Belly bombs not allowed by TSA

Which is my way of leading into this: I’m a total advocate of the attempted reincarnation of the Fulton Fish Market, not least because I believe food is the future in this country; everyone has to eat, and the opportunities for entrepreneurs are as boundless as the frontier once was. But at this last one, for the first time, I started wondering the same thing I do at the “fancy” food shows: How in hell can people possibly hope to build a business on stuff that just tastes bad? Why don’t their loved ones tell them? I wound up buying a (great) ginger cookie midway through just to get the nasty bits out of my mouth. I know I have only myself to blame for even trying the “organic soy-and-oat tempeh” I was lured by after noticing tamales were involved. But jeebus, was that ever a crime against natural. And the “Peking duck cookies,” made with duck fat and five-spice powder, were nothing short of foul. Duck fat is lard’s funky cousin, and I love duck. I would ask if the food revolution now heating up might be hampered by its weak food soldiers, a generation raised on processed crap and now setting out to change the world with no palates. But I also tasted two fish soups that were pretty bland. And those were all made by established companies. Coming soon to the Javits Center . . .

No LaFrieda, please — we’re trendy

Epistemic closure is the undeniable diagnosis for most of wingnuttia, which probably explains why the deluded would look to an “economics” blogger sans calculator for advice on cookbooks. Naturally, she did not mention the manual for the socialist contraption she so proudly hailed after dropping $1,500. But she did “inform” readers that Maida’s books are out of print. Because that’s how capitalism works — no reissues are possible if the market demands. My advice to the closed-minded: Ask a liberal. We think anything goes anywhere, but especially in the kitchen.

Also, too, it’s unfortunate there’s no place where good people like Willie Nelson can go to get their food message out to a wide audience online. He’s totally right on Occupy the Food System, but I ain’t linking to a site that apparently believes we can all eat well when outlets don’t pay. Might as well shill for Smithfield processed crap behind photos of frolicking heritage hogs.

Muslin in a koshered kitchen

File all this under “no wonder the stock is down 85 percent”: The new routine in this consortium involves me trudging to the front door to pick up our two newspapers (and The Cat off the dining room radiator) and returning to bed to listen to my consort rattling off all the fresh news he’s picking up on the iPad. But as accustomed as I am to moths flying out of gray pages, I was still pretty amazed to see a cover feature on a restaurant attraction I wrote about in . . . 2005. This was pre-permalinks, so I’ll excerpt from Older Trails:

The Disneyesque: Gradisca, where we wound up after the Greenmarket thanks to all the press the mamma making the ravioli has been getting. Walking in to see her in all her ample glory, rolling out the dough and spooning ricotta and herbs into it, was like Italy, but the prices were definitely New York. I think there were eight little square ravioli on the plate for $22 at lunch. They were good, and the butter-sage sauce was extraordinary, but that is not exactly comparable to many lunches at “Mamma’s” in Costigliole in Piedmont a few months ago. ETC

And then, where do I begin with a piece with potluck in the hed and the archival photo but bake sale as the apparent point? I guess with this:

Memo From the Bake Sale Police:

–Rice Krispie Treats will continue to be acceptable; baking store-bought cereal with store-bought marshmallows proves you truly care.

–Naked Oreos will not be tolerated. Please enrobe them in melted 85 percent cacao chocolate, preferably single-origin from the smallest plantation in Madagascar. If the chocolate seizes, it’s the pastry gods’ way of saying you’re a terrible mother.

–If you must bring Munchkins, please be sure to turn them into a towering croquembouche first. Cooking sugar to the crack stage is no bother; candying fruit for the garnish is a snap. (Please start with hand-harvested heirloom fruit, however.)

–When we say homemade, we do not mean Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Brownies from a box are an insult to all true moms slaving over Rice Krispie Treats.

–Poundcakes are definitely encouraged. Your one-hour, 45-minute investment in all-time-high-priced butter and free-range organic eggs and special cake flour will pay off when we sell slices for $1 apiece to cover toilet paper for the kiddles’ bathrooms. Do not think about why bakery cupcakes would cost you less in time and shekels.

