Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chefs Annoy

I love the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I love it even though every third article within it irks me, even though there's always at least one article that's Manhattan-centric fluff, even though some of the articles cross that fine line between fluff and stupid. My personal scorecard for the magazine today is typical:

Thumbs Up:

  • No Ordinary Counterfeit (Note: If you're fascinated by Kim Jong Il, and I kind of am, I can't recommend this one enough. Seems he's been into the counterfeiting business, and it turns out he's good at it.)

  • Silent Green--about how it's easier to sell environmentally friendly products if you don't hype the "environmentally friendly" part. I can believe this. I have an ingrained tendency to translate "eco-friendly" to "not as good as the toxic stuff" myself. I'm not proud; I'm just sayin'.

  • An Insurgent of My Acquaintaince--just read it.

  • Thumbs Down:

  • Recipe Redux: 1968: Gazpacho

  • Everything I hate about foodies is packed into that last one. Everything. Foodies, I've decided, are not people who love food. They're people who love making simple things complicated out of bloodyminded competitiveness. This revisiting of an old recipe from--the horror--a home cook is perfectly emblematic of the problem. Here's what I mean:

    Earlier this summer, I gave the M├ílaga gazpacho recipe to Michael Tusk, the chef and an owner of Quince Restaurant in San Francisco, to see what it would inspire in him. Deceit, at first: Tusk said he had to sneak around the San Francisco farmer’s market in a hooded sweatshirt with a bag of local hot-house tomatoes, hoping that none of his watchdog chef friends would catch him with the contraband.

    I'm not sure what he was sneaking around for; are local hot-house tomatoes bad? Should they have been vine-ripened? Organic? Imported? See, the implication is I'm supposed to know this stuff, that only a pariah would not know this stuff. This is 1980s wine snobbery all over again, and I hate it.

    Back in the privacy of his kitchen, Tusk stripped out all of the flavors from the original recipe and essentially gave each ingredient its own stage. He ran a variety of tomatoes through a food mill to get a dense base. Into this, Tusk floated a simple cucumber granita, given a little zip with cucumber vinegar (although Champagne vinegar also works).

    And screw you, I guess, if you can't get Champagne vinegar. But let's look at that "simple" cucumber granita. Oh, I get what they mean by "simple" here; they mean simple in composition, not simple in execution. And a good thing, too, because it definitely isn't simple in execution:

    To make the cucumber granita: Place the cucumber in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Stir in the cucumber vinegar and salt, to taste, and place in a shallow, wide pan in the freezer. Run a fork through the granita every 20 minutes for approximately 2 hours. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. (This can be done the day before.)

    This whole article should be subtitled: "How to Take Food Preparation from Fun to Fatiguing."

    Well, I was after a good gazpacho recipe anyway. I'll use the 1968 one. Let Michael Tusk fart around with food mills and granitas; gazpacho originated as a simple (in composition and execution), summertime food of the poor. In my kitchen, that is how it will stay.


    margi said...

    Bravo! Damn fine review!

    And as for that Foodie? Pretentious twit.

    Fine, holiday fun.

    Stay cool. One-oh-six here today. That's right up there with tornadoes and hurricanes (if you believe the locals). Heh.

    Need me? I'll be naked under the air conditioner. With a bowl of gazpacho. Spreading it thinly over the entire body has a cooling effect and is good for your pores.


    (Actually, this is the last gasp of the move. The mucking out and cleaning things like the refigerator and stove. MY FAVORITE.)

    ilyka said...

    One hundred and six? WE'RE cooler than that today. It's only supposed to max out to 94 or something. Just squirming a bit under higher-than-usual humidity.

    I feel for you. Those are no conditions under which to wrap up moving. Ugh.

    Darleen said...

    good lord, run a fork through it every couple of hours?

    That's what god invented electric ice cream freezers for!!

    Pssst.. Yesterday about 1 pm, 112 degrees in the shade of my patio. Had some rain (??In so Cal in July? Go figure) a few hours ago...currently 99. cream.....

    ilyka said...

    That's what god invented electric ice cream freezers for!!

    My attitude exactly. The poseur-foodie's attitude: "Oh, gosh no! Then it wouldn't be RUSTIC! Granitas are supposed to be rustic! With a freezer you might get sorbet!"

    No wonder these people bug me.

    Yesterday about 1 pm, 112 degrees in the shade of my patio.

    Yikes. I'd heard So Cal was like a furnace this last week, but that is BAD.