And this is why the world will never see peace in the Middle East: A cookbook (call it the tome of the unknown chefs) produced to emphasize similarities over differences in kitchens of Jews and Arabs gets the trend treatment and only Israelis are consulted on how it’s going over in the city that happens to be occupied by, shall we note, Palestinians among others. So much for hummus as the healer. . .
Speaking of the four-letter fud, we were just down visiting great friends in New Hope who mentioned they had had the opportunity to tour a model slaughterhouse out in California this summer, thanks to one of their great friends. And what they took away from the experience was that ground beef packed in a chub is the safest to buy, because it comes from one animal, not the bacteria hive you might pick up “ground fresh” at the supermarket. And it can’t have been more than a day or two later that I spotted yet another 25-ton “there’s shit in the meat” recall involving . . . chubs. Even better, a Twitter pal pointed out the brand name on each of those taut plastic casings: Naturewell and Naturesource. Sounds like something dreamed up in the same conference room where they decided to put adult heads on kids’ bodies and call it macaroni without cheese.
The older I get the happier I am to be past kiddledom, not least because the school lunch program in this country seems to be a cross between “starve the beasts” and “go all medieval on their guts.” My cranial sieve is notoriously unreliable, but I remember bringing crapwiches of peanut butter and brown sugar wrapped in waxed paper to school because my family could barely afford the 4 cents a day per spawn for a quarter-pint of milk. Whatever kids today are getting has to be better than that, even if the privileged are reduced to videographing the sins of the cooks. Although I wonder where the parents are, letting ’em eat GMO corn oil instead of time-honored butter . . . .
Finally, for all my scorn for food personalities who are the opposite of vampires and only come out in the limelight I’ve mostly made an exception for Jamie Oliver because he tries to do some good — and also does stuff intelligently. Consider his latest venture. I’ve been to Istanbul twice, and it is one fascinating, seductive megalopolis, but you can eat pretty badly there, even without dropping mega-lira for tortured food with a view. As with any tourist city, the best restaurants have to please the locals, and that is something best done “on cat’s paws” (to steal the perfect metaphor from @carr2n). Which must be why I first learned he was expanding there from an Istanbul news Twitter stream and, when I went to see what’s been reported, found he first had his food magazine run a travel feature on the destination and now has this up. If Molto Ego gets evicted from the old Coach House, he now has a road map to where the West meets the East. Although I suspect diners there, too, will still expect the chickpeas to stay lodged on the crostini.
I hate to differ with my uncharacteristically soft-hearted Biggest Fan, but somewhere Clementine Paddleford is weeping. Duncan Hines was driving the drive, eating the all-American eats long before a friend o’ the publisher got a regular gig. And speaking of spinning deads, I feel pretty certain that Pierre Franey in the big kitchen in the sky is feeling very pleased no marketer came up with frozen 6-minute meals while he still cooked among us. Also, too, is this the world’s worst title: “The Baby Cookbook”? Years ago, when the feet of a kid now in college sounded like hooves over my head, I had a dream about boiling a baby. What other methods would that guide suggest?
Avocados are the bacon of produce. // The Cat WCTLWAFW is just a stomach wrapped in fur. // If you like the smell of bacon, Benton’s will perfume your home for hours. // And The Cat got Benton’s bacon. Two hours later he was hungry.
Also, too, I was glad to see I was not the only one who spotted a new billboard and wondered, as someone put it on Twitter, “Who electrocuted her?” I just thought she looked ready to boil Michael Douglas’s bunny, but someone else chimed in (and I’m personalizing): “Saw the same ad and thought, ‘Wow, the Furry Anus looks good!’”
Just back from Philadelphia, I know a couple more words for smashed (squiffy and zozzled) and a great euphemism for hooch (jag juice). But mostly, thanks to the totally vaut-le-voyage Prohibition exhibition, I have the perfect epithet for so many wingnuts, and more than a few “celebrity” chefs. And that would be the one applied to anti-booze William Jennings Bryan: “idol of all morondom.”
