Today’s Fast Food Story

As the inimitable George Clinton put it: “Do fries go with that shake?”

Today, avoiding the blazing controversies over sustainable, humanely raised, organic, and local, farm to table issues that weigh so, so heavily upon all of us, even you, restaurant workers in NYC are leading the charge on another critical matter.

Fair wages.

These are fast food food workers who, as reported in today’s NYT, are making $8.75 an hour, which is, ballpark, less than $80 a day, $400 a week, $1600 a month, and $19,200 a year.  Let them eat fries!

This is the kind of matter that could actually revolutionize the world of food.

OK, it won’t, but it should.

I mean, serious?  All the distractions of GMO labeling and the aforementioned nonsense is a huge and very welcome distraction to an industry whose workers are notoriously underpaid.





I don’t know about you (how could I, how could anyone), but why did today’s NYT devote half of its front page in the Food section and another half a few pages later on the merits of digging a “bean hole” in which to cook beans in one’s yard?   (Answer below.)

Apartment dwellers: Do NOT dig holes in the lobby!  This article is NOT for you.

Folks with yards: Better hurry!  The earth is getting hard, it’s nearly winter.

Honestly, what is the point?  Don’t we all have pots and stoves and pressure cookers?  Do buried beans taste better than beans cooked the way normal people prepare them?

Who has the time to go around digging holes, anyway?

Psychologically speaking, the piece was actually all about relationships.  The relationships that exist between the editor of the Food section and the writer of the piece on beans.

I think friendship is very important!


So I’ve started reading an astonishing novel, quite brilliant, called HhHH: Himmler’s Hirn heisst Heydrich (Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich).
It’s written by Laurent Binet, the original is in French, and it’s a Geoff Dyer-like disquisition on the murder of Heydrich.  The author
enters, leaves, returns again.  It’s a fascinating model for what it turns out I’m doing: Not exactly a memoir, it turns out,
but a meditation on family.  I cannot accept Binet’s model as mine because I have no interest in creating that kind
of narrative, but I absolutely am mesmerized by his writing.  It’s going to be a classic…

I told my aunt I was reading it and she laughed bitterly and said, “You’re a glutton for punishment.”

Which leads to tonight’s menu.

Will it be the Sicilian method of swordfish I discovered at Esca?

Or pea soup with chicken and apple sausages?

These are the kinds of questions that wake me in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, as the black dog howls at those gathering cans and bottles for redemption.

30 Days Until Christmas

Just as the last of the turkey is eaten and the pies disappear and the stuffing goes and I weigh myself and find that three pounds have appeared since Wednesday, it is only 30 days until the next insane holiday.

Thank goodness for the Internet.  I bought my car on the internet and have lined up all sorts of goodies for loved ones at many sites.  Siberian tiger body sweat?  I’m on it.  Rare white truffles from Moravia?  Got it.  Chilean river eels?  Duh.

The online shopping liberates my time and keeps me from pressing the panic button as the crowds swarm.

Which leaves me with time, too, to get stories done that are due imminently: A man who is a food guide in Tokyo, Japanese whisky, Thailand’s golden triangle, and hard to find restaurants in Tokyo.

The countdown begins.

Black Saturday

Black Saturday precedes Black Sunday around here.  Tomorrow?  The big news among those of us who inhabit the insect world is my letter to the editor in tomorrow’s NYT magazine about Christopher Walken.  Otherwise?  Back to business.

We’re running low on turkey leftovers, but have silos full of stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pie.  Therefore, tonight?  Sea bass, oven roasted, with fennel and who knows what?

I know: Cannellini, radicchio, fennel, kale sprouts, and cipollini.

Each day brings us a little closer to the silence, tumult, and illogic of nature, and we mark that proximity by establishing holidays with themes: Birth, Plentitude, Resilience, Survival, and Death.

Speaking of which: Did you hear that a clown died in Thursday’s Thanksgiving parade in NYC?

I laughed, I cried.

