Rachael Ray Is Fat

Well, the world didn’t come screeching to a halt on December 21.

Having said goodbye to what frankly was one of my best years ever, we have rounded the corner into 2013 and we’re well on our way to a new year filled with questions, hopes, and wonders.

The latter quarter of 2012 brought about some personality changes in me that I find disheartening at the very least, and about which a whole different blog should be initiated.  But hopefully nothing that a slight change in diet and 3 weeks of vacation won’t fix.

I wanted to do an article to review the high points of last year in cuisine, and to talk about the upcoming 12 months.  Of course it would be all my opinions, since I’m the last to approach the topic (not unusual), and I’m far from an expert.  I’m not the guy that the Times writers are getting up to read in the morning as they plan their literary day.

Nonetheless I’m writing the article because it’s fun for me, and I like fun.  Here are a few things I’ve observed…

rachael rayIt appears that Rachael Ray is fat…and she’s still a loud-mouthed, obnoxious, cheap c@%#.  OK, apparently this is old news, but I’m just finding out about it.

Guy Fieri still looks and acts like a chubby teenager with flaming hair.  He reminds me of one of those little key ring troll characters with the frizzy hair.  When will he ever grow up and be taken seriously?

It seems that one of our culture’s most popular food-related trends is the reality food/chef/cooking show on television.  Chopped, Iron Chef, Top Chef, Restaurant Impossible, et al.  I’m not sure who watches this stuff, but it’s surely a fair percentage of American viewers.  Most of my chef friends don’t watch this stuff, and I personally abhor TV cooking shows.

For some reason 1 out of 3 people that do something besides cook for a living wish they could cook for a living.  Why?

They watch cooking shows like unattractive, single men watch porn.  They want to escape, and to believe that watching chefs on TV makes them part of something bigger — to be alive at last.  They have their favorites they root for, and they get worked up by the drama, the heat, and the ultimate skill and prowess of making an exciting appetizer in 20 minutes out of a set of ingredients like a pig’s head, fava beans, blue cheese, and strawberries.  Rubbish!

I can barely plan a dish in 20 minutes.  It takes most of 20 minutes just to prep fava beans.  I wouldn’t want to eat in a restaurant where the chef didn’t take time to plan his menu, rehearse his dishes, and place an order for ingredients that go together.  I don’t care how creative you are in a pinch.  Pulling off such a feat doesn’t make you talented in my book.

After participating in competitions — respectable and realistic competition — and watching these nonsensical television shows I believe that the true mark of a good chef should not be what kind of dessert he or she can come up with in an hour using Cinnamon Toast Crunch, mayonnaise, a packet of taco seasoning, and some green peas.

The true test of a chef’s bent should be how many diners are in his or her dining room at 8:00 pm on a Tuesday night.

I’m tired of watching Jersey roughnecks make what they think is a masterpiece out of Rice Krispie Treats and canned fondant.  I don’t want to see how many dishes a chef can make out of a shark’s bladder in a hour.  And I couldn’t care less how much butter you can put into one meal, or how cool it is to deep-fry a stick of it.

Reality TV?  The more real it gets the more fake it gets…believe me!  Jesus the drama.  In a series of intriguing experiments I’ve discovered that the people that think Gordon Ramsay is the coolest thing on TV react very differently when I scream at them like he does.  Seldom inspires delight and the motivation to excel.

These are just a couple things I noticed on TV this past week.  I have mentioned in other posts that I don’t subscribe to a commercial television service, so when I travel I get to catch up on what I miss in my sheltered little world.  It doesn’t take long.

 

With a new year ahead of us, in an ever changing world, I am inspired to review a few of last year’s trends and discuss the upcoming trends for 2013.  In perusing the web to see what some of the predicted trends are I found something quite interesting — It was much more difficult to find the actual lists of the foods that we should all look forward to seeing in the upcoming months than it was to find commentary on some of the non-food related trends that we should be on the lookout for.  Recent political developments are expected to have quite an impact on food at different levels, both at home and in restaurants, and this is a critical element that should not be evaded.

Joan and I discussed food trends at length, and we’ve been talking about some of the things we’d like to see more of (and less of) in the next year.  Looking back, we had some stellar meals in 2012, and we’ve had some that left a little to be desired.

Something that we’re tired of seeing on menus, product descriptions, and articles about food and wine is “…with notes of…”.

