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Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 2


ronnie_suburban
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Ok there it is in a nutshell. So now do we in the cooking community quit bitching about sellouts and start teaching people to cook? This is a call to arms or at least to spatulas. Sorry if this is too Oprah for egullet but I feel inspired and my normal jaded bitter posting is inexcusable in this instance. I am returning to the soup kitchen. Anyone joining me? Oh, and I am bringing Lambrusco.

I've been wondering if there's a non-profit that teaches poor people how to cook efficiently, both cheaply and quickly. I grew up the son of a single mom waitress and had to fend for myself a lot, especially when she was working swing shift. My mom liked to cook from scratch and so when she was around I had learned some basics. Made life much better than it could have been. I'd be very interested in helping out in that kind of program.

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I believe in the benefit of the doubt. He has done too many good things to dismiss him so quickly, even though this action on the surface appears so egregious. While I do not necesarily agree with his rationale, it is not an entirely unreasonable one. I have signed up to accompany Rick Bayliss on a cooking trip to Oaxaca, Mexico next spring. The trip is organized by The Culinary Institute. I'll draw my own conclusions about him there.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think Bayless has done some great work. I've seen photographs from a recent meal at Frontera and while the diner says it was not the best he has had there, the food looked good and the menu was fun.

I think that this was a bad decision. And I think that his reasoning serves the conclusion he came to when he was offered the money.

But that has nothing to do with what he can show you in Oaxaca or in his kitchen.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Doc, if I buy you a Chefs Collaborative tee-shirt will you wear it every day on the trip? Preferably with two little green leaves pinned to the shoulder?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ok there it is in a nutshell. So now do we in the cooking community quit bitching about sellouts and start teaching people to cook? This is a call to arms or at least to spatulas. Sorry if this is too Oprah for egullet but I feel inspired and my normal jaded bitter posting is inexcusable in this instance. I am returning to the soup kitchen. Anyone joining me? Oh, and I am bringing Lambrusco.

I've been wondering if there's a non-profit that teaches poor people how to cook efficiently, both cheaply and quickly. I grew up the son of a single mom waitress and had to fend for myself a lot, especially when she was working swing shift. My mom liked to cook from scratch and so when she was around I had learned some basics. Made life much better than it could have been. I'd be very interested in helping out in that kind of program.

On NPR I heard a story of a chef who's on disability from back and foot pain. His dream is to start a school program that teaches children about different countries, cultures, and their foods, and national dishes and then cooking lessons/demos using different fresh ingedients etc. He's looking for funding , ideas, etc.

I'd like to do something like that...

JANE

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Oh that's beautiful.

Copy from the poster:

Rick Bayless,Restaurateur/Activist

I do.

I'm committed to:

The power of plants

Food, glorious food

The Chefs Collaborative

Protecting the health of the food chain

Organic Whole Milk Yogurt

Companies who care

You become what you eat. When you taste food, it helps to close your eyes. Your senses will tell you something, like where there are additives, fillers and chemicals. It's your natural instinct. You know a company like Stonyfield Farm that's dedicated to a healthy planet is going to make the healthiest yogurt.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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It's not very common for individuals who know how to cook regional foods, to find an outlet for teaching.

My wife and I are exploring the possibilites of hosting an Adult Education course regarding grilling and bbq, at our local High School, for the Spring/Autumn of 2004.

Our goal is to contribute to the graduating class, some extra monies, after our expenses are paid.

Just something we would like to give back to our community, and at the same time try to instill, cooking basics to our neighbors.

woodburner

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The cultural battle to keep cooking alive among the working poor and underclass has most likely been lost. Bayless seems, at least, to understand that. It may be lost among the working class as well. Cooking is destined to be, increasingly, a bourgeois entertainment, just like eGullet.

So the cultural and aesthetic battle, at this point, needs to be simply to teach people the difference between good food and crap (something a misleading ad for a mediocre processed Burger King sandwich emphatically does not do). Because it's entirely possible -- nay, easy as hell -- for the prepared-food industry to make healthful and delicious food that's better than what most people ever cooked at home even in the days when every mother cooked, and to make it inexpensively. The food industry doesn't give a damn what it manufactures, as long as people will buy it. Corporations are for the most part amoral and will therefore respond to demand; and if one corporation won't, another one will.

