When a great friend in Philadelphia said he and his consort were planning to come north for the climate march, I hopped right up on my high horse and gave him an e-lecture on the futility of taking it to the streets — hadn’t we learned from the 2003 debacle, when hundreds of thousands froze our asses off before the illegal invasion of Iraq, only to be written off as a “focus group” by the White House and mere fodder for page A26 by the hometown paper? So what the hell was I doing standing outside the Dakota on Sunday midday, as close as I could get to the food contingent waiting to start inching down Central Park West to the “starting point” of the demonstration? I’ll blame some old Burgundies at a dinner of Fairway-frisky lobsters the night before; all the talk made me think maybe I should actually walk the walk rather than sit home posting endless links online.
I read crazy people, so I know the wingnuts perceived the demonstrators as “hippie filth.” (Seriously. In 2014.) Clearly they didn’t read any of the smart signs and T-shirts and banners, which were remarkably positive (I spotted only one Kochsucker message). But I’ll have to admit, after going through my photos and videos, after that hour and a half outside the Dakota: I’m not sure the food world was so well-represented. What I saw in that tight space were a lot of vegans out in force with healthier-than-thou smugness, and the indictments of beef and milk were over the top. For all the advocacy of “food justice” and clean water and rights for food workers, there were too many blinkered views of what’s really ailing this ecosystem. Years ago I read a sharp, unsettling piece in Harper’s that made a seriously persuasive case that it’s not just animal agriculture but all agriculture that should be banned for Earth’s sake. If we really cared, rather than beef-blaming and tofu-grilling we would be shooting elk and subsisting on wild plants — getting ourselves back to the real garden. Somehow I suspect marchers in leather sandals drinking soy milk are not going to buy that. The answer is far from simple. But at least I didn’t spot any signs blaming gluten for global warming.
Worse was the big story on how the storm hit farmers and farmers’ markets. Apparently Greenmarkets are a weekend indulgence for most New Yorkers, a daily thing only for restaurant chefs. And apparently there’s only one to worry about, the main one at Union Square. And there are no copy editors checking facts — not every farmer of note either can be or chooses to be at Designer-Dog Central. The guys (and women) who truck to the satellite markets stand to get killed. And there are 48 of those markets. Even some near where the new elite retreat, in Brooklyn.
Speaking of which, did Big Bird barf all over the food page the week before? (Yes, I know I’m way behind, but I was being the good in-law equivalent one weekend and then the good guest the week after.) Someone has apparently never been to Piemonte, and the giveaway was not just that history was ignored (um, why is the tuna always conserved?) But also that vitello tonnato there is not just an art form but a two-part indulgence that can be taken apart — we have a friend who makes only the sauce, fuck the vitello. Garnishes are for Jersey, of course. But it was just sad to see how far that Colavita-seducing page has come over the decades. Say what you will about Marcella and Giuliano, but they knew from real Italian. And once would have been consulted before any restaurateur yapping on his cellphone. (Also, too: Veal — It’s what’s for cucina povera dinner!)
And I guess I have to wade into the melted butter even though my biggest fan (not in the Loudon sense) has defended himself well, and one of the best food bloggers out there crafted a verbal-Astaire response as well. I’ll just say what I did all those years ago when a guy whose strongest credential was having eaten at the McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps was first anointed to pass judgment on an art form that probably means more to the city’s bottom line than even theater: WTF were the bosses thinking? Eric Alterman had a good warning that the worst Chimp enabler ever should “stay the heck away from politics,” but letting him back anywhere near food has just been proven equally embarrassing. What the AA is selling is not cuisine for the noble heartlanders. It’s processed crap, tarted up. (Whored down?) I got an email within hours from a friend in Philadelphia who is not even in the food world saying he spotted at least four egregious overstatements, and of course anyone sentient is still waiting for the correction on whether Les Halles is a very busy bestselling writer/television star’s restaurant 10 years on. Mostly, though, the drivel illustrated how far removed your average op-ed writer is from the red states they all claim to celebrate. The rubes aren’t rubes eating from Applebee’s salad bars. They must understand Liberace is not Fannie Farmer.
Finally, dragging out the soapbox here: Americans are sitting by quietly while we squander $190 million a day in Afghanistan, the same kind of misadventure that helped bring down the Soviet Union (Atrios has come up with a great unit: an MIA — one month’s spending wasted in that godforsaken country that could pay for tunnels or rail lines or multiple schools here). But let some unknown blogger get ripped off by some obscure “magazine” and the mobs are out with blazing pitchforks. (Is that really worse than writing whole columns about recipe epiphanies without crediting the recipe writer?) I’m all for armchair activism, but use it for stuff that matters. Like net neutrality. Or one day you won’t be able to post your bilious comments fast and free. Let alone your saccharine musings.