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Posts from the ‘foodie pseudery’ Category

Foodie Pseudery (29)

Earlier this year, Brooklyn (where else?) hosted the GoogaMooga festival, featuring both musicians and food. It took itself Very Seriously Indeed. Calling it  ‘the ultimate vortex for American food and music’, the New York Times hyperventilated:

It can’t be an accident that many of these places and personalities resonate with fresh-out-of-college food hunters who seek transcendence through a Korean taco just as their Generation X forebears once sought it through the Smiths, Run-D.M.C. or Fugazi.

If John Lennon and Sinead O’Connor once stirred cultural ferment, it’s now meat-loving knife-slingers (as in David Chang, Gabrielle Hamilton, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo) who are seen as having that ‘anti-establishment, sticking-it-to-the-man mentality,’ said Graham Elliot, the Chicago chef who has been culinary director for Lollapalooza since 2010.

Foodie Pseudery (28)

Although I usually cringe a little when chefs describe cooking as an art, there is part of me which understands exactly what they mean: cooking and baking can feel as creative as drawing, sewing, or writing. I’m not surprised, then, that a chef in San Francisco has developed what she calls ‘poetic culinaria’. This is a concept with the potential to be sublime, but which seems to be, at least in this fawning article in the Wall Street Journal, ridiculous.

Last month, [chef Dominique Crenn] was walking her boxer and two Chihuahuas in Buena Vista Park with a friend while they discussed an impending state ban on foie gras, pate made from the livers of force-fed geese and ducks. Ms. Crenn said she then spied a bird’s nest in a tree.

‘That’s it. I must begin again,’ without foie gras, she thought. It struck her that a dish, titled ‘Birth,’ using the remnants of her foie gras supply combined with a bird’s nest, would represent a new beginning.

On Saturday morning a week later, Ms. Crenn experimented with some elements for “Birth.” She dropped a purée of corn and melted foie gras fat into liquid nitrogen to create little frozen balls that looked like eggs. She also melted chocolate with porcini powder and streamed ribbons of the mixture into cold water to form thin branches.

While a team of five raced through chores, Ms. Crenn appeared in a deep calm as she recreated foie gras beads and chocolate ribbons. The moment she completed a task, she darted out of the kitchen with ninja-like alacrity, perhaps reflecting her 10 years of judo training, and returned with materials for a new task.

Juan Contreras, her 29-year-old pastry chef, immediately critiqued it, suggesting she should have used branches of salsify instead of chocolate. For a split second, Ms. Crenn’s girlish enthusiasm wilted, her deep-set eyes turned downcast, a flash of vulnerability that vanished as quickly as it came.

Foodie Pseudery (27)

This isn’t so much foodie pseudery as bad research and poor writing (the article also claims that Bonnotte potatoes are harvested ‘rigorously’ by hand – I’d love to see that):

During the era of the conquering of the Americas, the potato was the principal food of the indigenous Andes people, who also worshiped them.

Now, how difficult is it to look up the Latin American Conquest and Incas on Wikipedia?

Foodie Pseudery (25)

The incredible profundity of making chocolate chip cookies:

Have you ever looked deeply into someone’s eyes and melted into their being, feeling as though your two bodies are too cumbersome, too tangible, keeping your essences apart, preventing you from becoming the one inextricable spirit of energy and love and sensuality you were always meant to be? Well, this is exactly how your flour mixture feels as it is slowly stirred into your butter mixture. Pour the flour little by little into the butter, stirring each time. Remember, this love is not a crash or an explosion. It’s a careful melding of beings.

This final moment is when I forget where I am, why I’m here, all the apprehension, all the obstacles, and I can do anything, be anyone: it’s just me and the chocolate chip cookie dough taste-test.

Foodie Pseudery (24)

Coriander as life lesson:

Cilantro, I have realized, has always held a certain power over my life; before because I feared it, and now because I love it too much. …

And so it turns out that my mother was, in fact, right when she said that cilantro would be my coming-of-age, that in embracing adulthood and all its shades and shadows, I would love it too.  I can begin to forgive my parents for the lies they told me in my childhood, and to realize that some of the most important parts of life are not necessarily the ones that are the most moral or the most clear.

Foodie Pseudery (23)

On the courgette flower as self-help manual (no, really):

Too ephemeral for any outside drama or noisy to-do lists, squash blossoms are best cooked the day they are picked. So they force you to live in the moment. Depending on your level of commitment, you may even find yourself thinking in hour-long squash blossom increments.

And this makes them beyond beautiful. If you struggle with living in the past or in the future, they can act like an instant, edible self-help book. You know the kind. The kind that urges you to behave in the present. The kind with a name like The Power of Now or You Can Heal Your Life.

Foodie Pseudery (22)

This is from a New York Times article about ‘mindful eating’:

What followed was captivating and mysterious. Surrounded by a murmur of clinking forks, spoons and chopsticks, the Blue Cliff congregation, or sangha, spent the lunch hour contemplating the enjoyment of spice, crunch, saltiness, warmth, tenderness and like-minded company.

Some were thinking, too, about the origins of the food: the thousands of farmers, truck drivers and laborers whose work had brought it here.

As their jaws moved slowly, their faces took on expressions of deep focus. Every now and then came a pause within the pause: A chime would sound, and, according to the monastery’s custom, all would stop moving and chewing in order to breathe and explore an even deeper level of sensory awareness.

It looked peaceful, but inside some of those heads, a struggle was afoot.

Foodie Pseudery (21)

A prize (yet to be determined) to the person who can explain what ON EARTH THIS MEANS:

For food enthusiasts, Fine Dining is not something to be taken lightly as it represents the definition of their culture, based on the newfound pleasure of conviviality, the hunt and curiosity for new tastes.

How does ‘fine dining’ represent the ‘definition’ of a culture? Why is conviviality ‘newfound’? Why must ‘Fine Dining’ not be ‘taken lightly’? Why capitalise ‘Fine Dining’? Why not use a dictionary to define precisely what words mean?

Foodie Pseudery (20)

It is time to deal with the problem of Gwyneth Paltrow. Not Gwyneth Paltrow the actress, but Gwyneth Paltrow the lifestyle and food guru who dispenses advice on cooking, fashion, travel, and ‘being’ (whatever that may be). There is part of me which agrees with Viv Groskop’s view that her daft website Goop is simply a ‘drop of demented sunshine’. That however much its recommendations that its readers invest in designer clothes, stay at boutique hotels, and employ celebrity aerobics teachers may demonstrate the extent to which she is truly part of the 0.01%, essentially she means well.

So much of the website is pseudery of the highest order (my particular favourite is an account of a typical ‘busy day‘ for her) that I could devote a whole series to it, but what concerns me is Paltrow’s enthusiasm for daft diets. In one newsletter, she opines on detoxes:

I like to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year, the most hardcore one being the Master Cleanse I did last spring. It was not what you would characterize as pretty. Or easy. It did work, however. As I do not wish to subsist on lemon water in the middle of winter, I asked my doctor, a detox diet specialist, for the guidelines he uses to achieve a good detox that is not as hallucinogenic (in a bad way) as the Master Cleanse. He actually thinks that the Master Cleanse can be dangerous because the liver is not supported by the nutrients it needs.

‘the liver is not supported by the nutrients it needs’. Priceless.

This is bad writing, but it’s also monumentally bad advice. There is no evidence to show that detoxes do anything beneficial for our bodies. They ‘work’ (they cause us to lose weight) because they contain fewer calories than our normal diets. The ‘dizzines’ she reports is caused by hunger – not toxins leaving her body. She now markets a detox pack, the efficacy of which is based on no scientific evidence whatsoever. In fact, its effects haven’t been properly examined either.

Stick to acting, sweetie.

Foodie Pseudery (19)

When I began this series, I decided not to include examples drawn from blogs, even though they frequently provide absolute gems of foodie pseudery. My reasoning was – and is – that that editors and publishers of newspapers, magazines, and books should know better than to print pseudery. Bloggers tend not to have that kind of guidance.

I’ve changed my mind here – and this post isn’t really foodie pseudery either, strictly defined. I’ve included it because of its staggering insensitivity. Truly, this is what gives food writing a bad name.

The post is an attempt to link the Kony 2012 campaign to a recipe for coffee-flavoured macaroons. I don’t protest at the author’s decision to write about something topical – not at all – but, rather, at the post’s stunning ignorance about the campaign, Uganda, and, indeed, Africa – as well as at the astonishingly poor taste in trying, somehow, to promote a recipe for macaroons by linking it to a campaign (however wrongheaded) against a warlord:

There are plenty of critics regarding Kony 2012. They say that the problems in Uganda, in Africa are more complex than stopping this one man. I agree. However, Kony 2012 will bring more attention to a region of the world that needs more attention. Even though I don’t understand the dynamics of Africa I do know that shining the spotlight on one vile war criminal will hopefully bring attention to problems that led to the rise of a beast that has terrorized a region for the last 30 years.

Having said that and since we are a food blog, let’s talk about Ugandan coffee. Coffees from politically unstable regions, especially East Africa and Uganda make us wonder about the ethical implications of buying that coffee. But, at the end of the day coffee is a cash crop and hundreds of thousands of small farms exist in Uganda. Over 2 million people rely on coffee to make a living.

In the age of Google, there is no excuse – none whatsoever – for ignorance of this level.