Tuesday, September 28, 2004

For more on the Vatican conference "Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology," see the National Catholic Rural Life Conference's statement and today's AgBioView newsletter.

Also, Alla Katsnelson on pharming in Scientific American; migrant mushroom pickers [Oregonian via Tidepool].

Monday, September 27, 2004

I'm not here

But you did buy this, right? Just listen to it on repeat and you'll forget all about the "intersphere."

Friday, September 24, 2004

there will always be an England... or will there?

I'm studying at Warwick University in the UK, and I had just finished my Computer Science finals (I'm going on to do a PhD in Edinburgh next year). I went out and got drunk, had a nice lie in and bought a couple of new games in town, but I just didn't feel totally liberated.

So I decided to build an enormous f*****g sandwich. Inside this affront to God would be an enchilada, some garlic mushrooms, burgers, sausages, assloads of cheese and some good old HP sauce. I put in a bit of salad as well to even out the bad stuff.

He didn't even break 10,000 calories. What a pussy.

[Via MeFi, along with el bocadillo del diablo and girls eating sandwiches].

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

this is my party and it's freaking me out

Jeez, try to spend a few seconds away from the internet and something earth-shattering happens, like the death of Russ Meyer. All I have to say is that anyone who thinks "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" was the worst movie ever made has never seen "Common Law Cabin."

Also, you will want to read the latest Pew Buzz [sic] on biotech food.

next stop, book deal

Are you paying attention, Remnick? I am flattered, but allow me a few words about "fact-checking."

Where I came from, "journalistic" more or less meant "not rigorous." Now, I have nothing against "journalists," and there is no need to take this personally, but there is a significant difference between "fact-checking" and "research." The former involves calling people to make sure you got the address right, or that the obviously fake "intel" provided by the obvious charlatan, is in fact, false. Research is something you do with books (remember those?), and it has its own rules, which are nearly as poorly understood. Both disciplines are important, and they should be practiced more.

Of course, editors and fact-checkers can make mistakes, and very few people who pay attention to these things will be suprised at the frequency at which they do. I'm going out on a limb here, but I rather doubt your average paper's food section is subjected to the same editorial scrutiny as an Economist article. Recent examples from excellent authors in two of our nation's better food sections include a minor mistake and misleading statement by Regina Schrambling and some confusion about farro in a Marian Burros article (and nearly everywhere else). In the latter case, the fact-checker's job was to confirm that the link to the inaccurate information was correct. It doesn't matter if you have an editor and a fact-checker if neither of them know what you're talking about.

Like everyone else, I have made mistakes. Presumably. I just can't remember any at the moment. But the goal of this enterprise is not to provide a reliable account of current events, but rather to tell you why they are stupid. And also to indulge in a limited degree of the "research" that is normally beyond the pale of "journalism." "Fact-checking" is more or less irrelevant to both of them: too rigorous for the former, not enough for the latter. And an editor would not let me call people douchebags with reckless abandon, which is basically the best thing about this site. People who rely on the internet for their knowledge of the world deserve what they get, but so do those who manage to amuse themselves on the internet. This is all very boring and, dare I say, obvious.

Signed,

semi-insane ranter

Update: If you invoke the Eurotrash-routine, you better be prepared to get arseholed, as they say. (The expression is either FORTRAN or Manx, I believe. It means CRUSHED™).

UPDATE, again: That long-archived article ["MEDIA DISH; Hot links to some edgy bloggers," Laurie Winer, Los Angeles Times (Sep 22, 2004)] read, in part:

The wildest, funniest stuff is found, not surprisingly, in the blogosphere's outer reaches, by people who come and go erratically ("Web page not found" or "link expired" are common messages when hunting for fun food stuff on the Internet). Here, bloggers bring the simmering antipathy between print journalists and themselves to full boil. A anonymous non-food blogger who takes the moniker "eurotrash" and the persona of a wild and foul-mouthed girl on the town is a Tama Janowitz for the new millennium. Her (his?) rantings on New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser are as unfair as they are hilarious (upsaid.com/eurotrash/ index.php?action=viewcom&id=243). This is the blog wilderness, defined by its distaste for mainstream journalism: The niceties do not apply here.

