As I’m sure I’ve said before, I’m like the old ladies in “Absurdistan” who read the slingers as if they were newspapers. And so I know why anyone campaigning while trash-talking immigrants is not getting anywhere near a certain casa blanca. The WSJ, famous for simultaneously running stories on $20,000 coats and coupons for $1 off on Bag Balm, included a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a brand of canned beans I associate with trailer parks in Confederate flag states. And the labels were all in Spanish, the contents made with Mexican flavors. But then I guess you have to be in the food world and not the political bubble to “report” endlessly on “solutions” to immigration in America without ever pointing out that it is not exactly a problem. Not with a hed in the WSJ reading: “Even at $17 an hour, farms can’t fill jobs.” Not with newspaper after newspaper covering the struggles restaurants are increasingly having staffing up. Pro tip 2: Don’t invest in boxcar futures just yet.
In the beginning there was the recipe headnote. Then stories expanded to fill the ad space allotted, and readers got a little foodplay along with four or five recipes. Now the headnote sprawls across two pages. And the recipe is someone else’s. And has been made ridiculous. Having clipped his interpretation way back in the last century, I’m pretty sure Pierre Franey must be spinning in his walk-in in that big kitchen in the sky. From 60 minutes to two days. Next up, barrel-aged pasta puttanesca?
I’m so old I remember when newspapers would automatically pull airline ads (remember airline ads?) whenever there was a plane crash just to avoid that awkward association with disaster. I also remember a production editor whose job description included yanking ads away from copy that seemed just a little too complementary-cozy. So what to my wondering eyes appeared this a.m. but a full-page ad complimenting a beat reporter for his coverage of that beat, paid for by the people he covered. Journalism makes for very strange bedfellows, ethics-wise, these days. But that did get me to puzzling over whether there would ever be a similar $$$ ad on the food beat. My first thought was that most subjects would just say: Don’t let the buyout hit you on your withered ass. And my second? To get a buyout, you actually have to have been hired. Junkyard bitches are forever.
And now for something straightforward: Why would a positive — regulations lifted, oysters cleaning up the bay, new business booming — be spun as a negative? Watermen are already having a tough time thanks to climate change; the smart ones would start planting “seeds.” But I guess if rent-stabilized tenants are portrayed as a problem for landlords, oyster farms would have to be seen as eyesores. At first I wondered who has a weekend house in that town. But my cynical side suspects that the real problem is who made it happen. Hope and change must always be painted black.
File this under “what’s good for Big Pharma is good for America:” The best way to get coverage of Piglet Ebola is to send out a release touting better factory farming through chemistry. Leave it to the reader to see “1.3 million pigs died in January alone” and “the need to bury carcasses has even raised concerns about the effect on groundwater” flashing neon. The obvious question is never answered: Why? What part of the lie of evolution caused this? Meantime, half the nation’s sows have a disease that causes their litters to shit to death and people are panicking about fakes on a plane. . . .
I Tweeted the other night that my best cookbook advice would be: Don’t believe the photos. Someone responded that any cookbook without photos is worthless, and I had to note, again, that Elizabeth David’s words alone can make you want to get out of bed at midnight to roast mushrooms in grape leaves. But I should have typed that even the best photos cannot redeem crap recipes. And, as dinosaurs who still read print saw the other day, a demo photo that needs an explanation maybe should be a video?
File this under “sometimes the news is in the noise, sometimes it’s in the silence.” What was missing in the redesigned issue of a certain magazine whose editor is renowned for hiring the first barbecue critic? And I’m not talking the lone Bertolli ad from the Eighties . . .
I’ve laughed before about the Murdoch Crier running stories on $22,000 dresses while including slingers in the Saturday paper offering 20 cents off on a can of Goya beans. But the disconnect is deeper than that. In an alleged news story on how higher food prices were cutting into Labor Day grilling budgets, a woman was quoted as telling the caterer to serve anything but burgers. Yes. Because times are so tight you can’t do the cooking yourself. Or: Let ’em eat brioche buns. And put your palate on a pallet of pintos.