I don’t want to know what someone else thinks something tastes like besides what it’s supposed to taste like.  When I eat a chocolate bar I want to taste chocolate.  I don’t care if one bar has notes of blackberries and another has notes of citrus.

I guess I do it too though.  People are always asking me what something tastes like, and of course I do my best to liken it to something they are familiar with.  For instance, I’ve been asked many times what fava beans taste like.  I usually describe them as a cross between raw green peas and green beans — and then I encourage them to taste one for themselves.  But I don’t try to impress them by bringing up “notes of hay, raw almonds, and citrus peel”.  People can’t visualize that.

Wine experts have been trying since the 80’s (and perhaps earlier) to get people to just simply enjoy wine.  Stop going through all this pompous ritual with swishing and swashing and such…just drink the wine.

When I was in culinary school the little group that I hung out with made a pact.  We went out every Friday and bought wine for the weekend and we were never to spend more than $10 for a bottle of wine.  When we drank them our task was not to declare one good or bad, or better or worse — but to assign each bottle to an appropriate accompaniment.  We didn’t take notes on the “notes” — just what the wine went with or didn’t go with.

If wine is to go with food and we are supposed to pick out the minute little nuances that each bottle has, then what’s going to happen when I get a mouthful of salmon and ripe-fruit-grass-oaky-smoke tasting wine?  Won’t it taste pretty much like salmon, grapes, and alcohol?  Does it really fucking matter if the fruit is green, red, ripe, or rancid?

Cigar companies do this crap too — notes of leather, chocolate, chestnuts, etc.

I’ve been smoking something since I was 13.  It all tastes like cigars to me.  I have a humidor with some 200 cigars in it — some Cuban, some Dominican, some light, some dark, some skinny, some fat, some long, some short.  Some I like better than others, some are better for certain days, activities, or time of day.  But in the end they all taste like cigars — a carefully blended combination of aged tobacco and fire!

Yes, I know I’m missing the point.  And I don’t drink.  And my tastebuds are probably half-burnt from years of smoking.

But the point I’m making is this — enjoy your food!  Don’t tell me what you think it tastes like.  It may not taste like that to me.  Give me some of it and let me enjoy it.  I’m hungry!

My literary hero Anthony Bourdain is even using this trendy little catchphrase — “It smells here like that room must have: blood and onions, paprika and a touch of nutmeg, notes of sweetness, longing … and death.”*

Christ Tony!

 

We have fallen victim to idolizing a handful of chefs that really are making a mark on cuisine on our planet these days — Grant Achatz of Alinea, Ferran Adria previously of El Bulli and now in Barcelona with his brother Albert at Tickets, José Andrés, and now the guy we’re supposed to watch is René Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have the NOMA cookbook, and I can’t get past milk skin.  I’m intrigued, but I can’t make it work.  I haven’t tried hard.

But there is a magical dish at NOMA that has singlehandedly altered the way we shall look at food forever — it is a one-year-old carrot braised for two hours in brown goat butter, and served with chamomile and sorrel stems that have bathed in warm goat butter just long enough to gently wilt them, bringing out their true beauty, brightness, and freshness.

We have had an emotional experience watching, reading, and learning about Chef Redzepi and NOMA, and we have firmly committed to saying Fuck Denmark!  They live in a cold, desolate, inhospitable place and out of necessity they eat hay, dirt, and old vegetables.  Dinner at NOMA with today’s exchange rate is $262.88 per person plus beverages (another $100+) — for fucking dirt and grass!  We won’t be sucked in any further.  We’re done!

 

Sea urchin is a rapidly escalating and dangerous trend.  This repugnant little creature has been turning up on menus for as long as I can remember.  Seriously, who really wants to eat one of these little bastards?  I used to have one in my reef aquarium.  It was spectacular to watch.  If I touched it the tips of its spines broke off in my finger and caused a nasty little infection if not treated promptly.

I never wanted to eat one, yet I have.  Why?  For the same reason that I started smoking, drinking, and having sex at an early age — because every one else was (at least I thought they were).  Not a wholesome reason to do anything.

Sea urchin isn’t edible.  Leave them alone.  Let them cleanse the ocean floor in peace.  Do you know what they eat?  I do — I used to have one as a pet.  Their food is commonly referred to as “detritus”.  You know what that is?  Shit…and decaying organic matter (excess fish food and more shit).

