Skittles & “Post-Racist” America

A fascinating piece in today’s NY Times on Skittles, Wrigley, and the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/us/skittles-sales-up-after-trayvon-martin-shooting.html.

Wrigley, the parent company that manufactures Skittles, is trying to figure out how to balance the sad notoriety coming from the murder of Trayvon Martin and that crime’s connection to his final purchase of a bag of Skittles.  On the one hand, Wrigley is enjoying a surge in sales as communities sell the candy to raise money in support of Trayvon Martin’s grieving family and to just sort of brandish the candy as a way to identify with his loss.  On the other hand, someone is dead, for the apparent “crime” of being a black youth, and does Wrigley really want their sweet to be associated with racist murder?

On the third hand–there is always a third hand, you just have to look for it–it may be that in taking hold of the Skittles as a symbol of Trayvon Martin’s murder, protesters will subvert the image and make it their own.  Think of it perhaps as a cross that crucified someone only this time it’s colorful candy, so to speak.

As for post-racist America, I think that one big difference between now and then is that then there was less dialogue between the races about injustice and now there’s talk.  Lots of talk.

Talk about candy.

candy collage Stock Photo - 10254499

 

 

The Irony of Fish: A Tail of Two Cities

I made a fascinating discovery this weekend in NYC.  Visiting several fancy-pants food stores, I headed, of course, to the fish sections to see what’s what.  We’re talking Eataly, Dean & Deluca, and Citarella.  Here’s what I found:

At Eataly, the product was good, but not exemplary.  Decent salmon, sole, sword, tuna, striper.  The high point was the striper roe, which looked beautiful.  Prices were high, but reasonable.

At Citarella, everything looked good, but again there was nothing special about the product.  It was like seeing broccoli and cauliflower when what you want are Shanghai bok choy, hedgehog mushrooms, and golden beets.  Prices were about 1/2 of what they are charging are Eataly.

At Dean & Deluca, the high points were beautiful Florida grouper–a nice, thick cut–and tuna, labeled just as tuna, when it was, in fact, albacore, which is nowhere near as wonderful as yellow fin or blue fin.  Prices were good.

Here’s the point: In NYC, I think the chefs are using the best fish, the most expensive, fattiest stuff, the fish that sings with flavor.  Ordinary consumers don’t have their access.  It’s one reason why so many of the restaurants in NYC are so good: The chefs drop the bucks on products.  They have to: The competition demands it, customers can taste the difference, their pride is noteworthy.

In contrast, in Boston, we have New Deal Fish: Here you find fish that is light years better than three of the fanciest fish purveyors in Manhattan.  When I’m there, I have to limit myself to four meals as everything looks and tastes amazing.  We’re talking hirame, toro, blue fin, striper, hiramasa, hamachi, salmon collar, gorgeous Portuguese sardines, etc.

In Boston, most chefs are not serving these cuts in as great a frequency as in Manhattan.  The food costs too much; they serve fish of lesser quality that increases their profit.  Most of them simply don’t care.  The result?  Consumers who know how to cook fish have access to astonishingly good product that is better than what’s served in most restaurants in Boston.  Exceptions?  Legal Sea Foods, Craigie on Main, Market, B & G Oyster, Island Creek, O Ya.  (Two of these restaurants have their own private sources [Legal Sea Foods, Island Creek Oysters]; one is crazy-expensive [O Ya]; one costs an average of $100 per person, which is equal to eight meals of fish from New Deal at home; one is pitch perfect; and, one is not terribly expensive, but is mostly raw oysters.

Ironic, no?  One city has great fish restaurants and ordinary markets.  One city has a great fish market and ordinary restaurants.

Wait, I know, you could call this: A Tail of Two Cities!

 

fish on a hook, sport fishing  Stock Photo - 9770025

 

NYC: Japan, Italy, Italy, Japan

It all started with Sushi Yasuda: Ever since Yasuda-san went back to Tokyo to open a horse sashimi restaurant (no kidding), I’ve steered clear of Sushi Yasuda, thinking that his replacements  might not slice like The Master.  I went in January and returned on Friday and, folks, I’m here to tell you that the hamachi, anago, unagi, and what-have-you are oiishi.

Followed by delicious fava bean crostini and garganelli with pork ragu and porchetta sandwiches at Locanda Verde.  The waiter dissuaded me from grandma’s ravioli; emailed chef A.C. about this and we agreed: Why should a waiter push his preferences?

The very next day it was grilled mackerel and oxtail ragu @ Lupa.  Service was initially on the “Huh?” side, but picked up and I left convinced that this place has food of great depth.  I’d had my doubts after checking out Locanda, but why compare Roman to Italian-American?

