Spare us House & Home

The front-page news on New Orleans was encouraging, and I enjoyed the dig at the Scourge if not the sloppy copy-editing (poor boys? lower-case Creole?) But it still made me a little squeamish. You wouldn’t know from reading, but more than 1,800 people died from Katrina (actually, maybe many more). That seems a rather steep price to pay for a “culinary correction.” 

Meaty pasta casserole

Other funny things I’ve seen in “legitimate” media: “Homemade honey” served at a B&B. A $15 sauvignon blanc presented as a great value (and it’s not even imported). And the recipe prizewinner in Taste of Home’s “Mangia!” issue: an Italian quiche (not a frittata, but in a crust, with pepperoni). When they do the “Viola!” edition, I’m going to be looking for the French lasagne. 

Press 1 for heart disease

Funny how the Great Black Hope was so thoroughly lambasted by the wingnuts for suggesting a second language might actually be an asset in modern life. I wonder if the “talk English, damn it!” knuckle draggers are now going to boycott McDonald’s, given that a slick flier tucked into two of our newspapers had coupons in both Spanish and a form of English. It should be the end of America as we know it. But a country cowed by tomatoes will never give up its cheap beef, let alone 20 piezas of chicken “nuggets” por $3.49.

Springwater, now with more statins

This same agency, of course, will probably get right behind the insane recommendation to put kids on cholesterol drugs. Kids. Whose little livers have to process whatever is in those pills for decades. I know from my pathetic health-writing years that the best prescription for a long life is to choose the right parents. But cholesterol should be controllable with diet and exercise. I guess that’s just not as lucrative for Big Business as taking the whole family through McDonald’s and then handing out the daily dose before the human larvae sit down to a long night of the latest Grand Theft Auto. If the choice is between hell and reincarnation, I’m going where it’s nice and warm.

Private school’s out forever

One of the funniest (and not ha-ha) things I’ve heard recently was some talking head saying the economy is actually doing really well, it’s just that journalists are getting laid off and crying the blues. Which makes me think maybe that should have started happening in 2004 — we wouldn’t be saddled with a reprise of the worst administration ever if Americans had been clearly informed that the village idiot they wanted to have a drink with had driven the country into a ditch. On the bright side, though, I am noticing this really interesting break between the bloviators who get so much airtime and the serfs condemned to cover them. For every George Will agreeing with Phil Gramm that this is a nation of crybabies you get a reporter recounting living on a food stamp budget, driving less or otherwise cutting back. And while I am no fan of the Svelte Pantload’s desperately unfunny navel-gazing, his piece on what famous chefs could cook for dinner for $10 put the lie to the notion that this is a recession in mind only. The image of Tom Colicchio having to put back a zucchini because it breaks the bank? Priceless.

Switchgrass forever

Only because the soulless Chimp has managed to cow the media into never showing the human horrors of his Operation Endless War, almost the most depressing image I spotted over Memorial Day weekend was the photo op of him promoting American exports. The sad little piles in front of his lectern made his 23 percent approval rating look huge — the only thing grimmer is that rusting old bridge you see from Amtrak with the sorry sign reading: “Trenton makes, the world takes.” If cabbages are our great green hope, we’re down to some seriously slim pickings from the fruited plains.

Licensed to pick

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.

Georgian madness

Speaking of flacks, I kept hearing that stupid country song, “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille,” while scanning the e-release on how the snootiest of British food purveyors is finally opening an outlet in the United Colonies. Somehow mustard priced like caviar sounds like “with four hungry babies and the crops in the field.” Already I’ve found Zabar’s has replaced the wondrous fresh lasagne sheets from Italy with clunky, gummy stuff made closer to home, apparently for price reasons. Even for those of us fortunate to love subways more than gas fumes, this is now officially a populace under de facto rationing. And a $24 jar of jam sounds as reasonable as a $175 burger.

More, please, Orwell

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the one mission actually accomplished in the last seven years has been the vanquishing of the English language. I actually heard a newscaster referring to “food insecurity” among the cyclone and earthquake victims. When raging hunger escalates to rampant starvation, will it be “calorie deprivation” on the BBC?

Won’t we always have canned?

At the same time your tax dollars are being squandered on paranoid silliness, the entire salmon season is collapsing on the West Coast thanks partly to federal fuckups in managing the Sacramento River. (Global warming is also to blame, but then Al Gore is fat.) What’s almost more depressing is how the disaster is being reported everywhere, as just another price-of-gas story. All I seem to read or hear is that “salmon is going to cost you more this summer” rather than: “Holy shit, humans are going extinct if this keeps up.” And ethanolized Americans have very little to complain about compared with the rest of the world, which is running out of rice and wheat and, in Haiti, dirt to bake into dinner. (Apparently the chilling term for hunger pain there is “grangou klowox” — eating bleach.) But we’re part of the problem with a society built on at least a car per person — and as a friend on that other coast advised me after my last osteo-incident, things are never so bad that they can’t get worse. Into every calamity a little silliness must fall, though. I also see the potato has been declared “the food of the future” in this, “the year of the potato.” Wasn’t that the original Irish Miracle?

Counterfeiters, you say?

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.

Double-click your heels

With the economy in a low-flow toilet, it’s a little scary to realize advertising is the new housing. Everything seems to be premised on ad dollars anymore, but if there’s no money, who is going to buy what they’re selling? And what does this have to do with the price of food? Things have gotten so bad that twice in two days I spotted huge ads on the tops of pizza boxes — for H&R Block at Freddie & Pepper’s during an emergency refueling and for Tekserve on a delivery on its way up in our elevator. A real Madison Avenue genius would be coming up with apple ads, and not for the computer stuff but to be emblazoned on the fruit soon to be sold on every corner. . . .

You say saucier

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. . . .

No share for the angel

If any more proof were needed that the rich are getting obscenely richer and poor writers are just getting socked with big increases for health insurance and co-op maintenance, consider the $2,500 tequila. That’s not a typo like the “million” left off the “$50” in the NYTimes story about the construction cost of a lavish Russian restaurant. It’s the actual price for a single bottle (admittedly, a Baccarat bottle). And we’re talking about booze here. You rent it; you don’t own it. Why would anyone really need to pay $54,000 for a bottle of scotch at auction? Or six grand for a cognac? So much money is floating around at a certain level that “private collectors” are into alcohol now, which is beyond absurd. Somehow I doubt there will ever be a Barnes Collection even of whiskey from George Washington’s distillery. And just imagine the investor lying on his deathbed looking at his life’s acquisitions: Bottles he could not open because their value would instantly dissipate. Instead of being lavished with tax breaks, these fools should be forced to take a few strolls through estate sales in Manhattan. When we were looking for retro accouterments for our 1929 kitchen, we trekked to three or four, and the saddest sight was always the array of liquor on offer. I could never decide which was creepier, the dustiness of the unfinished bottles or the greed that would make heirs think anyone might ever buy second-hand sherry. Maybe there’s a reason caviar is perishable. Otherwise beluga would be covered in cobwebs in mega-mansions all over America.