People eat it raw on top of rice that is soaked in vinegar.  Know why?  Because that’s all they have, and real food costs a fortune.  I recently saw a Japanese watermelon on a website that sold for $6,000 dollars.  If all I had to choose from was a $1,000 slice of watermelon or a spiny little shit-eater and some spoiled-tasting rice for next to free I suppose I’d eat the urchin guts.

And do you know what I would do if I was competing on your stupid mystery-basket, celebrity, reality, see-how-creative-I-can-be cooking shows and you gave me a sea urchin as the secret ingredient?  I would hurl it across the stage and shatter it against the wall behind you sending bits of shell, infectious little spines, salty orange urchin guts, and leftover ocean floor poo all over you, tell you to go fuck yourself, and walk out!

I’m just sayin’…

 

Here’s what the “experts” are predicting for 2013.

Popcorn
Why?  We paid $2.00 for a small bowl of Amish popcorn at a restaurant in Baltimore just last night.  It was popcorn — about 12 cents worth of it.

Tea
This is new?  This is like Jesse Jackson running for President — let’s give it a shot again this year.

Cured Meats
Charcuterie platters have been a favorite of ours in restaurants for a couple of years now.  I tried to put one on a menu in Arkansas last month and it was slashed.  Same thing happened when I offered a pork belly dish back in the Fall.  News of the the pork belly’s rise to fame hasn’t made it to middle America yet.  We’ve been inhaling the stuff in other cities!  Love it!  All I would ask is that if we’re going to do this let’s do it right.  Forget trying to make sausage healthier.  It’s sausage.  When you take half the fat out of it you take out ALL of the flavor and texture…then you’ve lost me altogether.

Korean Chili Sauce/Paste (called Gochujang)
I’ve been using it to make my own kimchi for a couple years now.  Good stuff!

Chicken
With the “New, New Deal” in Washington I guess we’re back to the hope of “a chicken in every pot”.  I’ll have to pull out my old “101 Ways To Cook Chicken” book.

Winter Vegetables (squash, pumpkin, turnips, etc)
No, No, and No!  What in the fuck is going on with pumpkin?  Pumpkin Pie and Jack-O-Lanterns — one week out of the year — that’s enough!  One thing we noticed about this whole sustainability and local farm-to-table movement is that from September to late March there aren’t but about 12 items to build a menu with in about 3/4 of the United States.  Let’s import some springtime produce and liven things up folks.  I can only eat so many potatoes, turnips, and braised meat dishes.

Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce
I used to make my own barrel-aged Worcestershire sauce.  Best stuff I ever had!  I can easily envision a whole line of this type of stuff.

Chef Collaborations
I’m ok with this one, but is it going to be like the trick that all the airlines play with having a super-chef style their dishes?  That would be a great idea IF I COULD EVER BE OFFERED ONE!  I was lucky to get a little hard-to-open package of pretzels on my last flight.  Which famous chef put that together?

Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Now this one I really like!  Being a non-drinker I am entranced with the idea of something besides mineral water and Coke to go with a stellar meal.  At Alinea I was served home-brewed blueberry soda and also a delicious ginger ale.  It was very obvious that these drinks came out of a cask of inspiration and craftsmanship.  Let’s see more of this.  I remember fondly that the Eastern & Oriental Trading Company in San Francisco (now known as E&O Asian Kitchen) was making their own ginger ale in the 90’s, so this is not a new idea…and it doesn’t need to be.  Minibar in Washington, D.C. rolled out an entire menu of non-alcoholic “cocktails and concoctions” that was without peer, and made the wine drinkers at our table jealous.  Keep it up!  Not everyone drinks, and I probably tip better than most drinkers…so no snobby looks from the waiter either when we don’t order that $300 bottle of vino.

Artisanal Bread
Wasn’t this the big trend in the 90’s?  Did it go away?  I didn’t notice.

Fermentation as a “Cooking Method” (think kimchi and sauerkraut…pickled stuff)
I’ve been making my own chow-chow, giardiniera, and kimchi on a college campus for 2 years.  Not difficult and well-received.  Be careful with sauerkraut though.  It’s MUCH better homemade, but it’ll stink up a kitchen in a hurry!

