One of the most culturally clueless pieces ever: Ste Alice’s crew parachutes into Cuba, decides the locals are doing it wrong. Um, dudes? You need money/food to cook like Berkeleyites. I guess their next stop will be either Appalachia or Camden.
Also, too, they chose a fine time to run a sad song about a diner owner in that strange land known as flyover country. Five days after the restaurant critic whimpers about too much food at a sitting, here we are meant to empathize with a woman struggling to keep a food biz afloat but who “somehow came up with the $35,000” to start it (truck, here’s your hole — HTF did she manage that?) and who never has to address whom she is voting for when she and her husband would clearly benefit from Obamacare. Worse, the real American is never awarded an honorific in this “pith helmet journalism,” as a North Forkser described it. Imagine a story about Ste Alice that used her first name throughout. Or maybe don’t imagine it — it would run over two full pages.
The digital guano does pile up, and I spend so much time wallowing in it I forget there might be food wackiness to distract me. Like the news that Ste. Alice is worried about kids eating well in a hotel chain. Will the orange slices with the out-of-season strawberries be local in Chicago?
This is pretty inside baseball unless you, too, squander your life on Twitter. But I was rather amused to note Ste. Alice judged a certain cookbook contest without dropping even a hint she might have actually have cooked from either of the contenders. And what did we hear from the same wielders of digital pitchforks when another “legend” did half that? Crickets.
A West Coast friend who at an impressionable age lived near Chez Panisse first alerted me to Ste Alice’s coal ducks to Newcastle Beijing adventure, and I’m glad I checked out her link before reading a cheerleader’s. I think the guests who stayed away had the right idea. Just imagine the outrage if a Chinese propagandist had ever been arrogant enough to come to DC to shove seasonal dumplings and organic noodles down bureaucrats’ throats in the age of pizza as a vegetable (funny how “local” was a missing link). For all the dissing and dismay over greed/shortcuts there, our organic food chain is a bit tangled up in rot these days, too. And hadn’t the Chinese mastered seasonal/organic/local many thousands of years before invaders in North America started infecting blankets with smallpox to wipe out the populace who might know what to eat and when on this continent? Let alone eons before Berkeley went all knockoff-French on America’s lardass?
I repeatedly read the first Tweet from the sainted one (RTs are a digital form of genuflection) and could almost hear Mr. Stars chortling. Someone should come up with an @AliceDeen. The tweaked Tweets might at least be original.
Some other random thoughts: American cheese will have finally arrived when any story about a store specializing them does not refer to processed Kraft in the lede — it’s been a long time that no one has been wrapping Vermont Shepherd in plastic singles. And the dustup in DC over the ban on chocolate milk in schools makes it even more clear that Americans are enslaved by Big Food (does everything need raspberry-chocolate-ranch flavoring?), although I wonder if kids might like the white stuff better if it were whole and not skim or whatever watery crap they’re being served. And, cynical as I am, I actually felt proud to be an American when Mrs. O took the foreign dignitaries’ wives to lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I’ve only been once to eat, but the place feels like France. Now we have Freedom Food to show off in our own country. And Saint Alice was not involved.
And, of course, Saint Alice is always worth a story even at the drop of a dis. The latest fawning profile set off The Gurgling Cod big time, which is the only reason I slogged through it. Only to find a rather revealing detail, about the chickens raised to order for allegedly the most demanding restaurateur (not chef) in the country. A few years ago I interviewed Frank Reese for a piece on Heritage Foods, and he mentioned that supermarket chickens are rushed to market for maximum profit — their bones are so bloody even when they’re cooked because “you’re eating babies.” What he nurtures are birds only ready to lose their heads at 16 weeks minimum, 28 weeks ideally; the extra time eating and moving lets them develop their skeletons and “healthy organs” before they turn to muscle. And for Ms. FussBudget? Ten is enuf. To be fair, though, if Jesus were around today people would be criticizing him for not using the proper water to turn into wine. . .