–Also do not do the math on flour and sugar versus Chips Ahoy. King Arthur goes for more than a buck a pound. Chocolate chips will run you $4 a bag. You will need butter (now at an all-time-high price). And brown sugar.

–We will not, however, suggest any reasonably priced, non-time-sucking alternatives to Oreos. You’re on your own, bitches.

Those cookies again? In a rococo chifferobe?

And I almost felt sorry for Panchito when Gawker tore him a new bunghole over his latest thousand-word motivational poster. But as a real friend on Facebook noted, he must make enough not to earn pity. So I’ll just disagree with everyone who opines that he should go back to the fud beat. Because he was just as shallow and lacking in expertise and pedaling inanely there. Two years around the McD’s at the Spanish Steps does not an A.J. Liebling make.

Pepito in a drum

My mom had a million maxims, one of which was that you only entrap yourself in a tangled web of deceit. (She always quoted the original, of course.) And I’m hoping that will be the case with the butter-golden girl of the most tarnished hog business. And with those who just promoted the book in the pages of what presents itself as an august publication, of the highest integrity. I’m so old I remember when you wouldn’t review a cookbook without actually cooking from it. Let alone shill a promotional brochure without pulling back the chicharron to acknowledge what lies beneath.

For color, age your green beans

And I Tweeted this earlier, but someone really needs to come up with a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster for Thanksgiving. It’s just a big chicken dinner, although you’d never know it from the hometown paper. The whole year is spent sanctimoniously sermonizing about how easy and fun cooking is, and guilting anyone who prefers to fix food or eat out for convenience, and now it’s time to switch messages and freak everyone the fuck out?  Also, too, if so many readers apparently want to kill their families rather than just find nice friends to eat with, why warn them about the stuffing?

Frizzled leeks, indeed

Two words you don’t ever want to see in the same graf of an e-tout: “upscale” and “Haiti.” Even to me, picking on flacks always feels kinda cruel, especially in an economy when any job is a job. But. Really. Did it occur to no one that nattering about lavish food and stylish guests might seem a bit, how you say, tone-deaf? And then to gold-plate the evening with lines like “the inherent challenge for us was creating a menu of Haitian-centric fare for a very discerning cosmopolitan audience”? Did no one think to divide the buffet between Port-au-Prince and Casa de Campo lines? Make the dire situation real? Of course I have a sick mind, but reading the edible lineup from grilled island shrimp to chocolate praline dacquoise made me wonder what the poor people were eating that night. Not, for sure, the “vegetarian option.”

Excised parsley: The bland leading the bland

The saddest thing I’ve read lately, at least in fud, was a Tweet praising Ireland for jumping on the burger train. I only spent a lunchtime in that benighted country, long enough to see how quickly the roads deteriorated once you crossed over from the British side, but I still think it’s profoundly sad that any passport-requiring destination would sell its soul for high-end McDonald’s. Did they learn nothing from dependence on one food (and can you say mad cow)? Why not at least reinvent the bangers with the champ?

Teeny spuds can’t grow eyes

And I know I’ve been overquoting the robber baron who boasted he could hire half the working class to kill the other half. But it really applies to the lowest rung on the Murdoch media ladder, where the serfs in the 99 percent are throwing rotten heirloom tomatoes at Occupy Wall Street, using every food angle to try to discredit a movement that could only improve their lot in miserable life. First there was the dissing of hippies for eating (donated) high-quality food rather than the typical fare of the poors. Then there was a bogus report of cooks going on strike because they had to feed regular homeless sorts rather than true believers. The newsroom sounds like a sweatshop where they themselves can barely stop to eat. And yet they beaver away, never seeing the real enemy. Clearly the pay and benefits are better at the broadsheet because the coverage is much more empathetic (read: rational). So here’s a thought: Someone set up a PayPal account to send pizzas to all those working for the Australian Pharaoh. Empathy through pepperoni.

