Monday, August 27, 2007

Foodies are amoral creeps, including Michael Pollan, says Atlantic writer

Quick, read it while the Google cache still exists!

Atlantic writer B.R. Myers savages foodies, starting with Michael Pollan, for celebrating the joys of feeding while ignoring, even mocking, the suffering of animals:
The pleasures of the oral cavity are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures ... This can be seen in the public’s toleration of a level of cruelty in meat production that it would tolerate nowhere else ...

This is a prime example of food writers’ hostility to the very language of moral values. In mocking and debasing it, they exert, with Madison Avenue’s help, a baleful influence on American English as a whole. If words like sinful and decadent are now just a cutesy way of saying “delicious but fattening,” so that any serious use of them marks the speaker as a crank ...
Agree with it or not, Myers' essay presents an intriguing argument about food and foodie culture that will keep you reading. It is presented as a review of Pollan's Omnivore's Dilmema, and presents that book in a unique new light.

The essay is supposed to be roped off only for Atlantic subscribers, but Google still offers the essay for free from its cache:

Hard to Swallow page 1 (google cache)

Hard to Swallow page 2 (google cache)
Hard to Swallow page 3 (google cache)
Hard to Swallow page 4 (google cache)

Lest you think I post this to bash Michael Pollan, I should note that Myers clearly admires his work and praises two thirds of Omnivore's Dilemma in no uncertain terms.

Myers, by the way, put himself on the map with the thrilling A Reader's Manifesto, an essay attacking literary pretension.

(Also in the same issue of the Atlantic, an essay on San Francisco's Camp Bread and the scones therein.)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thomas Keller's Sysco fries are totally punk rock, blogger says

In which Laura Froelich makes Michael Pollan cry some more
Dear Michael Pollan,

There, there.

We know you're down because Nancy Pelosi personally hung, bled and skinned your farm reform bill in a Smithfield abattoir on account of it being terrorism, the kind of terrorism that keeps Democrats from controlling Congress again in 2008, when the new president might give them permission to finally end the war or whatever.

Might we suggest some ways to cope with your depression, Michael? Start with some bourbon, neat, followed perhaps by a kill-crazy rampage in which you and your mob personally smash all tractors, ethanol tanks and lifesaving hospital technology your great great grandmother's great great grandmother wouldn't recognize as anything other than witchcraft.

And then fire up your laptop (named for a genetically engineered fruit no doubt!) and log on to food writer Laura Froelich's blog, where she says prepared French fries from Sysco, the massive food service company, are the absolute best in the world, far better than the ones made by hand in a fussy traditional French style by Tony Bourdain in New York.

Laura is especially fond of the Sysco fries served in gauche Las Vegas by agribusiness giant Thomas Keller. As an Archer Daniels Midland spokesman Keller's rep told New York Magazine:
One of the top reasons Bouchon uses frozen French Fries is consistency ... the consistency in these fries is often better than that of fresh potatoes.

The second reason is capacity. Bouchon would need to use over 200 pounds of potatoes a day to fulfill French Fry orders.

Laura Froelich is also a fan of the product. She writes of Bouchon's frozen, government-subsidized corporate welfare fries:

In my opinion, the Keller fries were stellar. Thin-cut (but not too thin), crispy (but not crunchy) on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and just the right proportions of oil and salt.

Feeling better already, Michael? Thought so! Interest you in a FunYun??

Fro Fro Blog: Chowdown - Keller vs. Bourdain

New York Magazine: Keller Cops to Using — No! — Frozen Fries

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chronicle biodynamics letters: So. Very. Best.

I'm awarding Jim Cuthbertson of El Cerrito and especially Kathy Cheer of Santa Cruz the coveted title "Honorary Covers Editor at Large" for their letters to the Chronicle today, regarding the recent story on How Biodynamic Pagan Sacrifice Can Help Guerrilla Market Your Restaurant, blogged here under the title "Chefs turn to witchcraft and sorcery in logical next step for food world."

For those that missed these letters tucked into the back of the Food section, Cuthbertson wrote that "Organic farming is real and has real benefits ... Burying stuff in a skull is just plain weird."

And Kathy Cheer, well, let's just say that not only am I going to print her letter in full, but also that I encourage her to sue me for copyright infringement just so I can meet her in person and shake her hand:
Rudolf Steiner's speeches on biodynamic farming bring to mind the following quote from Shakespeare's "Macbeth":

Saith the witches: "eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog ..."

For those who have the time, this approach to farming is whimsical. For those responsible for feeding large populations, this is tomfoolery.

Blessed be.

Well, these letters may not get you, say, a high-profile gig as a regular contributor to New York Times Magazine, but we're happy to run your stuff over at Covers!

I'm a sucker for a nice turn of phrase, I guess. Even though, like Arugula, Michael Pollan or a well-timed stint laundering narcoprofits, biodynamics is neither all bad nor all good. Right?? Tell me there's a redeeming ending here.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chefs turn to witchcraft and sorcery in logical next step for food world

Photo Courtesy anatomist on FlickrSo you've taken Michael Pollan's advice. You replaced science with culture, and then you threw out "anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food," and your "ancestors " get to veto everything you'd like to buy in the supermarket.

Which kind of sucks, since your great ancestors were salt-of-the-earth types in East Texas and Oklahoma who mostly just fried the sort of critters you find around your yard, and you came to San Francisco to move beyond all that, but whatever. You've made the haj to Terra Madre for the Slow Food truffle-and-wine orgy, and even enthusiastically applauded the flag of Iran. Yay!

Locavore, check; organic/sustainable, check; rallied against demon corn, check.

What's next?

