Thursday, July 15, 2004

further food

It turns out that getting to Los Angeles by car requires driving through "America," that mythical place where obese people drive their SUVs between McDonald's and Old Navy, and are easily persuaded to elect their oppressors by shiny objects, bright colors and comical mispronunciations. [Please note, I bracket this "America" with inverted commas, following the sac, to indicate my geoepistomological unease with the construct, which is to say I don't believe it really exists, despite noting a lot of SUVs]. As we all know, people here eat a lot of beef, and last weekend I did too, at several landmark emporia. It turns out that the superiority of "midwestern cornfed beef," like "the world's safest food supply," is merely an unexamined, and unsupportable, myth. The beef I had -- one place advertised it proudly as "top-third choice" -- was marginally better than what you'll find at the supermarket, but not in an exciting way. In fact, it had nothing on the grassfed beef that is supposedly incompatible with our national palate. It is also depressing to think that people routinely pay $40 for this kind of steak -- and I'm not talking about celebrity-chef steakhouses either.

On the other hand, last week I grilled myself a dry-aged Niman Ranch prime ribeye which was not only worth the embarassing price I was forced to pay, but was also a transcendent consumption experience. All mouthfeel and umami. Anyone who has been to Peter Luger knows what I'm talking about. No "American," no human, should be denied the joy of dry-aged prime cornfed beef. This does not mean that we should be able to procure it from the drivethrough twice a day. And of course, we can't -- we can't even, as I learned last weekend, get it for $40 at more-or-less highly regarded restaurants that specialize in the product. So let's excercise a little impulse control, people. Grassfed beef tastes better than whatever you're eating now. Treat yourself to some real prime beef every now and then and you'll save on narcotics.

(Of course this ignores the fact that we have to produce millions of cows to procure even the current tiny supply of prime, but that's a problem for another day).

Back home, I finally got around to testing Bruce Cole's sous vide salmon this week. First of all if, like me, you are not particularly good at reading recipes carefully, let me emphasize that fridge-temp. fish will take considerably longer than 4 minutes to cook. Mine was quite rare after 10. Rare is fine with me, but the problem, as I had surmised, was inedibility of skin, which is after all the best part. A problem easily solved by a quick sear, or a propane torch. However, there was no obvious benefit to my palate in the quality of the flesh. Neither flavor nor texture improved compared to my normal pan-sear and anemic broiler methods. Possibly the gap widens beyond rare. I have no doubt that Bruce, or Thomas Keller for that matter, could blow my salmon away with theirs sous vide, but for me, it wasn't worth the cost of the freezer bag. But I will experiment further.

Then, tragedy struck. My jealously hoarded bag of fagioli Zolfini del Pratomagno, the rare and extremely expensive cannellini I had brought back from Florence was teeming with unidentified weevils, or some kind of vermin. I am heartbroken, not to mention nauseated. I didn't even get to plant any.


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