Just back from a flying trip to Buffalo (no restaurants were harmed), I’m still marveling at the rather porcine cashier at Office Max who mocked the sales tax charged on the phone my consort bought his mom. She had no idea what the 7 (or so) percent was used for, which puts her right up there with the idiot running for Congress who believes salmonella in eggs could be prevented if only we got the government off the chickenshit producers’ back and simply let buyers beware. Can’t these cretins just move to Somalia and start food blogs, please?
And this sounds insensitive, but one of the high points of my week was the Batterberry sendoff. It really was a memorial that reflected a seriously impressive life with a ripple effect far beyond what he made his name doing. The overflow crowd included lots of boldface food names, but Garrick Utley started things, and Geoffrey Holder did almost a performance piece that I couldn’t quite understand totally in the SRO section but apparently involved Lena Horne and ended with applause loud enough to be heard wherever the two departed are now. Among the many great remembrances was Dan Barber’s LOL recounting of what he went through to write an Adam Gopnik-level introduction for Michael and Ariane when they got a Beard award this year. His Moleskin is a book waiting to be expanded. Another eulogist noted that The Batt (or Bat) was described in the big obit as “puncturing the pomposity” of Gourmet — which was a phrase he would have found to be “a little labored.” He may be unimaginably gone, but he’s still editing. . .
I am, once again, reTweeting myself here, but I really would like to see a forensic editor turned loose on the series of tubes. There is simply no way the hands on the keyboard that banged out ovine blather this week were the same ones that took an unnamed but easily identified Florida chef to the woodshed. Someone must have misheard “get a life” with a W. And, off topic, I have to say it’s also amusing to think back on how Mme Ami took Mrs. O to task for setting a bad example by not cooking. So who had 500 chefs in her yard this week, ready to do her bidding? Link bait has a pretty short shelf life. . . .
Dwight Garner’s review of the Wilbert Rideau memoir in the NYT included a detail I don’t know that I’ve ever read before. Death Row dinners are “ordered for, and eaten by” friends of prisoners — “condemned men usually lose their appetites.” Might be the saddest thing I’ve read since the tale of the about-to-be-whacked convict who saved his dessert “for later.”
One of the most sobering experiences in some time was mentioning a Carolina chef who once brought his young son to my apartment on 72d Street to deliver a recipe when I was just starting as a food writer and then having my e-correspondent note that the “kid” now has his own eating establishment, not to mention two kids of his own. How the hell did that happen when I was not aging at all? The only encouraging news is that so many spawn have been allowed to grow up and choose their own careers without having their every bite/burn documented. Maybe the best advice for life really is: First you dig a pit.
The funniest headline I saw all week was on an op-ed in USA Today: “Food industry has improved our recipes, marketing and labels.” Who is this “our” of whom you speak? It’s just amazing that two generations — at least — now don’t understand you can make a casserole without a can of soup. (It’s probably not a coincidence that heavy cream became a scary phrase in that same time span.) And now I see, just as a rather awesome short film about the foreverness of plastic is making the e-rounds, that McCormick’s has decided what the world needs now is pre-measured spices packed in plastic on a recipe card. Why not wrap it in a plastic bag, too, and then a jewel box to tuck into a white baggie? Probably the same cretins out in the streets, protesting with all the misspelled words they can scrawl against Big Government intruding too deeply into their lives, are blissful to know they can now cook mindlessly, never realizing Big Food has far, far more dominion. Even the slogan echoes Faux News: “We measure. You create.” Thanks very much, but I’ll make my own “socialist” borscht.
I know nothing about frying pigskins, but I do know a story on the whole trend might want to at least mention why you should start from scratch: The crap in stores is pretty fucking scary. Of course that exposé ran in the paper that also reported on the horrible downside to better food in more casual settings at a lower price point: Bedlam R Us. And also ran photographic evidence of what a French friend who doesn’t get fat noted: Houston is home to America’s fattest Americans. It was all almost enough to give the paper a pass on sliding closer and closer to Faux News in print. No wonder its MoDo is guzzling all the gin she can ingest.
Another day at Zabar’s I saw, at the same moment, people greedily scooping up food samples and a worker walking past in a flu mask. It was just as jarring as considering how amenable New Yorkers are to communal tongs in the mesclun bins in the midst of an epidemic that has hit nearly all 50 states. Maybe it’s proof that lack of universal health care makes us tougher. We can compartmentalize our paranoia.
And I admit I am totally faithless after coming across something on one of those websites where Bourdain wannabes contribute for free. While Googling the other day I turned up a post on a restaurant in Florida in which the “writer” admitted she had just posted the press release, saying she normally would have taken time to rework it but had to focus on paying gigs. The only difference between that and what you so often read on Wednesday is just the honesty.
Gorgeous weekend, with great food — so much so it seems the Goods should for once outweigh the bad. . .
Only two Maroons would go to Cuba and complain that the food wasn’t cutting edge. For Che’s sake, can you say embargo? And poor people? But then as a travel writer friend noted, they were clearly just going through the payback motions for the trip. I blame the Food Coven’s honcho for “printing” their drivel; he does seem to take a hands-off approach with his old pals. One just did a trite ode to a “storied gem” of a trattoria that mentions a tart “in the photo above” when all that’s on display is fruit. But at least what he’s not doing is working. I check in just to see the latest brain wreck.
Talk about picking your poison: All this newfound fear over whether organic is safer is pretty laughable. Pesticides might be scary, but fertilizer is often just manure with a college education. And it stands to reason most farm products from China would be “organic;” the stories I could tell secondhand of people who have experienced outhouses and pigs together there would curl your tail. I get too depressed digging out my travel notebooks these days or I’d scare up the details from India, but I remember riding past an aromatic and especially verdant field with a huge billboard boasting that it was essentially a sewage treatment plant for the nearby town. And, you know, shit happens.
Speaking of which, I am totally enjoying reading the fools sporting Dianne Feinstein hairdos as they proclaim Washington the new New York/Paris/London. Uh. Huh. I’ve lived in six states and consider my recollected travels with consort my retirement account, and I can pretty confidently say that when it comes to eating, the place is Podunk on the Potomac. Even the city’s biggest booster, depending on the outlet, has to acknowledge that its best is 63 rungs below New York, let alone her sainted Berkeley or the finally recognized Mecca, Chicago. Thin-skinned pastry chefs are the least of the problems. You can’t do great food without a great audience — look at the Upper East Side here. Washington is doubly plagued, with the rich and with rubes. Would you chow down where the bloviators on the Sunday teevee shows do?
File this under HFS*: Did the hometown paper and its trashiest Sunday competition really use essentially the same lede in paying homage to the loser-est onetime chef in town? Did none of their editors notice the pretty racist tone to both? But at least one mouthpiece did not bite on the Jamie Oliver wannabe-ism — put this notorious spendthrift in charge of the school lunch programs and even Madoff wizardry could not generate enough cash to keep them afloat. Funny to think someone so pathetic is almost getting more ink than Grant Achatz, and apparently all he’s done lately is hire a propaganda catapulter. But whoever that is hit a grand slam.
*Holy. Fucking. Shit.