Closer to the center are more responsible -- though often disgruntled -- writers who maintain regular, dependable sites chock- full of useful information, albeit info that does not go through the same fact-checking as what you read in print (if any).

Strong opinions

If Julie Powell is the Laurie Colwin of the blog set, then mmw, the author of bad things (badthings.blogspot.com), is the A.J. Liebling -- an obsessive reader and critic of food-related literature, from this newspaper to the Western Farm Press to the National Academy of Sciences report on how federal agencies should assess the safety of genetically altered food (hence his links are unusually wide-ranging). He is tireless, opinionated and hectoring. Here's a characteristic rant: "Listen, yuppies: a tomato is not a good tomato simply because it is an 'heirloom.' ["Heirloom" links to a San Francisco Chronicle story on the glories of this kind of tomato.] A tomato is good because it is grown carefully in optimal conditions, with as little water as possible, picked ripe, and never refrigerated. Ninety percent of 'heirloom' tomatoes are just as revolting as the crap you get at the supermarket."

Mmw.... admits he does very little outside fact-checking; he describes blogging as "fake journalism."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

For reasons explained below, I will be pretty scarce around here for the next couple weeks. Surely you are here because you have already exhausted the offerings of my well-groomed blogroll to your immediate right, but maybe you should double-check just to make sure. A few totally unrelated things before I go:

If there is one thing I have learned from the internet it is this:

shitting your pants = comedy gold

I was so blinded by the brilliance of this insight that I somehow forgot to alert you to bad new hughes, who is really the master of the genre.

Some people will be shocked, but there is an agro-alimentary topic about which I know very little, which is Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This tiny gap in my encyclopedic knowledge is not the product of a lack of interest, but rather of funds. Not all of us can be solicitors. However, some names that come up repeatedly are Erath and Ponzi (an appropriate name for an American winery). Were I a New York City barrister, I would proceed simply by tracking down whatever I could find; without, however, forgetting about the antipodean alternatives. And I would always remember that once I hit approximately $40 retail, there is no reason not to turn my attentions to the real thing.

Now, it has seemed fairly obvious to me since, oh, April 12 that Roundup-Ready creeping bentgrass is a very bad idea. So I was really only suprised today that the Times allowed Andrew Pollack to explain this to the rest of the country on its first page, above the fold. The PNAS article, which revealed that GM bentgrass pollen travels as far as you care to measure (at least 13 miles) will eventually appear here. See also Mike Lee's Sac Bee article.

Today's PNAS early edition does feature a commentary on the morning glory article I mentioned last week, in which Bitty A. Roy puts the case pretty clearly:

We must learn how to slow down the rate of evolution of resistance and tolerance to herbicides if herbicides are going to continue being used. Otherwise we are creating even larger problems for ourselves than we had before.

She notes, of course, that the fitness cost associated with herbicide tolerance is good news, in that it would enable us to manage tolerant weeds, if we weren't total fucking morons. The other problem is that there is no evidence of comparable costs in other weedy species. And furthermore, if there were a comparable cost in a cultivated crop -- like, say, maize, -- and the tolerance gene spread to its wild progenitors, that would, technically, be a Bad Thing.

And finally, there is, shockingly, some good news for small farmers, though one has to wonder how long this kind of growth can be sustained.

Those of you mourning t-muffle's demise could do worse than reading this over and over until you run out of Wild Turkey.

Wait, one more thing: anyone who feels that "blogging" is a "phenomenon" that they must come to grips with somehow should read this. "Blogging" is a simple technology that allows the unwashed to shout into the wilderness slightly more efficiently.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

holy shit

Maccers sees your meme and raises it one spastic colon.

Update: Christ, people, what is wrong with you? Please make it stop.

the scarlet letter

You can imagine my excitement when Colman Andrews, in the new Saveur, dared to write about the "A" word. Unfortunately, he said nothing stupid for me to brilliantly eviscerate. All I can say, lamely, is that it's hardly a rigorous or comprehensive analysis, but it's worth reading.

