While my consort and I were at the Greenmarket on Columbus on Sunday, a couple of beach-blanket bimbos (the color of Boehner, the vacuity of Ryan) handed us samples of that five-hour energy shot I keep seeing Tweeted. And they warned: Don’t take it unless you’re really tired; otherwise it won’t work. Isn’t that like serving green beans and saying: Don’t eat them until you’re starving; otherwise they won’t fill you up?
Just watched this to be sure I wasn’t going to be accused of anything unoriginal after dillydallying before posting, but: I decided eons ago I’d prefer to be cremated once I join the choir invisible. Now I’ve learned, thanks to the most beautiful food story in donkey’s years, that it’s not the most environmentally sensitive way of disposing of a body bent over from carrying Baggus for years. Given that I spared the planet any resource-sapping spawn, I’m not going to worry too much about eco-karma. But this does have me thinking Starbucks opening in a funeral home is just perfect placement: Who wouldn’t enjoy thinking “ashes to ashes” while sipping that burnt brew?
I didn’t get all the way through the “organic game is rigged” exposé, but that won’t stop me from wondering: So what else is new? Anyone who shops the Greenmarket/deals with farmers knew long ago that the real guys were being priced out of certification. The signs disappeared; the practices did not. Some of us don’t need the Libby’s on the label, just the experience at the table.
I am also deliberately avoiding slogging through the new book attacking the latest local foods movement even though I cannot escape being exposed to its sillier ideas. If I didn’t understand that there’s money to be made stifling entrepreneurship, I would wonder, yet again, why a drone was directed at a caterpillar. No one is being forced to buy/eat local. Throw out every high-minded reason to do so and you’re still left with the most sensual: The food just tastes better. I’m sure I’ve nattered about this before, but I vividly remember the first time I walked through the Union Square Greenmarket, when my consort was assigned by New York magazine to shoot photos for a piece on how farmers might be price-fixing. That was in the good old days when Fairway had the best affordable produce in town, and Balducci’s had everything at any price, but what we brought home that morning was so much better in so many ways it was life-changing. (Especially the bacon our Park Avenue/Wall Street friends worried could not be “sanitary.”) And I have never once gone into Whole Foods after shopping 97th Street, watched shoppers scooping up shipped-in cherries for twice the price and yelled, as the old guy did while storming out of “Magnolia” on Xmas Day one year: BF “What’s wrong with you people?” It’s a free country. Anyone who wants to eat listeria-laced meatballs and salmonella-infused mesclun can have it his/her way.
Too bad our uppity mayor is too short and too non-Mormon to ever fly as pres. Despite some restaurateurs’ laments, he has been good for food. The latest move is allowing city agencies to buy local. Given that NYC is the second-largest institutional buyer in the country, after the military, that could be very, very good for upstate farmers. And even for Brooklyn/Queens artisans who are thinking out of the crate. Sixteen-ounce mayonnaise? Bring it on.
No wonder Hellmann’s is now going for upwards of $8 a 30-ounce “quart.” Gotta cover that $40 million in preying-on-the-witless advertising somehow.
I am notoriously not a kid person, but every time I see a pint-size entrepreneur out on the sidewalk hawking food or drink, I’ll buy. Usually I just toss whatever his/her grubby little nose-excavating fingers produced into the trash can at the next intersection, but I do want to encourage anyone who understands food is the future — once the banksters finally destroy themselves and the economy, we’ll still have to eat. But that’s boosterism for kidz. Full-grown astronauts and the people who support them should not be running bake sales to raise money in the richest country on the planet. Not least because you can’t invent Tang if you’re busy hawking brownies.
Still, I can take a hint. I realize I have gone off the once-a-week rails. And so I’m back, with my long-mulled reaction to the greatest infringement on soda liberty since the 5-cent deposit for bottles and cans gave freedom to the homeless to scavenge for food pennies. One reason I still resist posting daily is that knee-jerk is never a safe reaction. Jon Stewart immediately beat me to the punch line on the lack of self-control with all other portions. (Has the so-called evil “Sugar Nanny” seen candy bars lately? A single Butterfinger would feed a small borough.) And of course this rule could just make New Yorkers buy one drink in two cups, but I now agree that he at least has them thinking they’ll need a hand to carry the nachos to the movie-theater seat. Mostly I agree with everyone who noted that Americans just have no idea what a normal portion is in a world where husky has become the pant size even for kids in commercials. Sometimes Big Gubmint has to help them out; we are, after all, a country with stoplights rather than roundabouts because drivers apparently can’t think for themselves. Plus the thing I fear least in this city is getting blown away in a restaurant by a deranged upholder of the Second Amendment; our nanny is among the few to push back on gun insanity. Then there’s the reality that if he had imposed the drink limit at JFK or LaGuardia, there would not have been a peep of protest. Travelers would even be taking off their shoes and laptops after obediently dumping their Big Gulps. But mostly I’m fascinated that all the civil libertarians are up in arms over this while insisting women surrender their rights to control when or whether to have kids. Maybe everything would be okay if the Pill were dissolved each day in a half-gallon of Mountain Dew?