Also on my hiatus, I kept seeing new sand kicked in Martha’s face constantly. Whatever its intent, all it achieved was reminding me and probably many more that she was one of the only ones to go to prison for financial chicanery in that whole era of excess and deception. No wonder she had to be bleeped on “Wait, Wait.” Where she also rubbed their presumptuous noses in both Spam and Velveeta.
Given how much of my life I squander on the Twitter/FB/Wingnuttialand, I really was amazed when a friend dropped by the other day and mentioned she still pays attention to the wack in the hat. She said his blaring siren for hours had wailed about a dodgy chef’s deli having allegedly been vandalized by anti-Semites; I responded that it was news to me even though I squander much of my life on Twitter/FB/wingnuttialand, not to mention the whole excitable world of food blogs. Of course my instant reaction was that I’d seen that movie before (and I don’t exactly mean “The Godfather”). I forget who first said that “sometimes the news is in the noise, sometimes it’s in the silence,” but it is more true than ever in a multimedia era. A crime against the Jews fell on Columbus Avenue and only the anti-islamists heard it? Call that a good reason to check to be sure your credit card was not hacked as you walked past the string of Chapter 11s.
Speaking of which, I read many years ago — I think in Harper’s — that bodybuilding has a downside when it comes to package perception. And so I saw this and immediately thought a sequel to a certain restaurant memoir had been published. Pull quote: “Being very thin makes your dick look enormous.”
For some reason my MacBook has decided I can only watch/hear some videos, not all, even though I’ve reinstalled Flash repeatedly. And I’m actually enjoying digital silence. Never is that more true than when I click on a restaurant website and am shut out — no music, no slideshow, no overdesigned bullshit that inevitably fizzles into a PDF. This bug should become a feature.
Which leads me to the sad state of affairs in the Gulf of Mexico. I follow a couple of accounts (they’re certainly not people) on Twitter just to keep up on the distract-and-destroy campaign BP is waging on the food front. The other day I wanted to RT an “up with NOLA!” story on chefs cooking at the Olympics but immediately realized it was just more oil screen. The masters of disaster need to keep selling the notion that seafood swimming in befouled water is safe to eat. While patriotic chefs who like to see their names in bold are only too happy to help.
I can never get my shit together enough to capitalize on all my “I remember whens . . .” so I’ll throw this out for free: When I read the CIA was shutting down the Escoffier room, I was transported in reverse nearly 30 years, way back to when I decided to give up a lucrative career as an editor at the hometown paper and train as a chef. My consort insisted we check out the Harvard of cooking schools before I wisely followed my gut right into the New York Restaurant School, so we rented a car, drove to Poughkeepsie, toured the anxious campus and ate dinner in the swankiest of student-staffed restaurants. And jeebus, was it both halt and lame. The sauces were stodgy, the cooking clumsy, the service amateurish to the point of parody. By contrast, back in the spring of 1983, my about-to-be alma mater on 34th Street was turning out gracefully light food that reflected how cuisine was melding French style with American omnivorism. Rather than dropping 20 or 30 thousand grand while taking myself out of the work force for two years, I borrowed 5 grand for 18 weeks at the Evelyn Wood School of Cooking. And never regretted it. Not least because I’m now working on a piece interviewing CIA grads and hearing they got their best education after they left that whole world of the ER behind. No joke.
Speaking of which, the successor to the JGold Wannabe is mighty optimistic that uni etc. will be supplanted by something more miraculous when the rest of us with no expense accounts are wondering if there will even be sushi from the sea tomorrow. And speaking of all that eating for a preordained rating, it was exactly 10 years ago that my consort and I went to the newest/oldest four-star for his birthday and rode home in the cab wishing we had put that $320 toward plane tickets to Paris. Our socks were still firmly on, after giving the corporate/cold place one last try. When only the tab is memorable, you’ve had a seafood Nothingburger.
My favorite restaurant typo lately: “Curside” service (Willard would not allow). And the stories about how Apple executives met in swankola restaurants to try to destroy competition on e-books made me think the wrong way of spelling one term might actually be right: price-fixed. Also, too, and kind of unrelated, this FB update almost works as a short story: “Claiborne memoir bought in Fort Erie for $4 bears a raised seal, ‘From the library of Felipe Rojas-Lombardi’.” So much food history, so little remembrance . . .