I have been so busy that I haven't even fished said Saveur, much less read anything else. I was even compelled to miss Fatted Calf's meat party, dammit.

A few quick links: new FSIS advisory on humane slaughtering requirements; multiple centers of Phaseolus vulgaris origin confirmed by analysis of nitrogen-fixing symbionts (not that there was much doubt, thanks to Paul Gepts); glyphosate resistance comes with a heavy fitness cost, at least for morning glories; confusion in Japanese regulation of GM crops; Monsanto announces new GM soybeans with a benefit for consumers: less tranfat (note that this is a disingenuous crock of shit; they are genetically modified only for Roundup resistance; the low-transfat trait was created with traditional plant breeding techniques).

g-unit
And finally, sweet and umami taste receptors are linked [PNAS open access].



Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Amanda to return Sunday. Give her a chance, people.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

march of progress

From Sauté Wednesday, a roundtable in the new Saveur:
Darrel Corti: 'They prepare food; they don't cook. Americans are always talking about saving time. I don't know what they do with all the time they save, however'.

Mimi Sheraton: 'They watch cooking shows'.

Richard Melman: 'And they read cookbooks. I'm amazed every time I go into a bookstore that there are so many new ones'....

And, on the other side of the pond, the Observer interviews Fergus Henderson:

'Well, in one sense, there's so much food in the media, cookbooks, people knowing things... but it's pornography. You look at it and you think you've done it, but you haven't. I think there's some hope. There does seem to be a growing number of fantastic farmers. But instead of that being the norm, it's a treat for restaurant kitchens.' He has never visited the Tesco Metro near his home in Covent Garden. 'The nightmarish nature of it. Everything is there, but in a strange, ersatz form. An avocado will be organic, but it's been flown in from Peru. It's all rather confusing.'

Here's my question: is the point to make everyone into a "gourmet chef"? Fuck that. I don't want to question Saveur's motives, but their advertisers' point is (obviously) to sell everyone a glass-topped induction range and a matching set of All-Clad measuring cups. But that is not the point. The point is to improve the quality of the food that everyone eats. Then, perhaps, to teach the dining classes to pay attention to something besides the volume of caviar and foie gras.

By the way, the mâche mentioned earlier was as good as any shrinkwrapped salad mix I've had before, but that's not saying much, I'm afraid.

dance to the music of time

Just in case you're timing these things, the new Saveur arrived last night with a skirt steak on the cover. Which means that I'm now exactly three days ahead of the curve. So in a month or so, you can stop reading me entirely.

While I was over at Saveur's infuriating website trying in vain to find you a link, I came across their gazpacho recipe, which is acceptable if you didn't like mine.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Maybe it's just the circles I travel in, but the poop humor meme appears to have escalated [last link via #1hs]. There was another flurry of, um, shit storms back in Jan.

Totally unrelatedly, the French are about to plant some genetically modified grape vines:

A new strain of grapevines resistant to Fanleaf disease may soon be planted in a test vineyard in Alsace, France. The project hopes that modified vines might improve vineyard health, raise wine quality and reduce pesticide use, as well resurrect the French wine industry, currently suffering from competition from emerging wine leaders South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America.

Fanleaf disease is transmitted by the soil nematode Xiphinema index, which feeds on the roots of grape vines, transferring the Grapevine Fanleaf Virus (GFLV) from infected plants to otherwise healthy ones. The virus stunts vine growth, discolors grape leaves, and yields poor tasting fruit. It is estimated to affect more than 25,000 acres of vineyards in France, reducing crop yields by up to 80 percent for sensitive varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir.

French winemakers fight the virus by spraying infected plants with nematicide, a pesticide so potent that its use in agriculture has been banned in countries such as Switzerland and Germany and in some U.S. states. According to Marc Fuchs, head of the GM project, "It kills all organisms in the soil, even the micro-organisms that play a big role in the biological life that forms terroir."

