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.

Neil updated: Toothless, toothless

If you like eggs, though, you might want to think about the latest installment in the saga of how foie gras is making certain idiots batshit insane. The food world’s equivalents of the right-to-birth crazies are now talking about petitioning the USDA to declare lusciously fat livers unsafe to eat. Their faux concern is exquisitely timed, just as Eric Schlosser has highlighted how humans continue to be obscenely abused for reprehensibly cheap burgers. It just makes it patently clear how badly these nutcases with no lives want to shove their noses in my plate. No wonder some days it seems we have never evolved out of Eden and that goddamn apple.

On the bright side, all government agencies are apparently so under siege that the chances of foie gras even moving onto the agenda are about as high as bananas all around in the Middle East from the Chimp and his ivory-tickling enabler. The very credible report just issued on the FDA was enough to give any sentient being the E. coli squitters: no money, no computers, no coherence, but more scary food imported and grown and distributed every day. No wonder the nutrition nazis are feeling emboldened enough to propose limiting sodium in processed foods. Everybody knows that’s going nowhere in the age of Big Food and osteoporotic government. Salt on your own private plate would be banned first.

Indian style

The closing of the All State Cafe is not as remarkable to me as the fact that an airline has rented space on 57th Street to promote its amenities, edible and otherwise. Last time I ate at that long-ago haunt it was pretty  empty, and the food was as undistinguished as it ever was. But given that planes are flying overloaded, why would Delta be investing so much in getting more asses into its seats? People were actually eating inside when I walked by after PT, and a woman was out front handing out security-sized samples of “spa” products. I snared a bottle of moisturizer with a label boasting “essential essences” of exotic yuzu and bergamot. It smelled just like airline hand soap, but I guess that’s better than chicken or beef.

Big night in a microwave

I see from the Guardian that Jamie Oliver is launching a chain of Italian restaurants next. And his partner is promising it will be “completely authentic, rustic Italian.” Also “fast, urban casual dining.” Is there a contradiction in there? Or are they just happy to knock off McDonald’s failed Hearth Express? But at least the chickens will be free range, so maybe they won’t get too flattened by Slow Food in the fast lane.

Or are you just happy to see him?

Speaking of one of the first clogs, as thegurglingcod dubbed them, the faux innocence is so pervasive that a plastic case meant to keep a banana from getting squished is featured without even the faintest nod to its obvious resemblance to something a lot less family-oriented. But I guess no one would ever ask an 8-year-old if that was a dildo in his lunchbox. And of course the silly thing is that no banana sold in this country is ever soft enough to need a Bunker.