Well, it turns out, ritualistically stuffing excrement and chamomile into cow horns and deer bladders is next! Awesome.

It sounds weird at first, but really it makes sense if you think about it. We went organic because we didn't want to eat food with poison on it, right? And then we went sustainable because we didn't want our grandchildren to starve in a sea of fire and sand, right?

Well, now we're going to go "biodynamic" because Lucifer is a being of light that makes us creative and free and because we need "rituals, practices and formulas based on (the) study of nature and the cosmos -- for example, the making and applying of certain preparations by the lunar, solar and astrological calendars."

Wait, what??

No no, hold on, the Chronicle explains further, it starts making a lot more sense:

Two of the preparations, 501 and 500, involve stirring quartz and manure respectively into water in a way that creates a vortex in the water, reversing direction intermittently throughout one hour. The mixture is highly dilute, and often described as "homeopathic" in dosage.

Some other formulas include those injected into compost. One consists of dried chamomile flowers stuffed into intestines (natural sausage casings) and buried underground for six months. A yarrow compost preparation consists of dried yarrow blossoms stuffed into the bladder of a deer, hung from a tree for six months then buried underground for another six months. Oak bark preparation, also used in compost, must be placed in the skull of a domesticated horned animal and buried for six months before it is used.

See, it's not so bad. The whole thing was dreamed up by an Austrian esotericist named Rudolph Steiner who defenders say was quite charming, only very rarely delivering controversial lectures on race and mostly just prattling on about Anthroposophy, which is about "sense-free thinking" and "spiritual science" and other things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The key thing is, biodynamics can give you an edge. That's why two-Michelin-starred Manresa chef David Kinch is doing it -- it gets him out of the undistinguished scrum of chefs shopping organic at the farmer's market and into what he called "the next level" on the "voodoo side."

Read all about it, if you haven't already:

Chronicle: Digging biodynamic / Restaurateurs look beyond organic in quest to cultivate pristine produce

(Photo Courtesy anatomist on Flickr)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Corn is a sick depraved vegetable that will enslave us all, said (who else?) Michael Pollan

Speaking to an angry mob of local radicals who were probably looking to burn something down, author Michael Pollan may have taken his food purity crusade just a bit too far when he suggested corn, the vegetable, is a sentient collective being that will kill us all.

Pollan went on to say people should not sleep easy at night while demon corn is allowed to freely roam our streets.

From the Oakland Tribune:
"Corn is on a quest for world domination," Pollan said last week to a standing-room-only crowd at the Oakland Museum of California. "Corn has taken over our land, diet, and now cars with ethanol fuel."
"Politicians sleep easy when food prices are cheap," he said.
Pollan won plaudits for his previous argument about corn -- that it was an inanimate object wielded as a simple but effective tool by a mindlessly self-perpetuating cabal of agricultural corporations and rural politicians.

But while it's tough for activists to remove a sitting Congressman, it's relatively easy to go after an innocent little veggie guarded only by a green husk and shaggy brown strings of hair, limping along with sad genetic mutations like a complete nervous system and set of teeth.

So Pollan may have decided going after corn, not certain politicians, is the easier route. Either that or Pollan had been eating at Chez Panisse that night, wink wink.

Oakland Tribune: Corn aims to rule world, prof says (NOTE: This is the actual headline.)

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kim Severson selects embarassing truffle, unmasks Iranian agents. Yes, I'm serious about the truffle thing.

Former Chronicle food writer Kim Severson is now at the New York Times, which last fall dispatched her to wage war against the accumulated sum of human knowledge and progress and to not stop writing until she had burned science itself to the ground.

Oh, sorry, that was Michael Pollan.

Severson was deployed last fall to Italy, where she was to infiltrate the Slow Foodintern gathering at Terra Madre and link up with what she called, in a debriefing that has since been yanked from public view, "the elite troops in the fight against McFood."

I have reviewed this restricted account of the battle at Terra Madre.

There was a "call to arms" involving yak cheese. There was an incendiary "honey manifesto." There was, I kid you not, "some of the warmest applause" when the flag of Iran was unfurled.

But our decorated operative Severson left something out of her November 1 report, perhaps ashamed of the awful, awful truth. Buried deep in a story wrapped in an engima wrapped in the Winter 2006 edition of Edible San Francisco, freelancer Andrea Blum reports:
In Alba (an hour from Turin), during a heavenly meal of white truffles at Lalibera restaurant, the chef/owner Marco Forneris showed me the stack of business cards he had collected from Americans who visited his domain. Among them was Sue Moore of Let's Be Frank and Chez Panisse fame as well as New York Times food writer Kim Severson, who ate there four consecutive times, including lunch.

The pair came to the restaurant the night before, proudly armed with a truffle of their own. Flavia Bodda, co-owner of Lalibera and the only woman on the Italian commission controlling the quality of white truffles in the marketplace, was astonished. "I didn't want to tell them," she said shaking her head. "But it was the worst truffle I had seen in a while. I felt terrible."
So there you have it: Kim Severson, award-winning journalist, really-really-nice-advice-giver to a friend of mine once, good writer, exposer of Iranian sympathizers in our midst -- and terrible picker of truffles. The shame.

Blum's story ends, by the way, with Flavia Bodda bringing Blum an amazing truffle, which is way way so much better than Severson's, and which transforms Blum's senses. "We all have our food moments but this was mine," Blum writes.

And so a freelance journalist not-so-subtly one-ups a New York Times writer; Flavia Bodda escapes stoning from the Iranian Slow Food squads; Michael Pollan successfully bans from all kitchens "anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food" and all pesticides were evaporated forever The End.

Labels: , , ,


More in the archives: