Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Random Ramblings

Sometimes when I’m trying to think of a subject about which to blog, I look through notes I’ve made on potential topics. I’ll find one, and start trying to flesh it out, kneading it like so much bread dough (got to get a food analogy in here somewhere). Unfortunately, not every flash of insight is a full fledged blog entry. Thus, after writing half a dozen paragraphs, some of which are only marginally related to the central theme, I have to conclude that what I’ve done is overworked a delicate pie crust, rather than kneaded a worthwhile bread dough. So, because it’s the end of the year, and because I’m feeling frankly kind of lazy, this is a collection of all those “one-liners” that are just never going to make it as full fledged blog entries.

Why is there this assumption that if a celebrity eats at, or owns, a restaurant, it must be good? I’ve read countless comments about celebrities eating at restaurants, and the obvious implication is that this is a good place. It seems never to be mentioned that anyone can pay too much for mediocre food, and that celebrities didn’t necessarily get to be celebrities because they have good taste, or most importantly that good taste and money don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

In a similar vein, I find it annoying that sales of Pinot Noir (the most overrated grape in the wine world, in my personal opinion) skyrocketed after the movie “Sideways” came out. The American public is such a bunch of moronic sheep that just because a movie featured a variety of wine, they had to run out and buy it? God help us if a popular movie ever features grain alcohol.

Every summer I read features in magazines that offer salads and “no cook” recipes to keep us from having to turn on our ovens and “heat up the house.” In the first place, unless you live in an 800 square foot efficiency in New York City, the oven isn’t going to raise the temperature of the house that noticeably. In the second place, if you think it does make it that much warmer, compensate by turning the air conditioning down a little bit prior to beginning to cook. I personally have never noticed my house being made that much warmer by turning on my oven.

Why is it that restaurants on the water are often not very good? The real estate is pricey, yet often I’ve found that these places are some of the most mediocre you can find. Some of them are obvious dives where you walk in expecting the food to be just so-so. Maybe it’s because so many of them are in touristy areas, and food in tourist areas tends to be less than wonderful in many cases. Still, you’d think that someone would open a really good restaurant on the water somewhere in the world, or at least in this country.

Why do people bother making bacon on the stove? I’ve been to people’s houses and seen them doing it, and I just can’t figure it. I always make mine in the oven. There’s no splattery mess, and no smoke to deal with. And if the bacon fat is needed to sauté onions or something as a next step in a recipe, the correct amount can be spooned out and into a frying pan.

I’m sick of reading in magazines and cookbooks that making a certain recipe is “quicker than takeout” or “faster than calling for pizza.” What the people who write these comments seem to overlook is that if I call Pizza Hut for delivery, I don’t have to cook anything. Yes, sure, it may take the same 25 minutes to wait for pizza to be delivered as it does to make a given recipe, but while I’m waiting for pizza, I am sitting on the couch reading a book, not standing over a stove. And clean up from delivery pizza involves nothing more than putting dishes in the dishwasher, and tossing the box. No actual pans to wash.

It baffles me to think that there are people in the world who need a “recipe” for something like hamburgers. Flip through those recipe pamphlets that they sell at the supermarket checkout sometimes and see just how simplistic those “recipes” are. I’ve seen ones that had ingredient lists like:

1 lb ground beef, shaped into 4 patties
Hamburger buns
Cheese slices

And then proceed to instruct the reader to cook the hamburger patties and assemble a hamburger. It would seem to me that if any society in the world does not need instructions on how to make a hamburger, it would be ours.

This trend of celebrity chefs putting their ugly mugs on every possible product is getting out of hand. It was bad enough when Wolfgang Puck was selling frozen versions of his overprecious pizzas, but in the last two days I’ve been in two different grocery stores and seen Emeril’s face on both bell peppers (“Mardi Gras Peppers”—I didn’t know there were special ones just for Mardi Gras) and baby roma tomatoes. And of course, he’s all over the spice aisle with his overpriced spice blends. I have yet to see the olive oil that Rachel Ray is pedaling, but I have seen her on boxes of Triscuits and Wheat Thins, thus assuring that I won’t be buying either of those products until her unwelcome presence is removed.

I’d also like to know when it became necessary for celebrity chefs to have darling nicknames. I’ve complained about this before, but it seems like you can’t get near a stove these days (much less write a cookbook), unless you’re the Barefoot Contessa, or the Naked Chef. Of course, this isn’t a new trend—after all, the Galloping Gourmet and the Frugal Gourmet were both popular in the 1970s. But I think it’s worth noting that James Beard and Julia Child, who never adopted clever monikers, are still revered in the food world, whereas the Galloping Gourmet was despised by his contemporaries, and the Frugal Gourmet was found to have been a child molester. Draw your own conclusion.

So there you have it. Some unrelated (or only slightly related) thoughts pulled from my notebook of potential blog subjects. I’m sure this same format will show up again someday when I have a new collection of snippets, and am not feeling like writing anything coherent (which implies that what I normally write is coherent, which is not always the case, of course).

Happy holidays!

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