Someone like Bayless could be instrumental in helping both consumers and the food industry to move together towards better, more delicious food. The flavors he typically works with are prime candidates; after all Mexico is a haven of excellent low-budget cooking. Instead, he's whoring for Burger King. What a disgrace.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The cultural battle to keep cooking alive among the working poor and underclass has most likely been lost. Bayless seems, at least, to understand that. It may be lost among the working class as well. Cooking is destined to be, increasingly, a bourgeois entertainment, just like eGullet.

This is an incredibly pessimistic statement. We may be on one extreme end of the pendulum but eventually things have to cycle back the other way.

You're also discounting the interests and efforts of people in their teens, 20s and 30s who've decided to refocus much of their views towards cooking and away from what passes for cuisine these days. This trend has been documented -- you could google for it if you wish. Witness the influx of new eGulleteers who are of these age groups who've decided to go to cooking school or those who've decided to learn the art of cooking better, if not for themselves but for others.

To say that the cultural battle to keep cooking alive has been lost is defeatist and one I (and many others I am sure) refuse to accept. If this is the case, you might as well cease making statements that Bayless has betrayed his mission, accept defeat and move on.

Soba

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I've been wondering if there's a non-profit that teaches poor people how to cook efficiently, both cheaply and quickly.  I grew up the son of a single mom waitress and had to fend for myself a lot, especially when she was working swing shift.  My mom liked to cook from scratch and so when she was around I had learned some basics.  Made life much better than it could have been.  I'd be very interested in helping out in that kind of program.

Share our Strength has a program you might find of interest! ( I noticed there's one in Portland) S.O.S. Frontline

I've been involved in SOS programs over many years and think they do alot of great work.

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The cultural battle to keep cooking alive among the working poor and underclass has most likely been lost. Bayless seems, at least, to understand that. It may be lost among the working class as well. Cooking is destined to be, increasingly, a bourgeois entertainment, just like eGullet.

True. Cooking is either a necessity, because you're so poor you have to, like in many 3rd world countries, or a luxury, as it is increasingly becoming here in the states. Afterall, the Food Network doesn't sell advertising based on unemployed and welfare viewers.

Because it's entirely possible -- nay, easy as hell -- for the prepared-food industry to make healthful and delicious food that's better than what most people ever cooked at home even in the days when every mother cooked, and to make it inexpensively. The food industry doesn't give a damn what it manufactures, as long as people will buy it. Corporations are for the most part amoral and will therefore respond to demand; and if one corporation won't, another one will.

You're correct in saying that corporations are amoral reflections of what their customers require. However, you're wrong to suggest that it's easy as hell for them to make better than they do. If it was, they'd do it, not because their customers demand directly, but that because their competition, and there's lots of it, would do it to get a leg up. Then the customers would demand it or else they'd change their source of cheap burgers and fries.

To play devil's advocate, for a moment, why should these people be "educated" anyway? Why shouldn't they continue the enjoyment of their ignorance. To borrow a phrase from The Matrix, why should they "take the red pill"? Aren't they fine and dandy in their world of 99 cent Whopper Jrs and side salads and 49 cent tacos? Taste is often quite relative. Many flavors that us food snobs (and believe me, whether we rag on the worst of us or not, we are all on these forums food snobs to some degree) really yearn for actually take some bit of getting used to, eg, foie gras and caviar, two of the most prized ingredients. But how about wine, even good wine, greens, shellfish, spicy foods, and so on. For most Americans, these items do or would take some getting used to before they could enjoy them. The "natural" flavors to enjoy are fats, sweets, and salts, bitter being our "warning" sense of taste. This is exactly what the average American yearns for -- hamburgers, hot dogs, Doritos, soda, creamy sweet secret sauces, and so on. Your education involves tearing them away from their natural palate and increasing their costs. To what end?

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The cultural battle to keep cooking alive among the working poor and underclass has most likely been lost. Bayless seems, at least, to understand that. It may be lost among the working class as well. Cooking is destined to be, increasingly, a bourgeois entertainment, just like eGullet.

True. Cooking is either a necessity, because you're so poor you have to, like in many 3rd world countries, or a luxury, as it is increasingly becoming here in the states. Afterall, the Food Network doesn't sell advertising based on unemployed and welfare viewers.

And I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that state of affairs per se. In other words I don't say it pessimistically as Soba indicates; I'm just acknowledging that cuisine these days is increasingly a middle class pursuit and that the rest of the population is going to be increasingly dependent on prepared foods.

Because it's entirely possible -- nay, easy as hell -- for the prepared-food industry to make healthful and delicious food that's better than what most people ever cooked at home even in the days when every mother cooked, and to make it inexpensively. The food industry doesn't give a damn what it manufactures, as long as people will buy it. Corporations are for the most part amoral and will therefore respond to demand; and if one corporation won't, another one will.

You're correct in saying that corporations are amoral reflections of what their customers require. However, you're wrong to suggest that it's easy as hell for them to make better than they do. If it was, they'd do it, not because their customers demand directly, but that because their competition, and there's lots of it, would do it to get a leg up. Then the customers would demand it or else they'd change their source of cheap burgers and fries.

You're assuming that no mega-corporations make good food. But I've been peppering this thread, or maybe it was the other Burger King thread that's running, with examples of corporate mass-production of food that is relatively high quality. And of course the most telling example is simply to look at what McDonald's and Burger King used to do: fresh, never-frozen meat; fries cut on premises; etc. If that doesn't prove conclusively that it's easy to make better food, I don't know what to say.

The "natural" flavors to enjoy are fats, sweets, and salts, bitter being our "warning" sense of taste.  This is exactly what the average American yearns for -- hamburgers, hot dogs, Doritos, soda, creamy sweet secret sauces, and so on.  Your education involves tearing them away from their natural palate and increasing their costs.  To what end?

Let's start by getting people hamburgers, hot dogs, and sodas that don't suck. Right now, the hamburgers being served at McDonald's and Burger King are awful. If people are choosing them over good hamburgers, that's not fulfillment of any sort of natural craving for fatty bloody meat -- it's as a result of deadened coopted palates. The hot dogs most people buy in the supermarket just aren't good, but for hardly any more money you can get hot dogs that are quite delicious. Sodas made with corn syrup cost a few cents less per gallon but don't taste nearly as good as sodas sweetened with cane sugar. If consumers demand these things, they'll get them. That alone would be a major improvement. Beyond that, I think the reason we should seek to expose people to delicious food is that I don't think there's any reason, in the 21st Century, that people in an affluent nation should be eating like animals. The importance of food to culture shouldn't be underestimated, and given the relatively minor cost of getting better food, it seems a worthy goal.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You're assuming that no mega-corporations make good food. But I've been peppering this thread, or maybe it was the other Burger King thread that's running, with examples of corporate mass-production of food that is relatively high quality. And of course the most telling example is simply to look at what McDonald's and Burger King used to do: fresh, never-frozen meat; fries cut on premises; etc. If that doesn't prove conclusively that it's easy to make better food, I don't know what to say.

But look at how low (and for how long) places like Burger King and McDonald's have kept their prices. That can only be done with increases in productivity when there's inflation. Fast Food Nation details the method the fries are prepared pretty well. And what I gleaned from that is a) how well it keeps things consistent from store to store, ie, there is always a minimum level of quality, and b) how much it saves McDonald's, which means lower prices for consumers. I don't think you're giving adequate weight to how important price is for the consumer. Once the food reaches a certain level of being satisfying for the consumer, fulfililng their needs for flavor and nutrition, what they buy largely becomes a factor of price. Obviously, from the number of hamburgers sold at McDonalds each year, for a huge number of consumers, the food is good enough. They just want it cheap. Their attempts at making more "upscale" items for their menu is not truly an attempt to keep these customers, it's an attempt to grow their customer base and gain customers who go to places like Red Robin, TGI Friday's, and Chili's, as Carl's Jr has tried to do with their $6 burger campaign (which won some award, I think).

Let's start by getting people hamburgers, hot dogs, and sodas that don't suck. Right now, the hamburgers being served at McDonald's and Burger King are awful. If people are choosing them over good hamburgers, that's not fulfillment of any sort of natural craving for fatty bloody meat -- it's as a result of deadened coopted palates. The hot dogs most people buy in the supermarket just aren't good, but for hardly any more money you can get hot dogs that are quite delicious. Sodas made with corn syrup cost a few cents less per gallon but don't taste nearly as good as sodas sweetened with cane sugar.