Vegetables as a Main Course
I don’t know if this is about economy, or eating healthier, or both.  As a strict carnivore I can handle an innovative course or two of well-prepared vegetables, but I’ll starve if that’s all I can get for dinner.  I don’t know what it takes to be a vegetarian, but they’ll love this one!  Is there a special law in some states that allows two vegetarians to marry?  Do they still have the same rights as the rest of us as “domestic partners”?

Smoke (maybe I should buy a Smoking Gun after all)
Didn’t know that smoking food ever went out of style — but then I do come from and live in the Barbecue Belt.  I would like to see smoking in public places come back into vogue.  As a smoker I would love to be able to express myself as freely as the non-smokers and about 14 other special interest groups get to!

 

Now, here are some other upcoming trends that I found related to the food biz…

Sustainability: We Stop Wasting Food
Here’s an idea — how about we stop paying farmers to NOT produce crops?

The Economy: The New Proteins
I like meat.  I will not be eating more peanut butter because I can’t afford meat.  In fact, try comparing the cost per pound of lean beef, chicken breast, and peanut butter.  I think you’ll find that meat is cheaper than rare, organic, protein rich grains and nuts — and much more satisfying.

There Needs To Be a Continued Effort in Taking Care of the Kids
How about let’s have fewer of them?  Most of us can’t afford them, and we have enough.

The Use of Social Marketing Will Continue to Grow Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Oh great!  Have you noticed when you go to a restaurant how many of your fellow diners are fiddling with their phones instead of developing and maintaining truly effective relationships with their friends and loved ones?  Or are you one of them?  Stop it!  Facebook is the Antichrist, and your iPhone is destroying you, your friends, your family, and your ability to be emotionally available to interact with the “real world” around you.

Mobile the Next Generation: Tests for Allergens, Ripening Produce, Organics, and Start Cooking Your Meals
Have you ever shopped at a store like Wild Oats or Whole Foods?  These are great stores!  They have great hard-to-find products (if you can afford them).  The people that regularly shop at these stores are typically better educated eaters who perhaps do more of their own cooking because they aren’t sure what they’re getting at restaurants (thank you for staying home).

However you might notice a marked difference in the overall feel of the shopping experience at these finer markets.  Shoppers are pompous and angry.  They move through the store hurriedly — unapproachably.  They simply don’t look happy.  They don’t stop to talk to people.  They run over their fellow shoppers like old ladies at the Goodwill store on Thursday morning.  They smell like whole grain, vitamins, and patchouli.  Many of them are likely to be PETA members (read PETA Bred?).  Their children wear European clothes made from organic fibers, and they aren’t allowed to eat sugar or talk to other children.  Most of them are home-schooled to subdue them from socialization.

This is the crowd that invented gluten allergies and lentil loaf.  There must be a better way!

Health Care Is Here, Do You Know What it Means to Your Restaurant?
Two words — ObamaCare.

Food is the third largest expense for the average American family, following housing and transportation.

Food prices are going up because of drought — but also because of fuel prices, and because the companies that make the food (and sell it) will now be forced to provide healthcare for the employees who in the past have either not been offered it or have chosen not to get the insurance because of the expense.  They save their money to buy beer, and diapers, and McDonald’s.

Congratulations voters!  You wanted it, you got it…Yes You Did!  Now enjoy the spoils of victory.  Didn’t see that coming did you?  Thought it would affect everyone but you?

 

All in all 2012 was a good year, and I anticipate great things in 2013 as well!  I’ll keep eating, experimenting, and falling in love with food!

I just got done traveling across the country and back, and dealing with airlines and other travelers, and I have a short ideal for what I would really like to see in next year’s trends.

I would like to see people be happy.  I would like to see a diminishing sense of entitlement.  I’m not going to say that I want world peace because it doesn’t make sense — but I will say that I would like to see the right people win all of the little battles that are raging around the world in large cities, and small countries — in neighborhoods, in families, and in businesses.

I would just like to see it all resolved and put to an end so we can get on with doing our part to make the world a decent fucking place for ourselves and stop expecting our overpaid politicians to do it for us!  They won’t.

Take care of you and everything else will take care of itself.  Strive for excellence in all that you do, and do your part!  Do that and you will have enough!

Happy New Year!

 

* Bourdain, Anthony (2010-05-21). Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 1281-1282). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.