Nothing funny about this, but we met up with friends for the awesome “Moonrise Kingdom” and they were all excited about starting to compost at the Greenmarket. I just said: “I didn’t even bring my reusable shopping bags tonight. Doesn’t seem like much point when they’ve found radiation in tuna 6,000 miles from Fukushima . . .” Maybe Wes Anderson can remake “On the Beach.” Fast.
Everyone’s yammering that JP Morgan Chase losing a coupla billion at the dog track is a reason to rein in the too-big-to-fail casinos, so let’s hope the regulatory flashlight shines toward Big Food, too. I just read about a singer forced to tour while shitting/puking his guts out thanks to the great American combination of no health insurance and salmonella in supermarket sushi, and that was after I read about the finding that the listeria in cantaloupes that killed people in 28 states was caused by new owners of a farm deciding cleanliness was not next to profitability. If you’re seeing more op-eds and other blather about the danger from farmers’ markets and small producers, connect your own dots. Of course they want you to think a manageable flock of chickens eating what comes naturally next to the arugula fields is the equivalent of a bomb in a muslin’s underpants. Corporations are people. With a fiduciary responsibility to investors, not to customers.
Mme Ami had some good thoughts on the sorry state of old-line food writing as a career these days, but I thought she was most right in directing people toward more tangible ways to connect with the third-most essential element of life. So many MFK Wannabes just seem vacuous. Maybe if they did something, they could say something?
A lot of “Dining” sections went unremarked while I was busy and away, but I did save a note or two. The Trotter reprise was a surprise mostly because they ran the same photo as the last time they put him under the microscope, as if there were no permanent digital microfiche. But everything you need to know about the media today lies in the fact that the story actually said our President could not enjoy a last meal at the restaurant because that might associate him with the 1 percent. While the reporter had no qualms at all about boasting about eating there. Again.
And that disconnect helps explain why coverage of how the poors eat is so abysmal. Credit NPR for going to India to scope out how not-the-richest-country-in-the-world manages to feed its schoolkids on pennies a day. But it took the BBC to do a piece on hunger in Las Vegas that was devastating in its graphic descriptions of privation. Not long after I listened to it I was out with a group that included a writer working on a book on Depression eating and heard an anecdote he’d collected about a child back in the Thirties who confessed he had had no dinner because it was his brother’s turn to eat. Um? Guess what’s going on today in the shadow of the most over-the-top restaurants on the planet? But at least fish welfare is covered.
Meanwhile, major “news” outlets continue to print “be afraid, be very afraid” stories about all the germs on supermarket shopping carts. Without ever noting what remain the most bacteria-loaded dangers outside the toilets in the store: dollar bills — from the bums’ poop-encrusted bums to your hands, with many unwashed fingers in between. As I will note yet again, they don’t call it filthy lucre for nothing.
And this trend toward running readers’ inanities in old media has already gone too far. Tip of the week in another waste of trees was jaw-dropping: If you don’t have fresh tomatoes in winter, keep a can of diced handy — for your salad. Because nothing is more satisfying than red mush on your good lettuce.
I keep seeing the union rat in front of food establishments lately and am glad to see some push-back against the race to the bottom, the endless attempts to make workers give up more and more for greedy overlords. If even cashiers have no money after paying for their own insurance and pensions, who is going to buy the groceries? And while I don’t want to jump to judgment on seeing chefs accused in lawsuits of cheating employees, I do keep wondering why the Wage Theft Prevention Act was even needed. Wasn’t that guy at the Last Supper all about “thou shalt not steal”?
One of my friends-through-Twitter has been back-and-forthing about how soon it will be until we see ramps on menus, and I feel even sadder about being shortchanged of winter. Already green garlic is in Greenmarkets, and it’s way too soon (I only recently finished off the last of Keith’s Farm’s amazing hard-neck cloves). At this rate we’ll be through with pumpkins by June. The cherry blossoms are already in full bloom in Washington, I saw geese for the first time among the ducks over in The Pool in Central Park and all the suddenly-trusted climate experts are warning mosquitos will be rampaging within the month. All of it makes me think humans were smarter in the age of mythology, when the seasons could be rationalized and so were respected. The explanation of winter is my favorite, how the ruler of the underworld spirited away Persephone/Proserpina and made her stay half the year for eating six pomegranate seeds while, as Kate McGarrigle lyrically put it, her mother, the goddess of agriculture, “punished the Earth” and “turned every field into stone.” Millenniums ago people understood the world needed a respite. With all the information available to us, we still think we can eat pomegranates all year and not pay a price. No joke.