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"What is the Sound of One Hand Shopping?"


Pontormo
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While I can deeply appreciate the point you make about "educating" the palate of the people to finer, healthier foods (and can also deeply appreciate why this should be very important) I don't think that a satire on the "Everyday American's Diet" of canned and frozen, dead and chemically altered. . .would sell at all to any newspaper in the country, Rancho Gordo.

There is something about satire that can be amusing to the public only if it is not too deadly serious about real problems that we as a society face.

People who are stuck in a maze of something that perhaps they sense might be wrong in some way but who can not figure out a way out of it, as the average consumer of the foods you speak of might be, the regular guy, the family down the street. . .they are too easy a target for satiric writing as it might be presumed that in some ways they are already a target in some vague sense. Doesn't seem fair play.

But elitism is a choice.

Fair play.

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I'm not telling how many kinds of salt are in my cupboard but I will confess to carrying salt and pepper mills in my purse at all times, still I can laugh along with my friends who make fun of me for doing so. And then ask if they can borrow them.

I am reminded, though, of Balsamic Dreams. That book was so filled with self-loathing (the baby boomer generation) that I wasn't sure I was going to keep reading it from page to page. I kept thinking "my friends aren't like this...maybe it's just the east coast?" I did finish it but have never decided if I like Joe Quinlan or pity him.

And I'm with you, Rancho. Life is too short to spend at the Olive Garden. If that marks me an elitist snob, so be it. I can live with it.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I was more thinking it was the avoidance of things lacking in quality/beauty (as in the Olive Garden example) :wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Elitism and the search for quality and/or beauty are two different things, though.

Absolutely true. Thank you for putting my point far more succinctly than I was able to. :biggrin:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I think it's an indication of "our country [having] a serious problem separating entertainment from news" that you just compared the Op-Ed page of the Grey Lady to the Daily Show.  :laugh:

That was intentional, you know. :wink:

Oh, I know! But just being able to mention them in the same breath - the whole thing cracks me up! :biggrin:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I think it's quite possible to enjoy Rakoff's piece (and yes, I have read it) and also appricate and understand Alice Water's work. Being able to laugh at yourself is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

However, I thought the PBS 'American Masters' show about Alice Waters was about 10 times as funny as Rakkof's piece (the bit with Peter Sellar's and the two tomatoes was one of the funniest things I have seen this year).

Edited by VeryApe77 (log)
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I tried reading this guy one time and found him way too whiney and self-centered to stick with for very long. Who knows, maybe I just picked the wrong to essays to start, but I know David Sedaris; David Sedaris is a friend of mine....

That being said, even granted that we eGulleteers are 90% perfect, there's enough accumulated food snobbery in this board support a small novel, much less a single essay. Inability to recognize our own imperfections, and to laugh at them, is a bad sign.

And beyond our own nearly perfect selves, there's the rest of the world. I was talking to noted food writer Steven Shaw last night about a related subject and he said "it's the same at every restaurant: 10% of the people appreciate the meal," the rest of them are just showing off, enjoying the reflected glitter of a celebrity chef, were dragged there when all they really wanted was a pizza -- or enjoying the warm glow that comes with showing off your own good taste.

So, ouside the eGulleters at tables 18 and 22, a fourtop of of sincere foodies who saved months to dine at CP, and the clueless tourists still wondering why they can't get "Chateubriand pour Deux" at a place with "Chez" in its name, there's likely plenty of satirical material to be had.

Edited to take AW herself out of the mix.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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So, ouside the eGulleters at tables 18 and 22, a fourtop of of sincere foodies who saved months to dine at CP, and the clueless tourists still wondering why they can't get "Chateubriand pour Deux" at a place with "Chez" in its name, there's likely plenty of satirical material to be had.

Have you been to Chez Panisse?

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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There's a new thrill in putting down what are perceived as food snobs, isn't there? The dining room described does not resemble the Chez Panisse I've been to. Maybe if Alice Waters had just shut up and we had continued out downward spiral towards crappy food, we'd all be a lot better off.

It's probably a lot of fun to put down the culinary extremists but from the travelling around our great country that I've done, the much bigger problem is the way the average American eats. And looks as a result of this "diet". We've got a long way to go and I think describing the flavors one gets with a box of Tuna Casserole from aisle 6 is much funnier and more worthy of parody than someone who insists on fresh vegetables.

I don't think he has a problem with genuine, honest-to-god foodies per se. I think what he is railing against is people who view food as just another tickbox on their "must appreciate" list. It's not so much that they enjoy good food in that they feel that they need to have good food and, thus, become absurdly picky about the minutae of bottled water. And he does have a point there, when we pick ice cubes like we used to pick doctors, you get this enormous sense that we have an entire class of absurdly wealthy people who have nothing to do with their days.

PS: I am a guy.

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So, ouside the eGulleters at tables 18 and 22, a fourtop of of sincere foodies who saved months to dine at CP, and the clueless tourists still wondering why they can't get "Chateubriand pour Deux" at a place with "Chez" in its name, there's likely plenty of satirical material to be had.

Have you been to Chez Panisse?

