for one of the more disappointing collections of recipes from an influential chef? The thing landed with a serious kathud after at least a year of gossip about the wrong collaborator, and now it’s selling for the price of appetizers at Per Se while Nancy Silverton’s Caremesque “Desserts” can be ordered online for as little as 40 cents in hardcover. My own grain of sea salt comes from remembering how hard it was to find a copy of Pierre Franey’s “More 60-Minute Gourmet” for my consort while he was off cooking solo in Middle Earth. I paid like 30 bucks for an apparently untouched hardcover online. And when he got home and we went to donate a few bags of high-end detritus to the church thrift shop down the block, what did I spot in the book bin but that very same title in pristine form selling for $2. Got a craving for troublesome coconut tapioca? Pray to St. Vincent de Paul.
As is the case with most magazines that arrive on my doormat through the mail, I subscribe to The Week first and foremost for the food, and last week it outdid itself with a condensed version of Outside’s extraordinary story on eating dog in Vietnam. I found the link to the actual piece through chow but absorbed enough to know it should be required reading for all the big swinging dicks out there (or little flopping ones, more likely) who like to show how tough they are in consuming critters for the camera. Rarely is the culture of a comestible taken into account. May they all be monkey brains in a future life.