Good, clean and fair does not always equal quality

I briefly touched on something similar before, but over at Serious Eats, Ed Levine nails it

I am so down with the food revolution you have no idea. It’s just that I think it’s high time we realize and acknowledge that good intentions and responsible stewardship, and even passion, are not by themselves enough when it comes to making great artisanal food.

You need three things:

Experience: Which means time allowing for lots of trial and error and sufficient apprentice time
Time: To understand how to make it good
Knowledge: That is, you have to know how to do something, and when it’s delicious

Alice, say hello to Michelle

Ironically, where Alice Waters doesn’t quite grasp how to relate to the masses–by encouraging them to eat better on the terms they can afford–in today’s New York Times, Michelle Obama actually seems to.

…sitting in her office in the East Wing, Mrs. Obama stressed that she doesn’t want people to feel guilty if they don’t have the time to have a garden: there are still many small changes they can make.

“You can begin in your own cupboard by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables,” she said.

It’s not Nikes vs heirloom grapes, it’s food vs hunger.

With Slow Food constantly taking a hit for being elitist, I feel a great opportunity was lost to further our cause as I watched in horror while Alice Waters cooked her “quick” breakfast on 60 Minutes.

If food is a right–and I believe it is–how can we can we, as Slow Food co-leaders, defend our stance, when even our most outspoken leaders are accentuating these points of elitism? The average American does not make a quick breakfast of a fireplace baked egg and heirloom tomato salad, and the image or thought that they would is completely absurd.

Using the same ingredients, we would have been better served having her cook a breakfast of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and chives. Now that’s a meal most any American can cook, and the bonus: it doesn’t require a lavishly expensive home with a kitchen fireplace. It just requires a stove.

Reviewing Reviewing

A restaurant gets a mediocre review, and the critic and reviewing get a well-stated review back (too).

Interesting points are raised in the latter about the change in reviewing as mainstream media competes with new media to get the scoop.

Locally, we could replace Dirt Candy with Mattingly Brewing Company, and gas with beer.  Sure, Mattingly wasn’t right to open up and call themselves a brewery before they had beer flowing freely from their taps, but reviewing them before it was doesn’t seem particularly right–or beneficial–either.

Antibiotics

Array

And because I know it will get lost in the bottom of my ridiculously long previous post and I want people to discuss it…

People want meat from animals that haven’t been treated with antibiotics. Why? There’s a big difference between treating a sick animal and feeding an animal antibiotics as a rule to prevent them from getting sick in the first place.

To paraphrase Claverach’s, Sam Hilmer (who is in fact organic—though not legally because it’s pricey): “People are so concerned with all this organic business–and whether their meat is organically fed—but you’ve never met an organic human.”

Discuss…

Ramblings and a Line Cook Letter

Picture 2.jpgIt’s hard to imagine, but it’s been almost a decade since I was a legitimate full time cook in a restaurant. I’ve worked in a country club more recently–part time–but that doesn’t really count as I was doing mostly brunch because I found it to be fun. Whether it’s my current occupational choice or not, however, I think about it every day, and I’ve always considered myself closer to the back of the house and general restaurant staff, then all the butts in seats dining away in the front.

I find myself drawn more to cook-oriented cookbooks, blogs, websites, etc then the those that carry on about the latest trends, or that delicious paella Alton Brown erroneously made with one of the pots that was allowed to hang around in his kitchen because it didn’t serve only one purpose.

Possibly the most thoughtful of the former version is linecook415.blogspot.com

I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s permanently linked to over there somewhere ->

If you’re a cook or a chef and you’re reading it and not shaking your head in utter agreement at least 90% of the time–you fail. In my eyes anyway… If you’re not reading it (regardless of your restaurant affiliation), you should. It’ll give you a greater appreciation, respect, or whatever you prefer to call it for what’s going on in the kitchen.

Today I mention it because it’s no longer just a blog.

Read the rest of this entry »

If spring is the culinary New Year, let’s make a resolution to make shit happen

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If everyone shuts up and plays nice, how will we ever get there?

It’s damn nice outside and spring is in the air. It’s a time for new beginnings in the food world so today seems as good a day as any to take a crack at dusting off my keyboard and actually writing something to post onto what has become a rarely posted to website.

Lately, I’ve actually thought a lot about the name stlbites.com and, I honestly don’t know if it’s the most accurate title for what’s been on my mind. The viewpoints are certainly from a St. Louis perspective–as I live in St. Louis–but many are about issues that people are faced with nationwide as Americans awareness of food continues to blossom.

When I am thinking locally, however, the issues are leaving me pretty fired up, and my pretty fired up can get offensive.

As a result, there are some seriously long blog posts that simply sat in the draft bin as I became increasingly unhappy with the output as I tried to water it down so as to not (a) offend anyone with the overall tone of the opinion being expressed or (b) not offend someone by dropping an F-bomb or two.

The latter is something some in my family believed I should not do—and made me feel bad when I did. The former seems to have happened gradually over time because of self-censorship. So many St. Louis food folks seem to know who I am now–some of which I respect greatly and count amongst my friends. That’s made it difficult to sometimes be as honest as I’d like to be whether it’s something like talking about a friend who’s fallen off their A-game or, a friend of a friend who never had one in the first place.

So the new deal—as much as possible–is this: fuck censorship (sorry Dad)

I have strong opinions about some things and, apparently, those opinions counted for something or nobody would have read what I had to say in the first place. Those opinions might not be popular, and they might just offend you in content or tone, but it’s the truth as I see it. Unless you want to debate it publically, I don’t care what you think. My name has always been attached to this webpage, I don’t delete comments unless they’re rival businesses slamming each other, and I’ve always been open to having my mind changed with a persuasive argument.

All of this does not mean, however, that I’m going to publically bash every chef in town when they whip up a bad dish—or even a bad stretch of dishes. Shit—after all–does happen. But it does mean I’m going to try and get back in touch with why I started doing this in the first place. Ultimately, it was my being pissed off about what I saw in the St. Louis food scene.

Certainly, the opinions and food coverage are much better than they were when I first started posting here but, overall, they continue to placate and coddle instead of telling it precisely how it is and pushing people to do better.

We have one seriously long way to go before we get to where we need to be and, if everyone is too afraid to tell someone they’re just good, how can they ever hope to truly be great?

Grant Achatz on The Atlantic

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I’m not totally sure what to think about the phenomenon of Twitter. On one hand, I think it’s a lot of self-important people embracing their own self-importance and spewing out 140 word snippets of information that they’re convinced people care about. But, on the other hand, I know how difficult editing a thought down to 140 words can be. Those people that actually have information of value are putting it out their in bite-sized morsels for the world to embrace meaning that, at it’s best, it’s like getting a live-streaming glimpse of a person’s journal as they jot down their thoughts and ideas.

That said, I was peer-pressured into using Twitter a few months back and, while I haven’t really embraced it myself as I’m still not convinced of its usefulness (it’s an awful lot like high-tech stalking), I have started following a few food-related tweets–amongst them Grant Achatz’s (@Gachatz) who today sent a tweet that he’s now writing for The Atlantic.

Gachatz: posting2-3 times a week. State of modern cooking IMO, then into inspiration from travels. Then 12-15 new ideas. http://food.theatlantic.com/

While that might not be St. Louis specific food news–meaning I’ll continue my reign as the “former St. Louis food blogger”–it’s news worth sharing, and it’s a lot nicer than most of the stuff running through my mind about food lately.