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.

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