Thanksgiving torture porn has been a thing ever since the intermission of Grindhouse, but it reaches macabre new heights this year, via the unexpected medium of the employee newsletter.
The same sociopath who sends out an email every feb suggesting getting a room at the campus conference center for a romantic Valentine's getaway is now encouraging subcontracting campus catering to do your Thanksgiving cooking. The rest of the story here is that the Cod's day job's catering is in the steely grip of Aramark - thus what you would be saying to your guests who brave the vagaries of holiday travel to sit at your table is: "Happy Thanksgiving! I care so much about this harvest celebration that I contracted with Aramark to feed you, after a fashion!" There may be more emphatic ways to say "fuck you," but I can't think of many.
Feast your eyes on the choices, if you dare. Because it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a jug of sweet tea and a red velvet cake. Seriously - forget Eli Roth, this is some Lars Von Trier stuff happening.
A friend we will call Regina shared this. It was an invitation to faculty at a university where Regina works. Food fanciers will enjoy a classic example of the putatively fancy but still shitty menu: "Tossed salad with three dressings, dinner rolls, sun-dried tomato crusted chicken breast, etc, sliced sweet potato with maple glaze," etc. It's better than what the kids get, but still a hearty fuck you served on a steam tray. Other folks besides the 'Fesser on the higher ed grind might enjoy the unfathomable condescension of a) having an event like this and b) inviting faculty. Finally, it is delightfully self-defeating, in that it would seem to teach this university's current faculty good enough table manners to flourish at a school that treats them with just a little bit more respect.
As you know, the Streep Award is awarded every year to the individual who has done the most to piss all over Julia Child's life and work. The award is named after Meryl Streep and her grotesque and hamfisted portrayal of Child in the movie based on the book based on Julie Powell's blog about Child's book. The Cod will not rest until Streep is brought to justice, AKA forced to spend eternity on a Carnival cruise ship sailing between Tampa and Jacksonville performing a one-woman adaptation of Mama Mia.
But the Streep is strong in Mark Bittman. Evidently, the way to praise one icon of American cooking is to denigrate another:
Exactly. Hazan exists in a universe that Child created, but whatever. It's also symptomatic of a broader problem in writing, which is that women are often presented to the public in pairs w/ some sort of presumed rivalry expressed in some sort of binary. Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, Adele and Amy Winehouse, etc. Meanwhile, men exist in more nuanced and complex constellations. But I digress, The lede is even worse, and does more of the same pairing stuff:
Say what? I have my doubts about Alice, but again, there is an order of magnitude difference, Hazan is the Diana Kennedy of Italian cooking, while Alice Waters has transformed living in Northern California into an ideology.
Also, it's curious to read this so soon after the much discussed Time Inc sausagefest shitshow, in that Bittman's points of reference for Hazan are other female cooks/authors. It would be interesting to do a more systematic comparison, but for the sake of comparison, this remembrance of Charlie Trotter invokes a whole bunch of dudes: Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresne, Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, Tetsuya Wakuda and Pierre Herme, and not one lady.
Via an intrepid correspondent known only as Homer, a chilling interview w/ the guy responsible for the cookbook reviews that appear in Publishers Weekly. I don't follow PW, but it's certainly a frequent source of blurbs on mass-market paperbacks, and thus a voice to be heeded in the book world. Or not, based on this account of their process. The most remarkable thing about this interview is that it exists. What Mark Rotella describes happening at Publishers Weekly is to cookbook reviewing as bleaching pig assholes is to calamari. That is to say, one does not expect the person responsible to describe the bleaching and the slicing of the pig assholes as if he were running a legitimate seafood operation. But that's about what happens here:
In a way, this complete IDGAF approach is the only thing that mitigates what seems at first like the most alarming part of this, which is that the rate for these reviews is $25 and no byline. Under the circumstances, Rotella seems to be getting about what he pays for.