That night: Yakitori Tori Shin.  You might as well be in Tokyo.  First rate food and an atmosphere utterly urban Japanese.  The only downside was the chaotic service that resulted in people after us waiting for between 30-45 minutes for our ringside seats.  Staff threw eating customers under the grill and blamed us for the delay rather than admitting to disorganization.  The result?  As we left, a plump, sock less  man smiled ironically and said to me: “Should we applaud?”  I smiled back, shook his hand, and said, “They’re very disorganized tonight.”  He said he was sorry for having said anything.

I thought of the lines from perhaps my favorite movie of all time: “I’m sorry too, Dimitri. I’m very sorry. Alright! You’re sorrier than I am! But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are, Dimitri. Don’t say that you are more sorry than I am, because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we’re both sorry, alright? Alright.”

 

stock photo : Japanese skewered chicken,Yakitori

City Life

Just like mimes, every city has its culinary strengths and weaknesses.  Some mimes are good at showing a man opening a door, but not so good ay sipping coffee.  The reverse can be true, too.  Applying this POM (Philosophy of Mimes) to eating in cities, I’ve arrived at a few preliminary observations.  This is early stuff, not the RCT (random controlled trials) that we’re still running, but at least it’s data worth parsing.

For example:

In San Francisco, I seek out Mexican, local, Chinese, and refined American food.  Pizza?  No, of course not.  Irish pubs?  Great Italian-American?

In NYC, look for sushi, Italian-American, Italian, and French.

Boston: Bakeries, pizza, inexpensive Asian.   Quick question: Why are all the BBQ joints that are popular–Sweet Cheeks, East Coast Grill, Soul Fire, Blue Ribbon–owned by white people?  Do white people in New England have a unique talent and cultivated skill for BBQ?

Maybe this man has an answer:

 

The Upcoming War on Iran and What It Means To Gourmands

The outcome of any armed conflict is never what the generals or political leaders intended.  Take the Falkands.  Did anyone ever imagine that the Falklands War between Argentina and England would lead to Elvis Costello’s terrific song, “Shipbuilding?”  That, in “Shipbuilding,” Elvis would employ Chet Baker on a long, achingly beautiful trumpet solo?  That hearing the solo, I would then go out and buy a gazillion Chet Baker CDs, discover West Coast jazz, including Art Pepper?

The same goes for food.  Look, I’m not saying it was wise to wage war in Vietnam.  (The Vietnamese call it, “The American War.)  But without the Vietnam War, there’d be no pho in the U.S.!  No fresh spring rolls of rice flour!  No sweet and sour dipping sauce!

You can see where I’m going with this.

When the first missiles and planes leave for Iran, you can be sure that the Iranian allies, the Chinese, are going to be plenty mad, and tempted to be drawn into a global conflict.  But why bother?  Isn’t it easier just to gamble, speculate, provide cheap labor, hoard capital, and loan money and live on the interest?  With short-sighted experts happy to provide China with the knowledge it needs to continue its course, war is so yesterday.

So, no, it’ll just be a limited kind of pummeling and retaliatory drive-by shootings and…terrific Iranian dishes prepared by emigres coming here to escape the bloodshed.  We’re talking chelo kebab, shashlijk, khoresht, amazing rice, and subtle spices.

You have to take the good with the bad, right?  Bad to blow up other countries.  Good to enjoy the food the refugees bring to us.

Dig in!

Here’s something to look forward to:

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Murders in France & Why French Women Really Don’t Get Fat

I’m surrounded by two, big black dogs, and I don’t mean that in the Churchillian sense of the blues, but in the reality of two eighty-five pounders, big toothed, big headed creatures.  Man’s best friend?  Forget two meals in succession for the beasts and you become their Plan B.

Talk about Boomtown Rats and their prophecy in, “I Don’t Like Mondays, I want to shoot the whole day down!”  News came this morning of the French shootings. Honestly, haven’t we been through this already?  I had forgotten about the French police and the deportation of kids during the German occupation.  How the Germans wanted just the grown-ups, but Rene Bousquet, hand raised like an eager pupil, urged that kids join parents to Sobibor.

Where is Sobibor?  It’s right next to Mordor.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Anyhow, as someone who, like you, believes that gastronomy reflects ideology and culture, what relationships exist between the food of France and its, um, spotty record on racism?  I think that if you’re sitting at the table and preoccupied with what’s on the plate, you might notice the faces at the windows, but you might care more about the grub, like Beef Bourguignon, than the grubby like Rene Bousquet.  However, and this is really important and I’m not saying it will be on Friday’s quiz, but it might, the awareness of suffering occurs even though the person experiencing it may not possess its consciousness.

The result?  The French pick at their food!  Hence, they stay slim.

So, if you follow me here, the thin appearance of the French, especially the women, is the physiognomy of an unconscious awareness of the racism of the society.  To raise awareness or consciousness will carry with it, concomitantly, a desire to do something about the grubby.

