Did Squanto know from soybeans?

Easily the saddest food story I’ve read in a while was the Journal’s on fake turkeys, in all their freakish un-glory. Could anyone really feel celebratory carving up a loaf of something shaped like Velveeta and the color of simian dung? Even worse was the tofu turkey sculpted like the real deal but with a cavity for stuffing — a little too close to inflatable sex toy for comfort. Why not just serve pumpkin lasagne and enjoy yourself? But then the trend this year seems to be making Thanksgiving as complicated as it can possibly be when it’s really just a glorified chicken dinner. There’s no need to freak-and-freeze out. As much as I don’t like trying to reinvent it in words and recipes year after year after year, it’s my favorite holiday because it’s all about cooking without pressure. Step one: Throw out your magazines and newspapers. Otherwise you’ll be reheating biscotti while mopping up your own exploding head.

Truth can’t get its pants on

Speaking of pumpkin, I see the blogosphere has worked itself into a squash tizzy insisting the stuff in the can is not what it says on the label. Funny that I first heard that apocrypha 25 years ago when I got into food and it took a trip to the pumpkin capital of America to learn that the P word applies to more than things in the shape and color of jack-o’-lanterns. Not every tomato is a plum. Ditto with pumpkin. Better to put that sleuthing urge to good use figuring out what the hell is in those “onion” rings on the green bean casserole.

Miso. Salsa.

I’m feeling pretty good this week thanks to my new best friend Vicodin; just add cappuccino and things get really mellow. But even through a euphoric haze I can still wonder how close we are to end of days when a company is actually marketing “wasabi ranch” potato chips. Having grown up in Arizona, I have to say that combination does not make me think of overwrought snacks. I see internment camps for the Japanese.

It must be true. It was reprinted.

The Week went so wingnut wacky during the campaign that I would have canceled my own damn subscription if not for the food pages, which are an oddly compelling gauge of what appeals from newspaper sections across the country. Since I’m no longer in the competition, I needed this to justify re-upping: Where else in print would you read about a British priest who needed a potato dug out of his rectum? One that allegedly lodged there when he fell on it while trying to hang kitchen curtains in a state of buck-nakedness? Then again, I guess it’s just more proof that the magazine has gone over to the neocon side. Those readers would consider tuber action a prescription for the ultimate wide stance.

Blogging’s just another word . . .

That old saying about how there are no atheists in foxholes should be updated to “no ethicists in struggling media.” Once upon a time a freelancer who had taken even one junket would have been banned from the imaginary cathedral. Today, friends of friends in the right places can get a  regular gig on the liquid trail. Did no one learn from the Chimp travesty? I also made the mistake of Googling for blog reaction. Holy moose poop! Old guys are getting boners again, and wet starbursts are short-circuiting keyboards. I want what they’re drinking.

Como se dice “chemical additive”?

Speaking of embattled publications trying to make fast-food profits in a business that once took its civic duty seriously, has the copy-editing really all been outsourced to India? Forget one more headline splitting poundcake in two. A peculiar story on Caesar salad in its birthplace had a misspelled word in the lede graf, a garbled sentence in the fourth graf and the idiocy of a reference to “sauce” on the salad in the penultimate graf. But what was even stranger was the blithe tone in a piece about a city the State Department has been warning Americans is too dangerous to visit. The same reporter has been detailing gruesome mierda there himself, yet the caption with the photo references “tourists fearful of the local water.” Is this what you have to do to expense a lunch anymore?

But at least the turkey doesn’t look like ass

Almost as jarring is the food styling in Taste of Home as it morphs ever more ludicrously into the poor cook’s Bon Appetit. I actually spotted a BLT turkey salad photographed in a Mason jar. Someone has got to stop looking at what the cool pubs are doing, because I don’t think this is quite what they mean by verrine. Better to have done that shot with something that half made sense. Like the “frosted pineapple lemon gelatin” right below it. Yes, frosted. Jell-O. 