Thank allah for “Iron Chef.” To put all the ridiculous disillusionment with the Big O in perspective, it was only a year ago that the White House was occupied by a useful idiot whose idea of a good meal was a pretzel and an O’Doul’s, with his wife nowhere near to catch him as he fell. Now half the political wisecrackers I follow are Tweeting on Mrs. O and her stronger-than-Alice crusade to get Americans to eat better. If the tradeoff is a little orange tainting the White House, I guess it’s worth it.
Rule No. 1 for persuading Americans to slow down and eat better: Whatever you do, do not invoke the name Saint Alice. Keep her and her blithely effete disconnect the hell away from your sermon. Otherwise, you’ll have readers gagging on your Araucana egg cooked over an open fire on a made-by-an-artist-friend’s spoon. Give me the proverbial fucking break. A Knoll Krest egg scrambled in real butter would be revelation enough for the average consumer of whatever the hell that rubbery yellow stuff is that’s slopped into McMuffins. Very odd that the self-anointed leading advocate of ingredients insists on a special tool and special “stove.” The saddest part was that it was one of the most inspiring and lyrical artists in the whole country who was rooked by this absurd pretentiousness. Next time her boots need to go walking cross-country, they might want to head toward Pollan’s place instead. At least he doesn’t kill a boar for every media drive-by.
The hysteria is bad every year, but for some reason this Thanksgiving is being treated like “The Road” to “2012.” It’s really not the end of the world. It’s just a goddamn chicken dinner with a big bird and extra sides. Why the lunacy has to kick in so far in advance baffles me. And everyone who succumbs to panic is just encouraging the Cassandras. You have only yourselves to blame for Valentine’s angst starting December 14.
And in the annals of ginned-up controversy, sides vs turkey takes the juniper. Especially since it made me embarrass myself by Tweeting about the recipes I couldn’t find so far from the nonsense. Saw them online and wondered how in the hell fresh corn belongs on a November table. I know the oblivious serve asparagus, but fall’s fall. Saint Alice would have a heritage cow. At least this explains why moldy “fresh” ears turned up at the Greenmarket at Union Square on Saturday. As the farmers say, DI/DO readers are a flock of sheep. And not grass-fed.
I’m usually pretty good at over-interpreting meanings in movies — I still remember how quickly I pegged the crack epidemic to “Alien Nation” at a time when everyone was still pretending Lee Atwater was not the vilest dog whistler around. So why am I mystified as to the significance of the frozen corn in Sendak cinematized? The kid flees the house after spurning Birds Eye’s best, with a grandiose statement of his disdain. But why? Maybe Spike Jonze’s next project is with Saint Alice and other sanctimonious souls in the Bay Area: “Where the Chang Talks Aren’t.”
Similarly, the first thought that sprang into my cranial sieve when I heard Saint Alice was mystified at being told she had won the French Legion of Honor: She wasn’t punked by those pranksters from Quebec who scammed Sarah Palin with the call from Sarkozy, was she?
It’s not surprising to see Panchito generating more buzz by ambling off to the magazine than he ever did with his chewing and typing. Once upon a time the speculation over his replacement might have mattered, but he did manage to make a big job very small (sort of the opposite of what he did with his coverage of the Chimp), and now the more amusing debate among bloggers is whether the position is being downsized. Filling that small hole in one section is rather expensive, and this would be a fine time to reinvent it altogether rather than rummage through clips looking for a correspondent who’s lunched overseas with Saint Alice. My newish friend down at the Casa de Slim has the best idea ever for saving newspapers: charge for comments, not for content. So why not dispense with the critical middleman, let restaurateurs post their own reviews and watch the feces fly?
Anyone with half an organic brain could tell the cyber-scandale over Saint Alice allegedly acting like an ass had to be bullshit of the highest order. But I loved how quickly it evolved into a new blame game. She may have been in Chicago at the time of the crime, but someone resembling her apparently put on a pretty arrogant show before TWC witnesses. So who was that nasty number?