Sunday, January 12, 2014

National Lampoon's Culinary Vacation

Dear Clark,
Come on, now.
This is getting a little bit embarrassing, if you don't mind my sayin' so. 
It's FOOD.
You're having so many of them Marie Antoinette moments lately, I feel like I need to step up and piss in your  farmed and forked and fucked Cheerios and say something respectfully and with great love and encouragement and affection.


Seriously, Clark. Only an idiot would pay $1000 for something that is going to come out of their ass a few hours later and then have any kind of comment about hunger in America. Ever.  EVER, EVER. If you would like to demonstrate your superiority to me, it would be more intelligent to not purchase tiny amounts of dead, cut-up animals and bits of lettuce that grew in the ground for free. This makes you a SUCKER. I'm a chef and I am telling you that. You are a chump. 

What kind of person can, in good conscience, keep most of the money they make feeding said asshats, instead of giving most of it back to the other people who are food insecure according to every news source in the country and that includes a lot more than I get with my cable converter? Even at a 50% food cost, you're still making a fortune off of tricking people into thinking it's worth that much for future feces. Nice work, Willy Wonka.

Do you have any idea how silly it is for you to be so "involved" in food when your involvement doesn't include making sure as many other people are fed as possible, instead of a few app designers who wouldn't know what they were eating were it not for the other rich assholes before them posting thousands of Instagrams?  I know you like a tack-o, Clark, but the rise of street food as haute cuisine, meriting full tasting menus comprised of offal, is, well, awful.  It's The Emperor's Clothes at it's most entertaining.

I once worked for the catering company that does Paul Allen's Christmas party. I spent a FREEZING December afternoon in 1998, grilling what ended up being four rolling racks full of whole salmon filets on a dock. Earmuff hats are very handy for blue collar folk who have to work outside in the snow. Long johns too. You call them Silkies, I think. Cooking is FUN, btw.

We cured olives and preserved lemons months ahead of time.  Made pounds of mozzarella, smoked oysters, made biryani in rented tagines, dipped fruits in Callebaut. We cut a walk-in full of Port Salut and Humboldt Fog into wedges and spread pounds of Salumi's soppressata onto huge wooden cutting boards purchased just for the occasion The excess was as bonkers as you.

When you are a lowly cook processing all this food, things that run through your head while you hack apart chickens include the society broads who will never eat more than four bites of any of this dee-licious spread that you are going to the trouble to prepare. You also consider, in a nice way, the catering salesperson who made $5k in commission for selling all this.
Mr. Allen's hangar at Boeing Field was turned into a Moroccan tent with jeweled pillows and belly dancers. The halftime show was the man himself trying to force everyone to watch him play guitar. Good lord. 

Know what has stuck with me 15 years later? The two racks full of untouched salmon. Left AFTER the to-go containers were stuffed and servers were begged to take as much as they wanted.

The St. Rose of Lima shelter was near my apartment and I could take them a carload at a time. I'd pull up to the backdoor in a dark alley in Belltown and hand over bus tubs of salmon thrown together with the other stuff. A far cry from the display a few hours earlier. Dumpsters-full of expensive cheese and wine and steak and oysters and chocolate and things that we talk about as yum to the motherfucking yum yum yum get tossed hundreds of times every single day by people who then go on to make sad, pinchy faces about the hungry black childrens they are forced to look at sometimes in the NYT.  Or speak about SNAP benefits as if they have any idea. I don't care if your mom used food stamps to raise you. You have a bunch of restaurants and a TV show now so shut it the hell down, Baldy. For reals.

Humans are complex. I get it. Sometimes you can want to eat truffles and then go to the ghetto and teach a child what a carrot is. That is funny as fuck. Why not bring THEM to the fancy dinner that they will never, ever forget? Why not expose them to something as magical as a truffle when their mom is just going to feed them bologna later. Why exclude anyone?

It's food. No one is curing pediatric brain cancer or rescuing flood victims. You are eating things that mostly are on this planet because the planet decided this, and not because Anthony Bourdain invented olives. Capice?

There is alchemy in cooking. Duh. We are literal magicians making something out of nothing and that is something to feel pretty great about. We all fall for pictures of tattoos of eggplants, posts of perfect figs and cheese on a black granite slab.  We love reading stories of how hard that farmer had to work to get those silly goats to behave, but still.

It's food. To feed people with so they don't die from starving. Not so they don't die from sadness that some poor person brought a baby to a restaurant. To forget that is to forget the joy of pulling a carrot out of the ground or to cook a chicken until it turns to jelly that makes the gravy, gravy. To act like you are a special, special twinkie instead of an alien sharing some molecules with some other aliens means that you need a lesson in humanity that will not be printed on the bottom of your triple Caramel Flan nonfat (retard) latte or while your are funding your friend's kombucha kickstarter.

I don't know what we can do when we are a culture of people who wish they had more money worshipping a farmer who likely has nothing. Pig shit smells like pig shit. Not like miso-cured pork belly.

How can we say we want to feed people when most of the shows on the food channels have to do with excess, not inequality? How can social media be so much more concerned with the correct filter for composites of dots of food that no one can smell or taste? How much longer do I have to see people promoting cookbooks instead of volunteering somewhere and writing about those experiences which seems more useful than a few more recipes for a watermelon soup that no one likes or wants to eat?

I don't expect any BlogHerFood "how I saved some people with salad" contests anytime soon, but maybe you could demand more keynote addresses for this sort of thing in between all the schmoozing and duck fat at your conferences and picnics and ski fests? Maybe I could see a post or two about the kitchen you helped build on that trip to wherever you ate those fish tacos right on the boat that I had to look at 75 photos of?

I helped pick a few thousand pounds of citrus this weekend for a group that does this. These are the stories that I want to hear about.

I know you think we're cut from different cloth, you and I, but listen here

You're a lot closer to emptying septic hoses with me than you think. Shitter's full, Clark. Let's get to cleaning.