Foodies I Don’t Wanna Shut Up: John Martin Taylor

From Essay: The BP oil spill threatens the gulf’s bountiful cornucopia of life:

I’m the first to admit that I prefer the brinier East Coast oysters of the R months, if for no other reason than that’s what I grew up with. But, as Presilla noted, the plump, meaty oysters from Plaquemines that we ate on Saturday “beg to be cooked and sauced.” We ordered several dozen, both cooked and raw, tossing them back with champagne. (The best I had were the wood-fired ones at Cochon.) Wistfully, we snapped cellphone photos of what might well be among the last Gulf Coast oysters for a while. We walked back to the hotel in the rain.

I don’t get to the Gulf Coast often, but no food writer can ignore the bountiful cornucopia of the New Orleans table. There’s noplace else in the world quite like the Crescent City, with its Creole and Cajun cultures, its sultry weather, its magnificent architecture, its self-proclaimed decadence. Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and Friday at Galatoire’s are no more excessive than an ordinary meal in New Orleans. Mounds of beans and rice, sweetbreads, vegetables swimming in hollandaise and oysters Rockefeller are mere side dishes or appetizers. Courses that follow are stuffed with crabmeat, garnished with crawfish and invariably sauced, followed by gumbo, jambalaya or fried soft-shell crabs with sauce Choron.

I would mock “bountiful cornucopia of life,” really, I would, except this piece is really, really good. See, it’s about the oil spill, and the Gulf coast food culture, and how we are all involved. And even a bit about how we are myopic and haven’t noticed the huge spills in other places, like the Niger delta, but only notice it when it cuts off our access to things we love—like juicy fresh oysters.

So, all purple prose is forgiven. Read it. Please.

If a Woodchuck Could Chuck…. Oh Never Mind

Pollan and I had already met fleetingly, though neither of us can remember exactly where, some time shortly after he had published his first book, Second Nature, in 1991. This features at its heart an epic battle with a woodchuck that was treating Pollan’s garden as his personal canteen. The struggle for supremacy between resolute gardener and resourceful rodent builds to a titanic climax with the Man of the Soil emptying cans of gasoline down the varmint’s burrow and setting light to it like some deranged garden Nazi bent on a backyard Götterdämmerung. Pollan’s essay was wonderfully out of keeping with the solemnities of American nature writing, and so deeply Jewish in its mischievous self-regard that it was if Henry David Thoreau had had an encounter with Woody Allen and never been quite the same since. / Columnists / Lunch with the FT – Lunch with the FT: Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, Food Guru, you have been outed as the type of man who sets fire to woodchucks.

Some of This, Some of That

I plan to dip something decidedly unpleasant in an enticing chocolate coating and wrap it carefully in McDonald’s paper. Nothing dangerous, but something that a two-and-a-half-year-old will find “yucky!” – even upsetting – in the extreme. Maybe a sponge soaked with vinegar. A tuft of hair. A Barbie head. I will then place it inside the familiar cardboard box and leave it somewhere for my daughter to find. I might even warn her: “If you see any of that nasty McDonald’s, make sure you don’t eat it!” I’ll say, before leaving her to it. An early, traumatic, Ronald-related experience can only be good for her.

My war on fast food | Anthony Bourdain | Life and style | The Guardian

A rambling, occasionally offensive extract that proclaims at the end that it is “edited” (to which I respond: Not well) from “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine To The World of Food And The People Who Cook” by Anthony Bourdain. But it did make me laugh at points, and have some salient critiques at points.

There is also much discussion of cocaine. And Jamie Oliver. And PETA. And when will people who want to sound edgy and transgressive STOP using “tranny hookers” as a phrase that means worse-than-average-prostitute?

Bi-son Curious?