I have been. I had a wonderful meal.

I also own the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook and the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (but not the Chez Panisse Cookbook cookbook, if one exists).

Why do you ask?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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When I posted notice of the book review, my intentions were quite innocent.  I haven't read anything by the author and do enjoy clever, articulate writing...especially when the subject is close to my heart.  I had no idea comments would move in ways that would make anyone feel defensive.  Elitism is not always a bad thing.  (I for one agree with *Deborah* about grammar and the spelling of "its" and "it's.")

Indeed, elitism is not always a bad thing. And as I get paid to write--or try to as often as possible, these boards being one of the exceptions--I too am a stickler for grammar and usage and have been known to pick usage nits with other Netizens (in private, of course; to do so in a public forum is bad netiquette).

But--as others have said upthread--there is a difference between elitism and snobbery. I think many of us can distinguish between the insistence on high standards and the show-offy display of one's own superiority. Being a know-it-all type myself, I often tread along this line and sometimes cross it.

Never having eaten at Chez Panisse, or for that matter visited San Francisco--whose residents share with Boston's a conviction that they live in the absolutely finest city in America--I can't say whether Alice Waters invites satire or not; earnestness sometimes has a way of attracting people eager to poke fun at it. But I also appreciate similarly minded people here in Philadelphia, such as Judy Wicks of the White Dog Cafe, who is a major backer of the Fair Food Project, which runs a farmstand every weekend at the Reading Terminal Market--one of the country's greatest public markets and a haven for lovers of good local foodstuffs--whose general manager is a friend of mine. (Just had to get in a six-degrees-of-separation game there. And I just engaged in behavior that can come off as snobbish, namely, name-dropping.)

Most of us do have a sense of humor and an ability to be self-depricating.  I hope we do.  There are aspects of culinary elitism that do seem excessive, but by golly, I know I am passionate and very humorless about things that matter to me....like Parmigiana Reggiano and farmers markets.

Should you find yourself in Philadelphia, a visit to the Reading Terminal Market is a must.

I'm oversimplifying with what follows, but as long as you don't shun a really good fast-food burger simply because it's served by a fast food chain, then I don't think you're afflicted with the disease some of us have diagnosed here.

I'm reminded here of a corny joke that conveys a similar sentiment: "Any society that accepts shoddy philosophy because philosophy is a noble calling, yet ignores excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a lowly trade, will not long survive, for neither its theories nor its pipes will hold water."

Yes, we need to care about the ways Americans eat.  I tried to raise interest in the illuminating (if very manipulatively produced) nature of reality television when it comes to this subject.  See the inaccurately titled "Wife Swapper" in this very forum.  Lots of members peeked, but only one of us bit.  I commented again on the topic in the (currently) final post on KC thread.  There might be a different way of approaching the topic.  Please do.

Which KC thread? Guess I need to check out the Heartland forum again.

I haven't been a member for very long, but I wonder if there has been a serious, thorough discussion here about Molly O'Neill's article, "Food Porn," most accessible perhaps in the most recent anthology of best food writing (2004) edited by Holly Hughes.  Would others be interested in taking a couple of weeks to find it, read it, and devote a thread to a discussion?

I would.

Perhaps we should let poor Mr. Rakoff be and hope that other critics will be supportive enough for him to bring home the bacon.  Shall we end this thread since it is no longer about his essay and take up some of the issues elsewhere?

One of the interesting things about conversation--on- or off-line--is that it can head off in any direction the participants wish to take it.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Have you been to Chez Panisse?

I have been. I had a wonderful meal.

I also own the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook and the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (but not the Chez Panisse Cookbook cookbook, if one exists).

Why do you ask?

It's just that the dining room you describe is nothing like the one I've experienced.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Have you been to Chez Panisse?

I have been. I had a wonderful meal.

I also own the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook and the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (but not the Chez Panisse Cookbook cookbook, if one exists).

Why do you ask?

It's just that the dining room you describe is nothing like the one I've experienced.

I was being a little facetious.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I've been meaning to ask what everyone WOULD recommend in lieu of Olive Garden? Without living in or constantly visiting each others' cities, how would you KNOW where to find good Italian? OG seems to be the top of the food chain (so to speak) in the list of what's everywhere, so I guess I'm asking how do you tell WHERE to go, and what might be delightful or authentic or even just acceptable?

Is the idea to shun OG on principle, on experience, on what-will-everyone-think grounds? I've been twice since we've lived here---my dear Daughter-In-Law likes it and chooses it for her birthday dinner on occasion, so we all go and have a wonderful time. And I was venturing to think we had a pretty good meal, until the great outcry showed me the error of my ways. (But I copied that tangy-tart vinaigrette and make it all the time).

Not every city has a Mario or a Lydia, and mere mention of Fazzoli's would bring on a Klingon discommodation ritual, so WHERE DO YOU ALL EAT???

Sheesh---you'd think we were going to Sandra Lee's for dinner.