Oh, boloney (not the processed meat). See, there's the food snobbery. Obviously it's not awful to the people who are eating it. It's good enough. Relatively speaking, there are very few of us who really give a damn about food like this. Even my wife who has been the beneficiary of my cooking every night, my insistence on only going to the best restaurants in their cuisines, and so on, when it comes down to it, can't tell the difference in quality between Oscar Meyer, Vienna Beef, or a gourmet house-made frankfurter. Hell, for most people, the main flavor they'll taste is their French's and Heinz 57 anyway.

After the Cook's Illustrated and Consumer Reports tastings of vanilla ice creams came out, I did a tasting with several friends and my wife. Of those, only I could be accused of being a foodie or food snob or whatever you want to call it. But for several of the people, vanilla was their favorite flavor of ice cream. We did blind tastings one after the other trying to cleanse our palates between. It was a fun summer afternoon diversion after bbq. It was like pulling teeth to get them to distinguish between the flavors. Only one really bombed (Haagen Daz) and the others (Tillamook, Breyers, Dreamery, and Ben & Jerry's) all finished very near each other. A bunch and 8s and 9s out of 10. To me, there were clear difference between all of them. Once you find out, though, that Breyers, and especially Tillamook, are much cheaper per pound, there was no question which they would have bought. What's so important about them being educated to my way of seeing food that they have to spend twice as much or more for ice cream when right now, they can barely tell the difference? What's clearly better to a food snob is not clearly better to the average Joe.

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Its not just Rick Bayliss who has sold his soul to BK. It seems that Ms. Ray has as well. Now granted, she isn't on the board of the Chef's Collaborative. But I still find it disturbing. Maybe this is how she survives on $40 a day in an expensive city. :laugh::raz:

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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But look at how low (and for how long) places like Burger King and McDonald's have kept their prices.

They have not kept their prices low: do you think $5.49 is a low price for a puny 4 ounce burger, an order of fries, and two cents worth of soda? If so, how does In-N-Out burger charge so little for fresh meat and cut-on-premises fries?

  That can only be done with increases in productivity when there's inflation.  Fast Food Nation details the method the fries are prepared pretty well. And what I gleaned from that is a) how well it keeps things consistent from store to store, ie, there is always a minimum level of quality, and b) how much it saves McDonald's, which means lower prices for consumers.

Thay have not maintained consistency: McDonald's and Burger King are quite inconsistent from store-to-store. Though I was very young back in the days when they made superior food, I remember more consistency then than now.

And how much does it save to go through all that processing at Simplot with lasers and pneumatic potato-cannons instead of just shipping potatoes to the stores, cutting them into fries with a cutting machine, and frying them? A few cents per order?

I don't think you're giving adequate weight to how important price is for the consumer.  Once the food reaches a certain level of being satisfying for the consumer, fulfililng their needs for flavor and nutrition, what they buy largely becomes a factor of price.

A few pennies don't make a difference to a consumer who buys just a few units of something a week. Those pennies make a difference to the corporation that sells millions of units a week. That's why, just to save a few pennies per item, fast food has gone from being something that could be good to something that is mostly terrible. And that's also an opportunity -- but nobody will really grab that opportunity without a public that's willing to embrace it.

Oh, boloney (not the processed meat).  See, there's the food snobbery.  Obviously it's not awful to the people who are eating it.  It's good enough.  Relatively speaking, there are very few of us who really give a damn about food like this.

I fail to see how trying to show people that good food is better than bad food is food snobbery. We're not talking about replacing hamburgers with caviar. We're talking about replacing bad hamburgers with good hamburgers. People can be shown that difference, and they can be shown it at 99 cents a pound. The snobbery comes in believing they can't be taught -- that somehow people who have acquired the taste for good food are inherently superior. We are not. We're just lucky. And we should share it with as many people as possible.

And people like Rick Bayless should know better than to make a bad situation worse.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I fail to see how trying to show people that good food is better than bad food is food snobbery. We're not talking about replacing hamburgers with caviar. We're talking about replacing bad hamburgers with good hamburgers. People can be shown that difference, and they can be shown it at 99 cents a pound. The snobbery comes in believing they can't be taught -- that somehow people who have acquired the taste for good food are inherently superior. We are not. We're just lucky. And we should share it with as many people as possible.