I suppose I could make a shite-drinking-Adam-Gopnik connection, but why force it? Anyway, wine grapes are going to be a very interesting case for the technology, particularly as Pierce's disease advances through California.

black steel in the hour of chaos

As the sac well knows, there is nothing more pleasurable than holding a magnificent tool in your hand. The illusion of mastery that washed over me in a wave of dopamine (and, ok, Fernet-Branca) as I used my new tool to open two feet of skirt steak like a book -- a beautiful meat book -- is what separates us from the animals. It is responsible for stupid things: the SUT, war in Iraq; and brilliant ones, like Lascaux, or Willie McGinest opening a massive can of whoop-ass on Peyton Manning last night. God, I love Willie McGinest.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah: thanks, dad. (This is purely rhetorical, as my father has no truck with the intersphere). Also, although you do not, strictly speaking, need one, and if you had real knife skills, you could accomplish the same thing with a cheap boner, a real filet knife will make you feel better about yourself.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Kiki Smith REVEALED! (Sorry, I was reading gawker and whatevs simultaneously). Looking a little goth, honey. Still I've always liked this one, among others. Beats Alex Katz, anyway.

remedial writing

Having badmouthed Adam Gopnik repeatedly over the years, it is only fair to point out that his wine article in the special marketing section -- I mean, the "food issue" New Yorker -- wasn't that bad. It was wrong -- after living in France all those years, he still doesn't get it -- but the Robert Parker/Bill James analogy was inspired. And the obligatory Henry James disquisition actually worked this time. The mantle of self indulgence was instead assumed by Bill Buford's latest finding-myself-through-fucking-up-a-restaurant-kitchen (because-I'm-"friends"-with-Mario) piece. I am not looking forward to my midlife crisis. As you peel back the layers of confusion, the whole thing becomes more and more inexplicable. Most egregiously, it appears that he may not understand the difference between water- and egg-based pastas. It unravels from there, and I will spare you further details except to say that Bill needs to think a little bit about what zucca could possibly have meant before 1492. (Hint: Lagenaria siceraria). Also: I bought a bag of the mâche; I'll let you know if it's any good.

As far as the interweb goes, I'm no guide these days, but t-muffle is back and he doesn't aapear to like Frank any more than Amanda. Further evidence of Times decline is to be found, as always, at gastropoda. For maccers, cooking is fundamental; stereolabrat inadvertently eats the dreaded jalapeño jelly belly.

[By the way, the LA Times limoncello article (featuring Katie Loeb's recipe), is wrong: you can get "Sorrento" lemons, now, in California. Of course, this is immaterial, as they are not grown in the rich volcanic soil of Sorrento and therefore do not taste like Sorrento lemons.]

Bonus: the real minimalist

If, say, it is 90 degrees out and you are late for work, you will want to make yourself the easiest lunch possible. You will put a tomato (maybe even an heirloom, as long as it doesn't suck) in a bag with 2 slices of bread. Because you live in a less pleasant part of the world, current temperatures notwithstanding, you will have to settle for some simulacrum of Acme pain au levain. Come lunchtime, you will grab a paper packet of salt from the cafe and pour most of it over the tomato you have carefully sliced with your dedicated pocket knife, and thoroughly squish the result between said slices of bread. Yuppies will substitute sea salt. You will have a tiny bottle of Catalan arbequina olive oil sitting in your office for just such an occasion. You may have planned ahead and brought a substantial slice of pecorino fresco with you, but this is not stricly necessary. Refreshed, you are now ready to return to counting the hours until you can shower again.

This is not the greatest sandwich in the world; this is just a tribute.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

too busy for you, but if for some reason you want a gmail account, email me.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

antepenultimate

Goddammit, there's a secret level. I can't believe you bastards didn't tell me.

Also, fuck I am poor. I am so poor now I'm probably not even allowed to look at the internet.

If you want something to read, check out this week's superb food snark from Ms. Schrambling. At your own risk: the vasactomy. And ye olde hagge is packing some serious junk in the trunk metaphorically speaking.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

TMI: rock you like a hurricane

Many, many years ago on this day I was born, appropriately, in the middle of a hurricane. Thank you. By strange coincidence, today I completed the penultimate level of the American Dream™ video game: The Miracle of Home Ownership. As you can imagine, I have my hands full at the moment, and may not be able to bellow menacingly into the ether with my customary abandon for a few weeks.

©2002-2005 by the author