Black Friday

Black Friday?  Every Friday is black here or nearly so.  But today the big difference is 40% off!  Free shipping!

Meanwhile, I’m still giving thanks for yesterday’s feast.

Two birds, rainbow Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cornbread and chicken stuffing, cranberry sauces, and four pies.

And, best of all, this A.M.: Turkey and bacon sandwiches on Challah.  The bacon had been shipped from Tracklements, in Ann Arbor, and folks?  If this isn’t the best bacon in America, I don’t know what is.

OK, I do know: Father’s, from Kentucky is a close second.  Just ordered three pounds to be shipped.  Why, Christmas is just around the corner.

Day after Thanksgiving?  Black Friday.

Day after Christmas? Boxing Day.

Speaking of traditions developed by the English?
Today it’ll be Skyfall.

Welcome to Boston, Mr. Bond.  I trust your trip was not too…unsettling…


Yes, Virginia, there is a Thanksgiving.  Lions-Texans, two birds in the oven, and a full fledged invasionary force poised at both ends of the street.  Miles is electric; the game is upstairs.

Stuffing: Cornbread, chicken-apple sausages, chestnuts, onions, celery (Chinese and western), chicken stock, and six eggs.  Spices: cumin, salt, pepper.

Sides: Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, and kabocha.

Pies: Grape, apple, and pecan.

The dogs are in a state of Full Alert.

Gin?  Cold, ice cold.


Thanksgiving? Banh Mi!

For years I have been saying that what this city needs, what every city needs, are more Asian vegetarian restaurants.  By Asia I mean Japan, Vietnam, India, China, and Thailand.  These countries have long traditions of Buddhism that forbid the killing of animals and, as a result, developed unbelievably delicious vegetarian cuisines.  From yuba to tofu to dumplings to noodles, to cumin to soy, it’s all there.

So imagine the delight when at the “food court” in front of Super 88 in Allston I discovered, just three days old, a vegetarian Banh Mi joint run by two Vietnamese women.  So new that all they had were five color photographs of the sandwiches.

“No menu yet,” the older woman said,  “Soon.”

She explained that in Saigon the family had raised their own “bio” or organic produce.

The fried tofu and shredded carrots with a savory, spicy red sauce was heavenly.  And at $3.75?  Get two.


The Twinkie Defense

Apologies to Harvey Milk.

Last night my friend the hedge fund manager, ex-private investment banker, came over for cocktails.  He explained the whole Twinkies story.  Looks like a hedge fund bought the company and found greater profit in destroying the union and then shutting down the company and, my friend said, don’t be surprised if the hedge fund opens the company again and rehires the workers only this time: No union.

My friend noted that this is, of course, the way American businesses operate these days.

So go on about GMOs, organic food, and sustainability (a pet project of Albert Speer), and local producers.

Just don’t forget to pay attention to the #1 issue: Employment.

72 Hours Until Thanksgiving

Was I the only one unhinged by having to go through a lovely corridor formed by XMAS trees on my weekly shopping trip to Russo’s on Sunday?  I thought not.  Look, one holiday at a time, please.  Wasn’t it Halloween about an hour ago?  Ring out the old, ring in the new?  Who’s your sweetheart?  Who’s hiding the painted eggs?

Speaking of disorientation, of which there is plenty, only 72 hours ago I was strolling through alleys in Venice still mulling over a pizza with capers and anchovies while trying to ward off whacked thoughts about chefs.

Where does the time go?  The space?

Never mind, answers in another posting.

More immediately: The annual turkey recipes appear everywhere: Is that skywriting I saw this morning?  BRINE THE BIRD.

As if it’s rocket science.  Look, the reason this is a national holiday in a country where people like to eat big is because it’s ridiculously easy to do it.

Butter and salt and pepper the bird.  Brine previously or don’t.  Put fresh herbs under the skin.  Stuff with cornbread, onions, beaten eggs, butter, etc.  Put in preheated oven (350) for three-four hours.  Done.

I mean, honestly.

Until then, I’m building a fire and eating Spanish olives.