My favorite genre of internet criticism is the recipe review that lists all the modifications the home cook made to the original recipe and then goes on to offer a glowing review as if the dish the commenter concocted has anything to do with the recipe. Epicurious, the Condé Nast food site that compiles recipes from Bon Appétit and other pop-gourmet magazines (including, well, Gourmet), is a particularly great source for these, possibly because it’s just sliiiiightly pretentious. (Exhibit A: I’ve already had to type “é” twice in this short paragraph.) Most Epicurious users seem blithely confident of their abilities to freestyle it Ruhlmann-style, and they are not afraid to tell you about it.
To be clear, I’m not opposed to making do with what you have on hand while cooking; every home cook does this around the edges of recipes, and why not? You don’t have turnips; you use potatoes. No thyme; toss in some rosemary. Your rural New Hampshire grocery store doesn’t know what queso fresco is; crumble up some feta. What cracks me up is when a person does this 10 times in a single recipe, tweaking her way all the way to a new, and often disgusting-sounding, foodstuff and then still feels the need to weigh in about it online as if this could possibly be useful.
Here are three of my favorite comments on recipes that I make frequently, with my own comments in brackets within.
Pretty lady, delicious burger.
I was pointed to this amazing essay in Policy Review by (surprise, surprise) David Brooks, who awarded it one of his annual Sidney Awards for the best magazine essays of the year. Brooks, you’ve done it again!
In “Is Food the New Sex?” Mary Eberstadt explores how over the past 50 years, “the moral poles of sex and food have been reversed.” In other words, we used to think food was a matter of personal preference – eat what you want! – whereas sexual behavior was bound by a set of commonly held moral values; now we think the opposite. We’re puritans about food and pagans about sex. It’s the kind of argument that is so totally and intuitively correct that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself, or that it hasn’t always existed.
The piece is long but every word is worth reading. Eberstadt compares Internet porn to junk food (consumed furtively and easily, and “disdained by those who believe they have access to more authentic experience or ‘healthier’ options”), observes that “schismatic differences about food have taken the place of schismatic differences about faith,” and discusses Kant’s categorical imperative as it relates to refined sugars and red meat.
It’s hard to choose one bit to excerpt, but here’s a good one:
Many people who wouldn’t be caught dead with an extra ten pounds — or eating a hamburger, or wearing real leather — tend to be laissez-faire in matters of sex. In fact, just observing the world as it is, one is tempted to say that the more vehement people are about the morality of their food choices, the more hands-off they believe the rest of the world should be about sex. What were the circumstances the last time you heard or used the word “guilt” — in conjunction with sin as traditionally conceived? Or with having eaten something verboten and not having gone to the gym?
It’s true, right? I know many strident puritans about one or the other – you know who you are – and yet very few who would dare “judge” someone else on both issues.
Turn right, duh.
I picked my Kansas City-based friend Emily up at the Portland airport a few days ago, intending to spend a day or so in Oregon before heading up to Seattle. Whoops! We spent four days in the Beaver State, and would have lingered much longer if it weren’t for that meddling return flight of hers.
Exciting news from this unexpectedly long stay, however: I have decided to live out the rest of my life in a yurt on the beach. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Great idea! I don’t have any questions about this at all.” Nonetheless, allow me the indulgence of an explanation.
Luck be a lady tonight! What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! Viva Las Vegas! VEGAS, BABY! Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
If only I could figure out how to procure a hot babe here.
Ugh. Las Vegas is the worst, right? I mean, I think we can all agree that objectively it is the worst city in the world, beloved by the worst people in the world. (Not including you, if you’re a friend of mine who loves Las Vegas.) However, when Brooks and I breezed into town hoping for a single night of mild fun, it really delivered.
I spent last night in Green River, UT, known as “The Melon Capitol of the World” for its world-class melons. It’s also called “Utah’s Desert Treasure” because the Chamber of Commerce needed something to do. But besides a few melon stands it’s pretty much just a long stretch of vaguely terrifying motels, in large part because there are no amenities on I-70 between Green River and Salina, 105 miles west. I bypassed most of these Bates-esque spots in favor of a name-brand Super 8, and as I checked in I overheard the clerk laughing and laughing when asked about the nearest drugstore. “Ha!” she said. “Ha! Ha ha ha!”
Yesterday I left Wheaton and drove down to Indianapolis to have lunch with my college friend Phil, who has worked for the city since graduating from Wheaton. It was worth the hour I lost passing from CST back into EST, which is really saying something when you’ve gotten up at 6:15 am.
Phil had assembled a veritable round-table of Indianapolis city planning types, and they showed me around the neighborhood of Fall Creek Place, which the city has taken an active role in rejuvenating over the past five or six years. In Phil’s telling, it has been transformed from serious blight — empty lots, few businesses — to a healthy, livable district by any standard: residents of varied incomes, an organic mix of new and old homes, lots of EPA help in cleaning up damaged properties, and several new businesses, including Goose the Market, the fantastic sandwich shop where we ate lunch (I recommend ordering “the Batali”). The city has worked with a single developer, but Fall Creek has the feel of a genuine neighborhood, and one that by all appearances is weathering the recession. It’s a credit to the city. Good job, Phil!
Goose the Market. Yum.
Goose the Market also has a great little wine and beer cellar where I bought a six-pack of Prairie Path Ale, made by a brewery in Warrenville, IL, and which I hadn’t seen anywhere else. So, after I chugged the six beers, I hit the road.
No, not really. I saved the beers for later, and instead said goodbye to Phil and drove a few minutes to downtown Indy.