Less grub, even more weight loss.

Vive le France!

Here we have Exhibit A.

Beef Bourguignon Free Photo

 

A Secret Admirer

Everyone has a secret admirer.  What’s that you say?  You don’t know who yours is?  That’s because it’s a secret, silly.  Pay attention.

My secret admirer is rich with complexities and contradictions.  The main thing I’ll say is this: Her points about observing others rather than putting forward what seems Self evident?  Good points!  Certainly segues in a timely way with the my current developmental  stage: I prefer to listen, I always enjoyed watching.

This is the context for all events taking place: The Eva Braun bio, the visits to Russo’s, the blood orange juice brimming.

At Russo’s this A.M. I was led back to see the mushrooms.  Big, fat oysters!

And tomorrow?  You guessed it: Area 4.

St. Patrick’s Day Festivities!

Why, I’m old enough to remember cruising down West Broadway in Southie, men outside the bars glaring and bleary eyed in the morning.  It was very much a “Where Ah You From” kind of spirit in the Hub of the Universe, a mere four years after the busing “crisis” that brought the city to its knees.

Nowadays you’re as likely to hear Spanish or Vietnamese on West Broadway and see shades of melanin as you are glaring, bleary men tied to Eire.  Another generation has died out!  New ones replace it.  The folks outside the bars are there to smoke cigarettes.

In Harvard Square I saw many green people and then others garbed in green.  The alcohol had not yet reached the legal limit, but folks were well on their way to states that would lead to statements and behaviors they would forget only a day later.

I was giving serious thought to corned beef and cabbage in honor of my paternal grandfather, O’ Toole (no first name, he was a progenitor like Prince), but then I came to my senses.  So instead it’ll be Sicilian swordfish–olive oil, bread crumbs, grilled–and a glass of wine.

I will say I think each St. Patrick’s Day of a girl I met, a girl who shall remain forever nameless, who, on the holiday, stood at the door of the Tipperary Pub in Detroit greeting people at the door.  Big smooch on the lips from her, and I was inside.  “Today everyone’s Irish!” she said and beamed in that glow brought on by many beers.  Mind, this is the same Pub where, parking my car too close to another free space, in the opinion of an about to be inebriated jack-of-all-trades, I was informed: “That’s a real Jew way to park!”

Happy St. Patricks Day, one and all!

A photo of a Leprechaun drinking green beer on St. Patricks Day. Stock Photo - 8988523

Driving Around Town

As someone who prefers eating at home and cooking even when out of town, despite what the ex-wife mouths off about me and restaurants–“Dr., my ex-wife doesn’t understand me!,” I am always on the lookout for locally owned venues that sell delicious stuff.

Back in the day, in Inkster, it’s true, I found a Scottish bakery selling meat pies; a rib joint on the West side; Eastern Market at crack of dawn downtown.

Nowadays, it’s Russo’s.  Here’s a tip: If you go to the wholesale section, you can buy restaurant quality goods at wholesale prices.  A case of blood oranges: $30.  A pound of hedgehog ‘shrooms: $9.  Etc.

At New Deal Fish today I picked up: Hirame, hiramasa, sword, and yellow fin, all enough for four meals for two people @ $48.  That’s $6 p.p. per meal.

If you put together the weekly bill at Russo’s (about $100) and the weekly fish bill (about $50), that’s $150 a week for two people, including almost everything, except the wine and nuts and chocolate.

Nuts and chocolate?  Check out Fastachi!  Wow!

Drive By Shopping!

Ghosts and Goldman Sachs

Let’s not talk about last night’s dinner of the Piedmontese steak pan seared in duck fat, the steamed Yukons finished in the same fat, the hedgehog mushrooms, nor the in-house baked beans made using the pressure cooker.  We won’t mention the 2000 Ormes du Pez.

No, the real news items are:

Greg Smith thrashing and trashing of GS (Goldman Sachs) on the op-ed page of today’s NYT.  Smith, who headed up European business in one way or another, and talks about derivatives the way a squirrel talks about nuts, resigned the firm because, he feels, it has lost sight of its culture.  We all know that there is more to the story than this, but still Smith’s narrative may be prophetic.

The other story is on the cover of the Food Section: Ghosts who write books and recipes for chefs.  Having done so, for the notorious SM (Silvano Marchetto), I can endorse just about everything the writer has to say.  It ain’t easy.  What the writer omits  is: It is a gig.

That’s the common thread in both Smith’s tale and chefs: “Get in, get the money, get out.”  Honestly, what did Smith think he was doing?  Selling Girl Scout cookies?  What do ghostwriters think they are doing? Making new friends?

Gourmet grilled steak on a plate Stock Photo - 12166296