Exploding apples up your granny’s ass

If stars fall in the sky, does anyone hear? I managed to make it through an entire week into my foreseeable future without the faintest curiosity about the “big awards” being doled out to NYC restaurants. With the chances of spending $500 on a dinner about as good as our investing in a bottle of the new $1,450 cognac, who really gives a flying goose fuck anymore? I felt the same way about the silly food “festival” and the silly food-centric magazine, which was apparently designed by the same people who package Ambien. Everything seems so craven — was the magazine pegged to the “festival,” or was it just meant to sell more of those annoying and inescapable Campbell’s attack ads? My favorite curmudgeon went off even more than I did, but he actually read the thing. I only dipped a toe now dying of osteonecrosis into one thing by a guy who I know for sure could barely crank out 500 words on shrimp-shell stock, never a thought piece. But I did tear out the meat of the matter to read on the bus home from the Whitney — and almost snoozed off while wedged in standing up and gripping a handrail. The best and the brightest meets the worst and the dimmest. Don’t they call the damn thing a NEWSpaper? Leave off the S for stupidity. Just tell me something new, please. 

No steak at her home

Even that, though, was not as jaw-dropping stupid as the piece about Newman’s Own at “much-loved” Fairway, the Rollerball of food shopping. It had the feel of someone tap-dancing — clumsily — all over a fresh grave that had already been pissed on once that week. Has journalism really come to this, hanging out in the vinaigrette aisle to coax crude comments out of old ladies? Now, if someone had gotten punched with accompanying cuss words, I would have believed it. . . .

91 points for mouthwash

File this under How to Stretch a Lobster With Steak: A wine writer decides to go bargain hunting and sets the bar at $20  — while those of us out in the real world are wondering what’s good for $5 these days. But I suppose newspapers still need to pander to the suffering who have to cut corners on nose jobs and private jets in tight times. And I guess it’s better than $400 worth of caviar in a single sauce. Clearly, language is not the only reason no one reading print saw the greatest photo of the last week: At a rally on Wall Street, a protester holding up a sign reading, “Jump, you fuckers!”

Add 1.8 percent for gullibility

Long ago I decided my last meal should be in France, but I never imagined it might precede euthanasia. Or that it might flash before my eyes before my cappuccino. Could the salvation of the cuisine have been made any more soporific? A good writer meets a great topic and readers nod right off. It was still better, though, than the latest installment of Butt Boy for Eli. When the kicker turns out to be “never mind,” you wonder why the damn thing even ran, except to provide just what he intended, a promo for a store where prices are already so absurd I have often calculated it would be cheaper for shoppers to take a cab across town to the real Zabar’s. But the guy, to his credit, does pony up for an awful lot of advertising, especially starting right about now. High holy days, indeed.

Far star apartment house, too

Speaking of flacks, the one who sent out the e-release touting the “Union City Greenmarket” might want to offer a refund for her/his services. Sounds more like a John Sayles title than the biggest farmers’ market in the country’s biggest city. And I can only assume he/she is moonlighting for whoever decided to start a magazine and name it after Crisco’s poor relation. Spry? I guess it’s the perfect title for lardasses.

How do you say tarnish in Italian?

Every morning, as my consort and I loll in bed and listen to the bloviating on anything but issues that is NPR’s political coverage these days, it seems as if we hear the same commercial (let’s call it what it is). And every morning I realize I am starting my day wondering what is so bad about tomato paste in pasta sauce. What am I missing here? But now I’ve seen the print version of the ad (let’s call it what it is). And it references earthquakes and tsunamis etc. to promote the stupid stuff even as real hurricanes are smashing into real cities. A hundred chimps typing buzzword clouds could have come up with better names for the various variations, too: roasted garlic balsamico, vodka elegante and the geographically challenged Tuscan marinara with “subtle taste of northern Italy.” Twenty-five years in this business, and I now learn the most simplistic distinction between the cuisines of the north and south has been wiped out by one copywriter. Then again, this is red sauce made without tomato paste, not without cream and butter. If I ever start a revolutionary, wildly successful catering company, remind me never to sell it to cretins once I have built the brand.