It's food snobbery because they don't see it as bad food. Ask them. Nearly all my friends and family are the opposite of food snobs. My most long-standing friend, a guy I've known since elementary school, is a lover of the whopper. It's only been recently surpassed in his estimation by some burger at Carl's Jr or Jack in the Box, not sure which, that has chili. He used to keep cheese slices in his glove compartment so he could get whoppers and add his own cheese. It's food snobbery because it seems inconceivable to you that these guys like it. Hell, I used to like it. I remember driving with my friend and whenever they had the 99 cent whopper special we'd get two each. I knew what home burgers tasted like. We had them at least once a week at home. Him, too. People poor like I was growing up know hamburger. You have it in all its incarnations -- tacos, meatloaf, hamburgers, etc -- along with a lot of chicken. I can still remember liking it as well or better for whatever reason.

I have two young brothers, 12 and 9, more than 18 years younger than me. I visit them often in California. They have In-n-Out, Jack in the Box, Burger King, Carl's Jr, and several other options. They've had them all. Price isn't even an issue for them. For fries they like McDonald's and for other stuff they like Jack in the Box. And they prefer any of them to the numerous places I've tried to introduce them to -- in protestation to my attempts at "educating" them.

I was actually discussing this subject about a month or so ago with my only friend who's into food as much or more than I am. He has a nephew who is 13, I think. He takes him to all the top places in Dallas, to all the best bbq, soul/southern food places, taquerias, Mexican, etc. He was lamenting to me that after all these attempts at "educating" his nephew, invariably, whenever he asks where he wants to go, the kid says McDonald's. Price isn't an issue. Cuisine isn't an issue. He can have whatever he wants wherever he wants and he chooses McDonald's.

I'm not saying these people are less than me because they are stupid or genetically inferior. It's just different fo them. They may be lovers of modern jazz music or abstract art or comic books, I don't know. These are all things that they may think I'm an idiot for not loving and that I need to be educated. I guess you could make a fair argument for that. But I just think different people have different things that they like. These are issues of taste and habit more than anything.

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It's food snobbery because they don't see it as bad food.

I'm not sure, then, what you mean by the word "snobbery." The way I understand the word, there is nothing snobbish at all about being in favor of quality and about trying to convey that conviction to other people. A snob regards others as inferior; a snob believes in his own superiority. In this context, it would seem to me that snobbery would be associated with the belief that people can't learn to appreciate quality -- thus they are somehow inferior. If a physicist says I'm ignorant about physics, I'm not going to call him a snob -- he's just telling the truth. If he says everything I say about physics is completely idiotic, he's probably right -- too bad for me; if I call him a snob for that I'm just wrong. If he says I'm incapable of learning anything about physics because I'm somehow inferior, well, at that point he's a snob.

Is Rick Bayless a snob -- and let's assume for a moment that he believes his own propaganda -- for saying over and over again that this Burger King sandwich is "a step in the right direction"? Of course not. Believing in a right direction and a wrong direction isn't snobbish; it's principled (unless you purposely get the directions reversed, in which case it's unprincipled). The guy is a chef. He knows people look to him for food knowledge, and that on some level they want to learn something or they wouldn't be watching him. He knows part of his job is to help people differentiate good from bad, not to say they can't learn to tell. He's a tastemaker, not a snob. That he has betrayed his audience by selling them crap doesn't change the fundamental nature of the dynamic: knowledge, and the desire to share that knowledge, just isn't snobbery.

And there's nothing wrong, in the end, with wanting to eat crap sometimes. For whatever reason, a rational person who knows lots about food may very well want to eat a Burger King burger once in awhile. But let that be an informed choice, not a fait accompli.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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logic aside, i can't help but think that egullet, in some way, on a personal level, is pissed off at rick. call me silly.

i think a lot of this anti-bayless rhetoric is nonsense, and certainly not applicable to those outside of the "CC", but this whole discussion seems strangely personal.

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I don't think that Rick Bayless has made a bad situation worse. I don't think he's made it any better. I do think that he believes he's made it better.

And then again, maybe he has.

While I know that there is no possibility I would find that sandwich acceptable, I have also realized that my opinion about it is irrelevant. I know nothing about fast food and could not make a valid comparison between it and similar sandwiches.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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