Recent visits to markets near the White House and Silver Spring reveal a serious problem: It would be very difficult to put together a full meal for a family of four based on the selections available. Many items were exotic, not staples. Ground bison was running at $6.25 per pound, and ham retailed at $7.95 per pound. Hunting for side dishes was also a problem. Since prices varied by vendor, it took a keen eye and comparison shopping to find the best deals. One vendor charged $4.50 for approximately four asparagus spears, while another stall sold two hefty bundles for $7. A meal for four people consisting of 2 pounds of ham, two containers of baby potatoes, and two baskets of spinach retailed close to $34. Even with double dollars, at $15 it still may prove to be a stretch.

Better Farmers Markets | The American Prospect

Bison is pretty yummy, but yeah—how are you going to feed a family at those prices? Not so much. I recommend the whole piece.

The Sound of Tamil Silence

Because no-one, in the wake of this piece, is talking about the Tamils. No-one’s talking about Sri Lanka. No-one’s talking about M.I.A.’s most provocative belief, the one that’s really threatening: The idea that violent oppression can and should be met with violent resistance, which is a complicated and scary proposition, one that people have been evaluating and fighting over for a long-ass time, one that we’re nowhere near figuring out as yet. No-one is talking about that; no-one, to be blunt, really cares. What we’re talking about, instead, is a plate of fucking fries.

Tiger Beatdown › M.I.A. IS A FAKE: Some Thoughts on Authenticity, Politics, and Truffle Oil

Shut up, I like the Truffle Fry Controversy.

More importantly, this is an interesting thing for me to post because I DO care tremendously about the politics of food. I obviously gently (not-so-gently?) mock people all the time for eating silly things. But more importantly, I care about access to fancy food being painted as a moral virtue—and so on the flipside, I care about it being painted as a moral vice, too. As commenter Nick said the last time we hit this subject:

“I’m a radical because I hate poverty.  I think everyone should have nice things, myself and M.I.A. included.”

Because really, my point at Shut Up Foodies isn’t that you shouldn’t eat good food. Or even expensive food. It’s that we shouldn’t use that food as a way to slap each other down or feel better than one another. Which is clearly the case with the M.I.A. incident.

And as Sady points out in this piece, here, we’re talking about the food and not the many, more complex and morally ambiguous issues in M.I.A.’s life and career. Because food remains a double-edged sword.

Great Idea, or…

From Brick Underground via Grub Street:

If you’ve ever wanted someone to wait in line for you at the Shake Shack, fetch you Stumptown, or put your name on the list somewhere, a new service, ZipGigs, allows you to hire runners for $10 to $33 (assuming you live below 86th Street in Manhattan), plus the cost of whatever they’re fetching for you. 

Great idea? Another example of…who knows what? Thoughts?

The Truffle Fry Wars

We already noted the “truffle fry” incident from the now-infamous profile of M.I.A. by Lynn Hirschberg, but now apparently M.I.A. has upped the ante and posted audio that apparently proves that Hirschberg, not she, is the real foodie:

As the print magazine arrived this weekend, so did a new track blasting journalists, along with an audio clip from her interview with Lynn Hirschberg under the headline “War Crimes and French Fries.” Next to the audio clip, M.I.A. promised “the TRUFF” about whose idea it was to order truffle fries during a March interview.

While who selected the bourgeois-sounding snack doesn’t seem like such a big deal, it was one of the bits of color used by Hirschberg to paint M.I.A.-now married to Ben Bronfman, a Seagram’s heir-as more a figure of radical chic than a committed radical.

In the piece, Hirschberg wrote how M.I.A. “studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries.” The Times writer later noted that the artist talked of wanting “to be an outsider,” while “eating a truffle-flavored French fry.”  However, the audio that M.IA. posted suggests that Hirschberg actually brought up the variety of French fries and placed the order, while also telling the singer to get whatever she wanted “because the New York Times is paying.”

Far be it from me to suggest that we’re catching on or anything. Food as status symbol is far from a new thing, although it does seem that lately it’s gotten beyond all reason. Still, I sort of love that in the war over M.I.A.’s credibility, the battlefield is french fries.

Do I lose my cred with you, Shut Up Foodies readers, if I tell you that I had dinner at a posh Williamsburg eatery that shall remain nameless recently? Or that I had bacon on my salad at lunch?