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I love Chez Panisse, where I've dined enjoyably many times, and admire Alice Waters. That said, I thought the Rakoff riff on CP was funny. There IS a smug, holier-than-thou attitude that permeates all that sustainable organic anti-corporate blah blah blah that deserves to be skewered. AW's uncompromising purity of vision -- while admirable -- makes her an easy target. Maybe if she'd fess up to enjoying the occasional Costco hot dog or McNugget like the rest of us mortals it would make it harder for the satirists to nail her. But I suppose such human weakness isn't permissible: she's an icon for a movement; Organic Wonder Woman twirling in a patch of baby mache. Then again, she probably doesn't give a rat's ass that the Rakoff's make fun of her. She possesses The Truth.

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Rakoff (whose name invites a vulgar misspelling) chooses easy targets made easier by his indiscriminate lumping together of product and consumer. It's not inherently silly to prefer the taste of one water to another; it's ludicrous to pay large sums for it as an indicator of one's sophistication.

Chez Panisse was never intended to be a snob factory. In fact it was not even an end in itself, but a byproduct of a social movement. It began, not as an Alice Waters ego trip, but as a group effort which has become an extended family. It's financial structure is set up in such a way as to allow it to continue without its media-anointed figurehead; if Alice disppeared tomorrow it would probably be a long time before the diners noticed any difference.

“So many people misunderstand it because of all the hype,” says former pastry chef Lindsey Shere. “They expect it to be like a three-star restaurant, and that’s not what we are or ever have been.” Her husband Charles, still one of the directors, comments, “I think that the most interesting thing about Chez Panisse is how it works as a business, how the management is responsible to its workers.” Responding to a disappointed gastrosnob, he wrote,

The considerable attention given to Chez Panisse by the media has never been our idea; we don't go out looking for it. We feel it's unfortunate that people can't simply come to the restaurant for dinner and appreciate it on the two most important points: the ingredients, which we work very hard to find at their best, and the work that's expended on them in the kitchen, which we feel comes close to the best we can do. . . [T]hese two points are at the heart of our ambitions. . .

The quotes are from my brief Chez Panisse history.

When Rakoff makes a glibly saleable product of his own inverted snobbery, he ends up down in the trough alongside the other publicity hogs.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Mention was made previously about David Sedaris' writings.

Is he guilty of the same sin, therefore ending up "down in the trough alongside all the other publicity hogs", also?

Or does he shape what he does differently?

Is it possible to take on the subject of pride and prejudice (so to speak) that sits at the heart of snobbery that is then displayed in the ways we choose to live our daily lives. . .without ending up in this trough?

Or does the nature of the world make the trough just where one ends up in the doing of the thing.

I am not being facetious here. This is a serious question.

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Rakoff (whose name invites a vulgar misspelling) chooses easy targets made easier by his indiscriminate lumping together of product and consumer. It's not inherently silly to prefer the taste of one water to another; it's ludicrous to pay large sums for it as an indicator of one's sophistication.

Thank you, John, for making the point I--and some others on this thread--was trying to make far more succinctly than I could.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Is it possible to take on the subject of pride and prejudice (so to speak) that sits at the heart of snobbery that is then displayed in the ways we choose to live our daily lives. . .without ending up in this trough?

Or does the nature of the world make the trough just where one ends up in the doing of the thing.

We're talking about subjective personal reactions. For me, it's a matter of tone of address--what I gather of the writer's attitude. If I detect a snobbery equal to or even surpassing that of the object of scorn, it turns me off. I love good satire, even vituperation that is proportionate to its subject, coming from a mind whose quality I admire; if it's just a pot/kettle slanging match, I lose interest.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I have eaten at Chez Panisse on numerous occasions and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also think Alice herself has probably made observations similar to Rackoff's since she unintentionally ended up being a poster child for all things sustainable when she only wanted to do good and share good food and practices. After what Jeremiah Tower did to her in his expose, I doubt this satirical send-up would even ruffle her feathers.

Can't we all just get along? It's humor, folks. If you laugh, he's laughing with you. If you strike a defensive pose, he's laughing at you. Isn't all satire and most humor at someone's expense?

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Can't we all just get along?  It's humor, folks.  If you laugh, he's laughing with you.  If you strike a defensive pose, he's laughing at you.
In either case, it's all the way to the bank.
Isn't all satire and most humor at someone's expense?

Ours, if we buy the book.

I hadn't noticed anyone here getting particularly hot under the collar. Even in humor, it can be interesting to examine motivations--that is, if one is interested.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I haven't been a member for very long, but I wonder if there has been a serious, thorough discussion here about Molly O'Neill's article, "Food Porn," most accessible perhaps in the most recent anthology of best food writing (2004) edited by Holly Hughes.  Would others be interested in taking a couple of weeks to find it, read it, and devote a thread to a discussion?

I would.

As would I.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I haven't been a member for very long, but I wonder if there has been a serious, thorough discussion here about Molly O'Neill's article, "Food Porn," most accessible perhaps in the most recent anthology of best food writing (2004) edited by Holly Hughes.  Would others be interested in taking a couple of weeks to find it, read it, and devote a thread to a discussion?

I would.

As would I.

I will keep my eye out for the thread

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