The latest mass slaughter of humans has me remembering being outside Pittsburgh on a story for Al Jazeera a few years ago and coming to have grudging respect for hunters who use rifles to “ventilate fauna,” as the inimitable Charlie Pierce puts it, to put food on their families (and in soup kitchens). My dad kept guns to shoot deer and jackrabbits, back in the days when the NRA was for hunters, not lethal weapons manufacturers. So I’m not in favor of a total ban, although keeping assault weaponry out of the hands of angry white guys would be a healthy first step. But I also keep flashing back to the frigid morning when my consort went plunging into the icy woods with his camera and audio recorder while I stayed behind in the rental car to try to stay warm. At one point a truck pulled up and two big guys jumped out with huge guns, and I realized I had all the doors locked but was completely vulnerable if they wanted to rob-and-rape. They could shoot out the windows, do their evil and drive right off. Their penis substitutes gave them all the power. But I still don’t think I’d have been any safer with one of my own.
Before Al Gore gave us access to all information all the time online, I used to keep a file of clippings on shootings in fast-food joints. I had editors who wanted features on the dangers of that processed crap, and I liked having documentation that some nut with genitalia issues can always do a lot more immediate damage by exercising his Second Amendment right to blast away with an imported Glock simply because his sauce wasn’t special enough. And so I’ll just reTweet myself from the latest slaughter and say the biggest reason for eating well is very basic: You do not want your last meal to be in an IHOP.
I understand the mixed reactions to news that Cuba is finally loosening its restaurant rules. It is bad to consider tourists first in a country with such serious shortages that people drink brewed ground peas as coffee. But that may be what prevents the country’s cuisine from disappearing. When my consort and I were there, at least a decade ago, the food in the state-run restaurants was about the worst we found (aside from one meal in a private home where no one had the clout to break the laws and I went without rather than eat the scary chicken). Paladars and hotels at least could get the ingredients to make the classics even as home cooks were scrabbling harder in the depleted markets. When the land of the free finally liberates its citizens to travel to that little island off the Florida Keys, maybe the cooking will be up to the mojitos.
I shouldn’t be surprised, considering how inured Americans are to ordure in their beef. But it says it all that a few people died from drinking Four Loko and the stuff was banned. Thirty thousand a year die from guns and loons are allowed to run out and buy more after a massacre. Maybe someone should mix caffeine and alcohol in Glock clips.
Meant to write this after my magical ride to/from Buffalo by train to avoid the cancer boxes and grope theatrics at the airports: Amtrak should rip a page from the airline playbooks and hire a celeb chef or two to “reinvent” its “cuisine.” Said celeb would not have to actually do anything, just show up and make some noise about sous vide and cupcakes etc. and let the media dutifully regurgitate the “news” of stars on the rails. Then the cafe cars, like the airlines, could continue punching out microwave sandwiches for drunks (in the immortal words of Rosey the halibut fisherman in Kodiak), but at least people might realize there’s food on board with no radiation or security kabuki. And tables at which to eat it.
I have also been slow to catch on to why so many chefs are opening ambitious restaurants in airports, so I thank Andrew Sullivan for coming up with the perfect description of where you now have to spend hours before flying: police states with shopping. I’m so old I remember when the best you could hope for was a cafeteria line with $15 congealed crap; Chili’s was a major upgrade. But now half the marquee names in food are setting up kitchens almost on the tarmac. And what it all means is that the game has been rigged to lure the sheep into the pen hours ahead of flights so they have time to spend more money, since they know there will be no food once the plane finally takes off. Last time my consort and I flew we spent longer in the security line at JFK than the flight to Buffalo took and had to grab sawdusty sandwiches rather than a real meal. Message: Get there even earlier next time. Make what might be your last meal worth it by enriching a boldface name. . .
I know we’re supposed to get all worked up that Chelsea Clinton spent money on a wedding when she could have fed Haiti for all time for the cost of her dress. The only thing that got to me was that the cake was gluten-free. I realize there are people who have real celiac disease. But it’s rare, maybe 1 percent of the population. Aside from lactose-level marketing, there’s no reason stuff like mayonnaise has to be labeled gluten-free. (Check your Nivea, though.) And who would think wedding cakes are meant to be eaten?
I guess the wingnuts are right. We are now living in a world where up is down and recession is prosperity. How else to explain the realities that the Thai prime minister was ordered to resign for having a cooking show and one candidate for the leader of the Land of the Free is appearing on a cooking show? Maybe he realizes his soulmate is going to fire the White House chef and he’ll need some yummo recipes. The ones his junkie wife passed off as her own. Shouldn’t a wannabe war president have bigger ribs to grill?