I’m so old I remember when a coupla hippies from Vermont were among the good guys in food. But they sold their soul to the corporate store, and the other day the slingers in the Murdoch Crier included a coupon for a buck off a gruesome example of overkill under their once-good name: two types of ice cream in one pint carton with a “core” of peanut butter or salted caramel fudge etc. It’s Mad Dog 20/20 in the freezer aisle. At least you can get fat for a good cause. It’s “fairtrade.” Probably gluten-free, too.
Usually I disregard Tweets that link to stories older than, say, 12 hours — info-junkie that I am, I know so much new information has usually come out that whatever is being reported as new is really as fresh as yesterday’s baguette. But when one of the smartest women in food politics Tweets, I listen. And her catch — on gubmint loans for local food — illustrates the great chasm between “reporters” today and reality. The former are constantly whining that the Big O is not giving them enough access. Yet this eminently encouraging information was just lying lox-like, there for the taking. It’s as if they don’t know how to use either the Google or the .gov.
I might have missed some news by sluggishly reporting a piece for Eater, but I did take away a big revelation: Print is still a BFD — indie magazines not only sell well, they command collectible prices. So it was no surprise to read a @carr2n column on the allure of the old way of reading. Which happened to include a nugget on what turns off readers from online ingestion — all those goddamn ads. And that reminded me why I get only two magazines delivered: one because I don’t know why, the other because my in-law equivalent just will not listen when I tell her it ain’t what it used to be. I hadn’t seen the Amex food pub in years before picking up a copy at a promo event, but I was amazed at how impossible its dense pages made discerning editorial from ads. No wonder people will drop 8 bucks for the likes of Modern Farmer. If they want nothing but ads, they’ll click on a listicle.
I started out thinking I would blog this over to the Epi Log, after running down 14 flights of stairs the other day and spotting at least three Quaker Oats boxes in recycle bins on various floors: Why in hell do people buy that stuff instead of the better/organic/cheaper oats at Holy Foods just a couple of blocks away? But I realized I couldn’t even Tweet it, at the risk of some neighbor taking Twoffense. So I saved it for here, after plucking a double-truck out of the latest “buy $1,095 skirt/save $1” Murdoch Daily. The slinger showed me you can buy QO cookies and snack bars and chips and more if your yogurt isn’t sugary enough. For all the crap McD’s has taken for marketing overly sweet/unhealthful oatmeal, that chain had nada on the processed crap behind the old-fashioned label. It now makes everything but the insulin syringe.
Nice to see the ghost of Time choosing only the Butter Guzzler as the fud world candidate for its 100 list. If it was trolling for linkbait, it succeeded. But surely someone, somewhere is doing anything more significant at a time when so much is changing for the better. I guess it could have been sicker, though: It could have chosen a ghost who was happy to slap her name on a spinoff of the cash-in on The Sugar. I guess we should never forget how James Beard made enough to buy that townhouse with the mirrored bathroom . . .
I almost dropped my SBT slice at Freddy & Peppers on coming across a Laurel for the restaurant reviewer who can’t talk and eat soup. So she’s a heroine for “being immune to Internet hysteria.” Maybe what the judges were really praising is how quickly and voraciously she took to old-media fame whoring. (Also left unexamined: Where Anderson Cooper now gets his scoops and publishers now find their new authors — on that vile series of tubes.) I’m slow, but maybe I’m starting to get it. Anyone/thing print-positive must be deified.
After taking a month off here, I’m finding everyone everywhere else has apparently said everything that needed to be said about the big issues. Hostess really was Bained. Junk food chains threatening to screw their employees on Obamacare really are risking both loogies hocked onto the pepperoni pizza and Typhoid Mary infecting the Caesar salad. And going after a tiny roach with a tank really was overkill designed to bump up traffic to a site in math-wizard withdrawal. But I will add two thoughts on the public flogging of the Furry Anus, which admittedly was entertaining but also turned Tarantinoesque as it continued, and continued, kicking a cripple: He would have been so much smarter if he had had the foresight to open in SoPo, where every restaurateur is automatically now a hero. And my, how Times have changed. I remember when just the notion of linking reviews to restaurant websites was roundly rejected as undignified if not a corrosion of integrity. Now actual linkbaiting is “service journalism at its finest.” Somehow I’m sure that plays in Grand Forks.