Also, too: Tarragon + milk = pasta sauce

Considering my lame track record with old-style publishers, I’m half-happy to see Amazon undercutting the system that made it so nearly impossible to sell something different without having its sharp corners dulled to fit into the corn hole. Especially this time of year, when every day I open the front door to find another pathetic recipe collection lying on the doormat. Either I’m on the worst mailing list in the business, or old-line publishers really have no idea what appeals. No names, to spare the guilty, but I can still recall the sludge on the plate of the latest restaurant to get a glossy homage. Anyone who pays $30 for this overproduced mess should get a coupon for free double orders from D’Artagnan.

$16 muffins

Also, too, I was not surprised that the grim report from Texas on last meals went bouncing around the internets and email so fast. It had equal appeal to the hang-’em-high wingnuts, who think Scrooge was a wimp, and to us bleeding-heart libs, who both spurn the death penalty and empathize with the doomed. I’ve written before that I think the super saddest true food story ever told was of the condemned mental defective who said he wanted to save his dessert for later. And of course it figures it was a wingnut who had to go and spoil the so-called gravy train by ordering more food than any human could eat and then — wonder why? — not even being able to touch it. Their side keeps clinging to the old saying, but greed is not good.

Chopped liver on the dollar menu

Finally, where do I even begin with the Egopedist’s latest half-him/half-think-tank tirade? Are we talking junk food? Or fast food? Do we really need to trash organics and farmers’ markets and farmers who care enough to grass-feed cattle the way nature intended? Do we, with our uncredited help, really need to shame the couple in “Food, Inc.” even more for working two jobs and doing the drive-through to feed themselves and their kids? Do we — really? — ever fucking eat bland beans with plain rice with a glass of milk that, at that price, has to be produced with hormones and antibiotics?

No link because I hate to encourage. But mostly what I took away is that readers of a newspaper advertising $900 shoes and touting $245 prix fixes are supposed to reform their slovenly ways and suffer cheap, dirty birds after an hour in the kitchen. I don’t even eat chicken, but there’s no way in hell I would let my consort ingest one that can only be sold for that little because of all the corners cut in its rush to the supermarket. I haven’t fully worked my mind around this, but it just seems like one more disconnect between “journalists” and “real America.”  Do they not know from Taco Bell?

Left out of this whole debate is the minefield the supermarket has become. You go in to buy that cheap dirty bird and you’re going to pass the most amazing cornucopia in the history of mankind in the freezer aisle. Are you really going to bring home poulet perdu rather than nuke a few Hungry Mans? J’doubt it. So, yes, please, keep working the talking points and making it a choice between fatty/sugary/filling McMeals and dreary, bland, time-consuming fodder. That will get the asses onto the kitchen stools for sure.

Oh, and did anyone think to price out the kohrabi slaw? Or the Brussels sprouts slaw with all the exotica? I wonder what the poor folks are making of saffron aioli. . .

Helen Keller, photo editor

I take maybe too much pride in being a college dropout who somehow managed to get jobs on five newspapers across America and even wind up as a reporter-reshaping editor for most of them. I also remember two stints of long and miserable days crafting crap into readable stories for the hometown paper. So it kills my soul to see a brilliant idea squandered as fucking mush. Even on my high school paper, for Zenger’s sake, Rule No. 1 was: Nut graf before the jump! Beyond that, I just read the stupidity to take it apart the way some overpaid/overcompensated editor did not. Can a scale really replace a set of measuring spoons, as the photo-illustration implies? Are there not rules for measuring? My mom always said “a pint’s a pound the world round.” And one cup of whole nuts yields one cup chopped. Plus there are dozens of scales on the market, and I use one probably 15 years old. Does digital matter? Ounces equal ounces. But five ounces is five ounces. Not “are.” No wonder the scale “has failed to become a must-have tool.” Even its advocates cannot communicate why it matters.

$695 Bordeaux chaser

And speaking of WSJournal disconnects, WTF were the designers and editors thinking producing a full-page spread on pie with photos that looked as if a toddler had done the crusts with two left hands? If I were one of the top 400 who control most of the wealth in this country, I’d fire that pastry chef’s ass. The look of a pie directly affects the experience of a pie. Crappy crusts make for crappy eating, even if you have smoked the chocolate for the filling. Someone on Twitter speculated that they were merely trying to evoke a down-home feeling. If so, they shoulda used Pillsbury. That’s what the poor people are eating tonight.