Nice try on LA’s part in attempting to zone out obesity by banning new fast food outlets. Talk about a very slender finger in a mega-dike, when companies like Kraft are busily coming up with the edible equivalent of fat-injecting hypodermics. Did the world really need bagels pre-stuffed with cream cheese? So the poor Angelenos can’t drive through to their diabetic death. They can still go shopping in the crap aisles at Ralph’s. Outlaw Whoppers and only outlaws will have Whoppers.
As scornful as I am of fast food, I still think Los Angeles is one taco over the line in proposing a ban on it. A Big Mac is no different from foie gras: Someone wants to eat it, this is a free country. And once they come for the chicken nuggets, where would it end? Cupcakes can make you fat, too, with or without trans fats. Not to mention the fact that driving is not exactly good for anyone’s health. I see Sinclair Lewis quoted everywhere lately, saying fascism will come to America wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. But he might be wrong about the outfit. I predict a nutrition lab coat.
No wonder schools in America now teach nothing but how to pass a test, though. If kids learned math, they would have to be diapered from cradle to Reaganhood, because the future really is the shitz. Just think about the fact that Burger Death recently settled its dispute with farmworkers in Florida by grudgingly agreeing to an increase of a penny a pound for tomatoes picked. One penny. As in: The coin most elitists think should simply be discontinued. And the other half-cent-a-pound goes to the negotiators. Somehow this makes it less surprising to read that fast food chains are struggling to hold the line on dollar meals when the price of cheese is soaring (and — face it — what lies down with Whoppers is about 6,000 degrees removed from real Cheddar). The one constant is beef, cheap as shit (excuse me: as E. coli). And what’s even more wrong with this picture? Already immigrants have solid reasons to be very, very scared. But if they ever stop and think about why they are being rounded up from slaughterhouses so aggressively lately, they, too, will need to be diapered. Halliburton can get away with building unusable detention camps in Iraq. Here they might actually work.
Of course there’s ingredient abuse and then there’s ingredient abuse. I generally ignore the foie gras whack jobs outside Fairway, but next time I pass them I hope to be packing a few printouts of photos and stories on force-feeding at Guantanamo. It’s one thing to shove corn down the throat of an organism genetically programmed to gorge before migrating and another altogether to snake yards of rubber tubing up the nose and into the stomach of a helpless guy in an unlawful prison. Ensure sounds nasty enough, but true torture would be having it forced upon you “Titicut Follies”-style while strapped into a “restraints chair.” Someone needs to remind PETA that humans are animals, too, and this is a long, long, long way from ethical. Not to be uncharacteristically flip, but ducks at least get to be organ donors.
A blogger at the Houston Chronicle who was allowed to scoop up some White House holiday crumbs had the right reaction to a significantly sugary creation at the media fete this year: What the holy hell was it? I would say that if it’s not a cry for help it must be evidence of torture. Either the poor pastry Fredo is getting into the bourbon his boss claims to have given up, or he really needs Mrs. Chimp to share her Xanax. If there is an allah, ghosts of Christmas are running wild in that mansion.
Mission must really be accomplished for the too-rich-to-ever-spend-it-all in this country. Cafe Gray, I read in a paper that knows from gazillionaires, is charging $500 a head, grownup or human larva’s, for Thanksgiving dinner and distractions during the Macy’s parade. And those are the cheap seats — the 12-chair chef’s table in the kitchen that day is going for 10 grand. And the entire exercise in unseemliness is reportedly sold out. Obviously, the tough go to war. The profiteers go to a shopping mall.
Once again, I have to thank Islamochrist that crooks and liars installed the first CEO president (or was he supposed to be the first MBA?) I went to buy another nearly quart-size jar of Maille’s Dijon mustard and it cost $1.50 more than the last one, just a few months ago. Talk about feeling like an American in Paris. Now we can’t even get a taste of Eutopia without paying a premium, and it’s only gonna get worse. We’ll be priced out of extraordinary olive oil, Parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, great olives, Maldon salt, Calvados — everything, come to think of it, that King George has never experienced for all his money and opportunity. Merde, as they say — even the stoned wheat crackers from Canada are going to cost like Carr’s. I’m all for eating locally, but I never thought it would be rammed down my throat by a government that couldn’t shoot straight.