Apparently there is no T-free zone in the world. And there should not be. It would be like ignoring typhoid when Mary is your cook. Still, the trouble with traveling while wired is that it’s too easy to stay obsessed with the insane clowns and the posse after them back home while blissfully exploring a favorite city for the fourth time on your fifth* trip. Even away from the computer there is overlap. One day I picked up online outrage over the dismantling of regulatory agencies, then passed a marker in the Piazza delle Herbe, once Torino’s most important market square, where full centuries ago “city authorities had to guarantee supplies of foodstuffs and check weights and trading.” The free market can never be trusted to be free. Now every time I start to think this bogus regime is going medieval on America, I’ll realize that might be an improvement.
*The food here is so uniformly good I can even vouch for what they serve in hospitals.
And I have also realized the Italians know exactly what to do with an orange jackass. Make something that would intimidate Bobo Brooks.
One night I spotted a couple eating at the vegan cafe whose slogan is “eat with head” tossing scraps to their dogs. Who were gobbling. I didn’t know if I should alert the Italian version of the FDA. Or the Torino ASPCA.
You can always tell a city is changing in the best way when liveliest neighborhoods are not on the tourist map. // On my third walk through an open-air food market in Torino I thought: “They all have the same stuff.” Then: “Oh. Yeah. Cuz it’s all seasonal.” // Even Ray Bradbury never envisioned Cryovaced octopus. // Only travel writers can see the Po from a table at Porto di Savona on Piazza Vittorio Veneto. // An important distinction at a farmers’ market: You say “due” and they ask “chilo or numero?” // Chest of quail is a pretty great translation. // Why you run through cash so fast in a foreign country? Every time they announce the check, clueless you reaches for the biggest bill to avoid misunderstanding. // I also saw a produce vendor wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “nice people make nice things.” So that’s my problem. . .
I am such a conflicted loser that I refuse to even approach the WSJ with story ideas cuz I don’t want to support it (#deportallmurdochs), but I have still been complicit for many years in subscribing to the print edition cuz it does such great stuff, on both food and books (the Saturday reviews are like coulibiacs compared with the NYT’s Hot Pockets). So on this most recent Saturday I was treated, having enriched Rupe’s pockets but unable to share, to a smart story on the “fast-fine” trend in dining and an exquisite essay on T’s ICE brownshirts killing apple towns. The former made it clear that workers will be the first expense tossed off the ship on the brave new sea of RestoWorld (let the paying customers and the iPads do the heavy lifting). The latter lyrically spelled out how fear is crippling a town that had been revived by immigration. “Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting,” indeed.
Whenever I see a photo these days of the Big O living it up in a restaurant somewhere around the world, I sadly realize again how much the presidency has been diminished. We officially now have a giant peach-colored toddler banging his fork on the table for an overcooked steak with ketchup. America is no longer leader of the food world.
I quit reading the Sunday Arts & Leisure section literally decades ago after a couple of theater people I met at a dinner party pointed out the obvious: It is nothing but promo copy to fill up the spaces around, and justify, the theater/movie/gallery ads. The food pages of course have no ads, so there really is no excuse for a huge feature that amounted to a press trip for which subscribers paid by kicking in to pay “journalist” salaries. I mean, really? Signing on to shill for a teevee show as a way to explore a story you could find literally in the backyard with all the cheap-and-shitty Thai restos on Ninth?
Then again, on one of my increasingly regular trips to the consort’s hometown, I happened upon a laudatory story in the hometown paper on how all the local taxpayer dollars were paying off in high-profile coverage of a city that has been, for at least 10 years, a food scene happening in plain sight. Lede: “America’s favorite city. One of the top places to see in 2016. A top 10 food city in America. These are the accolades that Travel & Leisure, CNN and National Geographic, respectively, have showered on Buffalo recently. Over the past few years, writers from USA Today, The New York Times, popular travel media and newspapers nationwide have visited the Queen City and shared their intrigue and, ultimately, their love . . . Last year, we were able to influence well over 230 stories, and some of them, of course, went viral in other ways. They had a media value of $4.1 million.” How much was in “clean” coverage? And how did we get to this so-called president, anyway? On Kerala wings?
Weird jetsam gets caught in my cranial sieve. Whenever I pass the Puck Building, as I did the other night on the way to a friend’s play in the East Village, I flash back on the Wall Street wedding we went to there a full 30 years ago. I commented that the passed food was surprisingly good and the best man, standing next to me, threw his toothpick onto the tray and spat: “It should be. It cost a fucking fortune.” Did I mention it was a Wall Street wedding? And they’re back . . .
If I could ever get it together to update my Trails page, I could make a very persuasive case for places like Bodega 88, which opened a few blocks from us not so long ago. In these T’ing times, a sports bar is the rare refuge from the all-orange-chaos-all-the-time insanity. You can be surrounded by 12 teevees, one on ice, and realize: Puck it, we’re tuning it out.
And at a time when wingnuts are actually debating whether fellow Americans need food to survive, I have to rant yet again that the best way to save SNAP would be to rebrand it as what it actually is. Not a lifeline for the poors. A huge subsidy to supermarkets.
I panicked and captured a huge bug in the kitchen by slapping a plastic “glass” over it and — cuz I know how those suckers can push back — weighting that with a tin of salt and a mango until Bob could get home and kill it. Then I put on my glasses. And saw it was a piece of crust from the Maison Kayser olive bread.
When you’re out of tortillas, you’re out of breakfast, lunch and dinner. // Cannelloni are Italian enchiladas. // Heard a woman in Chipotle asking for rice in her hard-shell taco. That shit doesn’t even belong in burritos. // Someone could do a whole graduate thesis on @alexstupak’s crab nachos with uni “queso.” College dropouts like me can only marvel. #trailTK
My consort is definitely the sharpest blade in this rack these days, as I am consumed by the shitshow no one has the guts to impeach so I can get back to food. He was flipping through the Murdoch Crier and noted yet another tourism ad that put chefs front and center of the skyline. And it is a sea change. Art is dandy as a city-sell. Food is quicker.
News that the global seed bank established in a climate-change-proof site had been flooded as the glaciers melt and the oceans rise was bad enough. Now I know we’re truly in end times, though. The other day the tasting bar at the corner liquor store was offering samples of Veuve Cliquot’s latest: sparkling wines meant to be poured over ice. Ice, I said. And they’re also meant to be “garnished,” whether with a berry or a sprig of mint. I’m assuming they’re meant to be drunk on hot days when the melting cubes will cut the syrupiness. But at $64/$65 a bottle, they ain’t exactly a quencher for the poors. So it all just feels like Evian for a new century. And how did bottled-or-tap turn out for the world?
I also read a whole story that came off like a PR stunt to promote a book. Then read a review of said book that proved you can so easily shortchange your work by promoting it. There’s an actual hook there, about the rights and wrongs of supermarkets. Instead we got the oldest tale in the Kroger’s — the poison is in the center, the good stuff is around the perimeter, it’s all processed crap and blah and blah and more aisles of blah. So much for the “skillful portrait that might make you want to catch a flight to Cleveland.”