Lately I’ve been thinking and Tweeting a lot about Richard Thompson’s prescient song “We’re All Working for the Pharaoh.” Who could ever have imagined pennies would wind up as the new dollars, if you were damned lucky? Food aggregators are apparently offering $12 a post, which is $12 more than the Huffington Post is paying as its founder flogs the Big O to do more about job creation. But things could be worse for the gainfully unemployed: We could have big jobs.
In both my stints at the NYTimes, the restaurant critic was always a protected species, a creature devoted mostly to one vital gig, finding and rating the best places to eat in a city with more than 15,000 choices. I’m still stinging from the acid flung the morning I had to call the PS to plead for a critic’s notebook when we were light on copy. It was way too much to demand (although we got it). So I guess it’s no wonder the JGold Wannabe appears to be so overstretched he’s cranking out stuff for the magazine that would take the Bulwer-Lytton trophy. That may have been the most pretentious lede in the history of food writing. Obviously, you can’t answer readers’ questions, chuckle over your fud and round up recipes without something having to give. Straining at stool can be lethal. Ask Elvis.
In the grand oily scheme of things, it should be hard to get worked up about the small stuff these days. But every morning I flip through the WSJournal’s new New York section and despair over the Lunchbox, which must be copy-edited in Chennai (“New York’s Chelsea”?) Most egregious, I saw paninis, and in a headline, no less. Meanwhile, the NYTimes implies that Uniqlo’s new line must be very tasteful — it has a “softer palate.” Also, too, apparently that traditional Muslin concoction hummus is being given the all-American treatment and will soon be available in chocolate-raspberry-ranch flavor. And remember the Angostura bitters crisis? It was the Helen Thomas/ACORN of food hysteria. Everyone ran with news of the scary shortage without walking down to the corner store and checking to see if it might be available. Mani, near me, had it every day I saw dire warnings online. Mostly, though, inquiring minds would like to know why two such offbeat restaurants as a Brooklyn-born Mexican and a bizarro Asian wound up multiply reviewed on the same day. Funny to think there was once a time when what is now the Etiquette Expert could tear flacks new assholes for not giving her exclusives first. . . .
Because not everyone speaks Twitter, I’ll translate another recycled one. At the Greenmarket on Union Square Saturday, I pointed out a white-haired guy in a sport coat to my consort and said he was an old NYTimes copy editor. “Retired?” Bob asked. And I said: “Aren’t they all?” Next morning I had more evidence, in the obit for the founder of Oldways, which described olive oil as “the principle source of fat” in the Mediterranean diet. This was after a story that lowercased Buffalo wings (when bison fly?). And in one column I found a sentence ending in a preposition, plus “the couple is . . . and have,” not to mention “presumptive” for “presumptuous.” The only consolation is knowing a certain head is also exploding every morning over in the Jersey town where the elite retreat.
We live in interesting times, word-wise. I just saw the absurd euphemism for starvation/force-feeding of suspected terrorists: dietary manipulation. Orwell has to be cringing. And Hormel is apparently too cowed even to use the four-letter word for its meat — you need a magnifying glass to find “pork” in its ads. Instead, they call the swine loins Always Tender Products. Which sounds sort of like something you’d find in the feminine hygiene aisle.