It's only the day after Election Day, and Crassmas is upon us already. The Cod is genetically predisposed to be the gin he wants to see in the world, but this kit is sort of dopey. Microdistilling is a Thing, (though you best have your grains delivered by sail-powered barge, Mr. Bon Iver), and it seems natural that given the mythic stature of bathtub gin, not to mention the lack of aging needed, that gin would be a natural for kits for the aspiring home distiller. Thus, this kit. Unfortunately, though:
The end result is technically gin (though of a lower quality than distilled gin, where the spirit is distilled in the presence of the botanicals), but why bother with this kit? If you want to infuse vodka (and you should), infuse vodka. If you want to build a still, well good on you, and save us a jar, unless your name is Mags Bennett. Instead, this kid seems like the first of what I imagine will be a Christmas of products designed to create the feel of making artisanal food and beverages, without all of the actual fuss. Also, fifty smacks for two empty bottles, a funnel, a strainer and some spices? Consider a handmade card with a promise to build a real still in the spring, and a gift to a local food pantry.
Indeed, the NYer is famously not for the little old lady in Dubuque. However, there are, even in 2013, large swaths of the USA where French artisanal bread cannot be had unless you make it. If you've ever wanted to make fondue (who eats like that anymore?) but decided to late too make a baguette, (me, Saturday), you might take issue.
If you can get past the preposterous and gratuitous misidentification of Streep's portrayal of Julia Child as other than criminal, there are some sort ofinteresting ideas in this NYer blog post (god that sounds weird) on the continued celebration of Child, James Beard and MFK Fisher:
Well, kind of. It's not clear if the post's author (Bee Wilson) is more concerned about the crippling effects of nostalgia or of Francophilia. Considering that even Wilson concedes that all three of her triumvirate backed of Gallic rigor in the kitchen as their lives unfolded, so the real issue is the time:
What's the problem? People keep writing books about things people keep reading books about. Call it the GolfingFor Catsprinciple. This principle works both chronologically and thematically. However, Wilson wants something else from her food writing:
More seafood and cheese for the rest of us, I guess! More to the point, Wilson seems to miss that Provence 1970 is no more a cookbook than Please Kill Me is a self-help book. The analogy is overstated, but it's more interesting to read about Sid Vicious, Richard Hell, Richard Olney, et al, precisely because they lead lives that are not like our own. Speaking of nostalgia for 1970, let's ask Iggy and the lads to play us off:
On occasion, we've noted in this space that Durham, NC has become the Brooklyn of the South (in a good way even, once, if memory serves). However, the less appealing aspects of this affinity are now spreading West, to the hitherto unassailed hippie stronghold of Asheville, NC. Via @phillygirl, (via @Mr. Brion), alarming reports of a "gravy flight." The perpetrator is Biscuitheads,* a new spot specializing in biscuits. (At $3 per each with nothing, they better be good.)
If the artisanal food movement of recent years has offered one lesson, it is that taking familiar receipts and making them from scratch out of real ingredients can produce remarkable results. Sadly, the food world often suggest that the problem is too much creativity, not too little. If there is a second rule of artisanal food, it's that there are plenty of good ideas already, and you can do well executing these ideas. You can do less well with new ideas. Not surprising, folks who run restaurants get restless, and thus otherwise solid-looking breakfast spots in North Carolina put seven different gravies on their menu. And then, the temptation to put a "gravy flight" on the menu is overwhelming. Worse, at this rate, soon there will be a young man who says "gravy sommelier" when you ask him what he does for a living.
Coco Chanel's advice about removing one accessory once you think you are ready to go out was in fact an extrapolation from her advice about opening a biscuit focused restaurant: write the menu, and then get rid of all of the gravies that are not the kind of gravy you serve with biscuits. That said, there is every reason to suppose that this place will move in the direction of being the Baskin-Robbins of gravies, because, people, and further proof that it is just another Guiteau Monday.
So at the day job, the Cod's host is teaching a novel about a man who goes to sleep in 1887, and wakes up in 2000, which made me more receptive to the idea that I might have gone to sleep in 2013, and woken up in 2006. I guess Martha Stewart said some things about bloggers that were not nice, and now the Amateur Gourmet leaps to their defense, just like George Bush was president and Pete Wells still worked at Food & Wine. As some of you have noticed, I used to be more active in this space than I am now, but I enjoy getting on here now and again, and I enjoy many of the folks I met here and keep up with via Twitter. As such, it's curious to me that the AG defends blogging by pointing out how some bloggers rise to the level of, uh, not blogging:
(BTW, invoking The Pioneer Woman in a defense of blogging is like making Mitch Albom the cornerstone of your reboot of Aereopagitica, but I digress.) Martha's diss of bloggers was probably infelicitious, but not inaccurate. Ultimately, efforts to defend food blogging qua food blogging end up looking like this: