Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quick thoughts......

Quick point: in a week of the MSM pointing out how crappy and unprofessional the blogosphere is…..and Keith Olberman and others going on about how Dick Cheney and Karl Rove conspired to politically fuck over the Klamath salmon run for Republican reasons, and cripple the fishing and restaurants for a thousand miles in all directions…..I reported that more than a year ago. Luckily, no one reads this blog.

In the midst of the Wedding Season, and in the midst of our famous Johnny Depp/Jack Kerouac film shoot……I got word that Mike Gravel was going to be in town.

Mike Gravel is running for President. Of the United States. Of America. Most folks have not heard of him….mostly because he has been pre-marginalized by the MSM……the mainstream media. At the Democratic debates he is chained to a podium way off on the right side of the stage. He is given odd, trivial questions, and not many of them, and given little time to answer, and is interrupted when he does try to answer. Wolf Blitzer barely condescends to notice him.

I noticed Mike Gravel. Years ago.

I am an old person….so I remember stuff from back in the day. A million years ago, I was a young, radical chef with bizarre, revolutionary ideas….living in a country with a runaway, narcissistic/delusional President, and a corrupt and over-reaching Justice Department that threatened our very basic Constitutional freedoms. The country was engaged in an awful, unwinnable war that was killing hundreds of my friends each month in a faraway place for no reason than the above mentioned narcissistic complex….and some corporate financial concerns.

Hard to imagine, I know…..but try to fantasize with me for a moment.

At a certain point, a courageous man got inside documents that laid out a long-term, illegal misinformation campaign by the government to foster and support the bad war. The Narcissist in Chief and his corrupt Justice Department tried to stop the publishing and dissemination of the material and came down hard on all the traditional publishers and news organizations.

A guy from Alaska….a Senator….. stood up, and cut the Administration off at the knees by reading into the Congressional Record every word of the material: The Pentagon Papers. Once in the Record, it was a publicly available resource, and Narcissist in Chief Richard Nixon could do nothing about it.

Little known fact…..on top of the immense political, legal and economic pressure on the Alaskan was another: he was dyslexic. His personal filibuster was preceded and accompanied by grueling hours with his staff, working out the logistics and details of a non-reader reading thousands of pages of words, all by himself.

Not long after, the same Alaskan, pretty much on his own…..took another step and ended the draft that had made the war possible.

That guy was Mike Gravel. I had to meet him.

The advance for Sen. Gravel was a line in the Herald with a phone number, and a few minutes on KRXA, our local communist radio station. I called the number, and spoke to a nice older lady with a gorgeous Southern accent.

No….she had no idea how many were coming. No…..she had decided not to charge a specific sum of money to attend….leave it to the people. No…..there was no food. She assumed people would bring things. No….there was no bar or wine…..people would probably bring things, don’t you think?

I fell in love with this wack job. We decided to cover her butt and bring wine, glasses, and at least some good smoked salmon. I wangled the last legal side of local wild fish from by brothas….and smoked it that morning for Big Mike.

Of course, we had other jobs. Fuck ‘em. I snuck out. At the party I was supposed to be working was Ed Leeper…a notorious artist and activist, and my unidicted co-conspirator in the Memorial Day Cross Episode. I kidnapped Ed, and we booked it for Monterey. “Ed, they will never miss us…”

Upon arrival:

Fucking Democrats. They were fully prepared to drink box wine out of styrene while listening to an arch-environmentalist. We brought organic wine and real glasses. People, we have to elevate the Public Discourse! If you are saving The Republic, you have to drink from a goddam glass.

Fucking Democrats. They had a little basket for “Donations”. Because each individual Democrat is on the Side of The Angels…they individually don’t have to give a nickel. Their presence alone is proof positive of their political purity.

Screw that. The Big Guy was giving us seven hours of his time (2.5 hrs each way from SF, two hours on site….and only smoked salmon to show for it. Not to mention the rent-a-car, gas, etc.) Baby needs new shoes, dammit! I picked up the basket, tossed in a Franklin, and brutalized each guest for cash.

“No, ma’am. Dead Presidents are OK….but we are looking for Dead Progressives. See that Franklin in there? It takes five Dead Presidents to equal one Dead Progressive if you are talking Jackson…..and don’t talk to me about Kennedy…..”

I think I got a couple grand out of the crew. My friend Vinz….the last decent Democrat on Earth….pointed out that there should be some kind of forms to make the checks legal. Sen. Gravel’s advance team should have them…..

Mike Gravel has no advance team. He has himself, his wife, and a press guy. Vinz went upstairs and ran off some forms on Microsoft Word, just to try to keep everyone out of jail with Scooter.

Last reporting period….when John Edwards came in a disappointing third with only $15 million…..Mike Gravel also took in 15……thousand dollars. He was overdrawn $900 on his personal account.

Because he has a message. Get the citizens back in the chase. End the war. Get health care for everyone. Restore the moral high ground.

Mike had just come down from San Francisco….the first Presidential Candidate to ever ride in the Gay Pride Parade. Any Gay Pride Parade, actually.

One of my victims in my shakedown was a college student: “Dude, I am a college student….I don’t have any money.”

“I don’t give a shit. You have the most to lose here. Give me your dough!”

He opened his wallet. “Dude, I have a dollar bill and a condom. Which do you want?”

“Gimme the buck. That condom may come in handy at an Obama event.”

I took my stash over to the Senator, and gave him my report. “Sir, I am the token Republican here, so I am doing the collecting. Most of these pricks gave a little, but that college kid there gave everything he had. It was either his last dollar….or his last condom. I took the dollar.”

Mike Gravel gave me a big grin, reached into his pocket and pulled out a Gay Pride Condom.

“They were handing these out at the Parade. I can’t think of a better guy to have it. Give this to the kid, with my compliments and my best wishes!”

Think about it. Which candidate can you think of that could pull off a casual, normal, mildly humorous move like this? Hillary is not coming to the Gay Pride Parade, and she is not pocketing condoms….much less handing them back out to college kids. Or anyone else, except maybe Dennis Kucinich. Picture the outcry.

What have we come to? I want a President like this guy. Smart, gutsy, ironic, informed, passionate. And, utterly fearless.

Mike Gravel is a veteran politician with a simple message. He has the courage of his convictions beyond all reason, and he has a proven track record of the results of standing up for his convictions….and we are all the better for them. No waffling. No focus groups. No handlers.

This is a guy who may have no chance in the election, but whose voice needs to be heard. His mere presence on the stage at the “debates” shows them to be the sham that they are. He and Kucinich and Edwards are the few saying, absolutely….End the Fucking War. Now.

Mike Gravel is right now about $200 from making the cut for Federal Matching Funds to stay in the race in Massachusetts. Chump change.

Don’t believe me….Go to the website. Check out his story. If you know anyone in the crucial states….especially Massachusetts….think about including them in this dialogue.

If you think some other guy is hot shit.....picture them handing a college kid a condom they got at the Gay Pride Parade.

Enough said.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Perfect Employee....

First.....I must cringe and apologize to the world at large, and Fresno culture in particular.

Last post I was grunting about our new client who wanted piles of food, including twice baked potatoes. I speculated about sending the Rio Grill illegals over with their heaps o' grease.

Brendan and I had a long heart-to-heart about what to do. Real food we do well, or Pretend Food From The Jetson's Kitchen?

We decided that we would do real food. The major deciding factor was that the New Dude himself had booked the party, not his wife. He may not know how to run the pool skimmer, either.....why should he necessarily know how to run the caterer?

Fact in point: Mr. Hatfield, our dearest, most easy-going guy.....has only ever booked one party himself: his own birthday party. He had a few key hors d'oeuvres, iceberg wedgie salad with blue cheese dressing, filet and potatoes......and maybe pie and ice cream for dessert. Mrs. H, who would never stoop to condescension.....laughed and went along for the ride. Normally, she takes care of the visuals.....matching the shape and color of the plates to the texture and color of the food.....and the guests, and the flowers. We are in awe, and clueless. Like Helen Keller directing a film shoot. We are not Martha Stewart, we are Jimmy Stewart.

Meanwhile........Iceberg wedgie. Go with it.....if it makes the big guy happy, we are happy. And meanwhile we about shit ourselves trying to make a decent blue-cheese dressing......

Aficionados will note the immediate appearance after the birthday party of The Blue Cheese Wedgie every week on our Monday Dinner menu.....and the best selling item, even against Brendan's bizzare, cool, high-tech salads. Named for Mr. H, of course. Naturally, we fly the blue cheese in from some obscure place in Wisconsin.....but we are capable of learning......and capable of culinary humility. There is a royalty check probably waiting for Mr. H.......

We also remembered a famous rehearsal dinner. We met the bride and groom at Holman Ranch one fall day and talked about doing something in the spring. The wedding was to be at The Beach Club, and was full on Bridezilla-Land.

We heard nothing back from them and gave it up for lost. Come spring, the groom calls us up on a Tuesday and says: "Are we all set? It looks like about 175 people."

Sure......No problem.

The guy was clueless, and had put zero thought into ''his'' part of the wedding. Meanwhile, at the Beach Club staff were suicidal under the crushing weight of the detail coming from the future Mrs. X.

We pulled our food thing together....Easy: just don't serve anything the Beach Club is serving. No problem: avoid frozen farm salmon, commercial beef, and things in cans. Still, it occurred to us that we had to break form and step up to deal with the details: the table decorations, linen, lighting, etc.

With only a TINY bit of irony and passive-aggression, I had Anne at Flowers, Ltd make us twenty centerpieces using size 14, black, high-top, Chuck Taylor All Stars basketball shoes as a base. It was a huge hit.....well, maybe not with the bride. She had a well-functioning irony meter.

Anyway.....on Sunday, we decided to ignore the host and just do our own thing. We broke the meal up into four courses! This is craziness in Pebble Beach. Akin to wearing seersucker after Labor Day.

There are rules in Pebble, established over three generations: Guests arrive on the dot. The second hand sweeps the 12 of the assigned minute, and the doorbell rings. Cocktails last 58 minutes.....max. Dinner must be served by eight o' Dinner must be over by 10 o' No one eats a single thing until they have had half a drink. Three hors d'oeuvres, max. The "Tom Lowary Rule" is in effect at all times......."Michael. Sometimes I go to a party. I walk in and give them my coat....and I have to wait twenty or thirty seconds for a drink! I ask myself: 'What the hell am I doing here?'"

Hors d'oeuvres must be bite. The must not self-destruct and fall. They must not drip. They must not stain carpets or dresses. They must not be crunchy bread! (We beat our interns senseless until they get just the right toast on the croutons.....).

Dinner is three courses: a salad or soup; entrée with veg and potato; dessert.

This all worked fine for years and years. People did not have much to say, and the food was bland and the system ran like a well-oiled watch.

Recently we started noticing changes. People interested in the appetizers.....and they only eat one of each. People on weird diets. Gotta have 8-10, minimum.....and sneak them by the hostess.

Then, people started actually talking and hanging out over dinner. Sometimes they stayed until 11! They enjoyed the meal and each other's company....Crazy, I know.

Brendan rebelled first: "Why pile the food on the entrée plate and have this confused mountain of food that just gets cold before they finish? Break it up into courses." Our service is crack....we can serve four or five courses in the space of the old three with no problem.

Still, no one would buy in. Until....the new guy. His wife was out of town....he booked it with his secretary. We are the new guys......Screw it. Let's do it right and get fired.

Meanwhile the guests were kind of scary: Bollywood film star; jazz loving Oscar winning film guy; famously cranky old-school California Democrat leader. Mr. and Mrs. H!!!

So, we did a salad first course. We gave him a break and used actual lettuce and made a recognizable salad. We snuck in roasted baby beets,though!

We found local salmon and served it over farro, with laboriously cleaned baby artichoke hearts....stem and all...from the Odello Ranch. Everyone thought that was the entrée......"Where is the beef?"

"What? Fish AND beef? Four courses?"

Brendan insisted on serving the beef on his rectangular plates. He used a Michel Bras recipe: cut the filets and line them with poached bacon before roasting; thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes laid together and roasted to make long ribbons....

We went back to ranch basics with Gardiner's Tennis Ranch apricot souflées for dessert......passing them Russian style and bringing out more and more like the Sorcerer's Apprentice......

Result: a winner. The boss was thrilled. The gamble worked. We got in four courses and everybody got back to the jetport on time for the flight home. The boss recognized and appreciated all our weird nuances. I stand corrected for my pessimism and sarcasm. As the nuns say: "To ASSUME is to make an ASS out of U and ME...."

Meanwhile....back to the point.

Yesterday we did another NATO party on the beach at Carmel. We call it NATO because often there are squads of NATO generals and admirals at these deals. Or Pakistani and Indian generals and admirals. Our client is an NPS guy with a goal to try to stop the next war now by bringing divergent groups together......and getting them fucked up on the beach around a bonfire with our food and some big cigars.

It runs to more than 100 folks. The table talk is about living in the tribal areas of Pakistan, or the food in Pyongyang. And it is on the it is a bitch.

Tables and chairs. Plates and silver and glass. Linens. Flowers. All dragged down the 23 steps and out onto the sand. Only the hard core can do it......and the hard core are sick and tired by a Tuesday in the summer.

So.....Brendan got a new guy, George. George is the friend of a friend from Madera and recently quit his long-term job. George can't find work in the construction biz.....not so many white guys at the entry George is fresh bait for me and my Beach Parties.

George arrives on time, neat and ready to go. Fit, handsome, intelligent, ironic, cheerful. He charged the three or four tons of equipment an lumped it down to the beach with a big smile. He looked good in the chef uniform....and rolled with all the punches and conflicting demands of our gig: "Cut this.....No! Exactly like this!" "Fix that!" "Build a fire!" "Set up two Webers....and don't get dirty!" "Pass these trays, smile and be smart!" "Take the puppy for a walk!"

George did it all, and kept smiling.......

At ten, the bus comes.....and the admirals and generals go. We start lumping the shit back off the beach and up the stairs. George is right there, but I notice he is limping. Aw, shit.....I hope he didn't overdo it and screw himself up.....

"George...did you hurt your leg? Take it easy, dude."

"No....I did this on my last gig. I stepped in a hole running through the desert last knee is all fucked up. I am used to it."

Running through the desert? What job has you RUN through the desert?

Turns out George is just back from Iraq. He was a fireman, but wound up working at an airbase in Bumfuck, Iraq. Every week the insurgents would get their new coordinates and start mortaring the base and machine-gunning dudes, so they had to move the base constantly. Not far...just a few hundred yards. The base was an airstrip made up of giant steel plates camlocked together on the sand. George's job was to continually breakdown and rebuild an airstrip in the middle of the desert under constant mortar fire. "Every day was a gunfight. A gunfight in the the 120 degree heat.....building shit."

George's injury to his knee was ignored by the Army....and it just got worse and worse until he rotated out. George might get sent back....but right now he allows as how he would rather go to prison than go back. "Iraq is hell......literally hell......" This is coming from a guy from fucking Madera, California for chrissakes.......

George has been back for two months. He has not yet even found the right channel to begin to process his medical file: the knee.....oh, and the nightmares and all that normal PTSD stuff. He blushes and looks away as he mentions this as an aside.

He can't find work. All the construction crews are booked out with illegals making $10-12 an hour. Even a highly skilled, extremely fit, FUCKING IRAQ VETERAN is working for me chopping veggies and lumping boxes on the beach......on a bum knee.

And smiling......still.

In George we built a warrior. An honest-to-God, handsome, smart, resourceful, experienced.....and like Ulysses, when he got back to Ithaca....his house is full of bums eating his food, drinking his wine, and trying to screw his wife.

Regardless of the correctness of the mission we built this guy for......there has to be a better way. This is criminal.

Don't close Guantanamo yet.....I have some ideas for new tenants.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

California Gold

Last weekend, we were off....thanks to the blog. The mom of the bride thought our attitude towards the President was disgraceful, and cancelled three weeks out. Try getting a June wedding on three weeks notice......this side of Las Vegas. We are low on Elvis impersonators.

So....I was stoked to have a Saturday off. Pressure wash the deck. Finish the glass block wall. Move the fish smoker. Turn the compost. Plant the cardoons. Send bills for last fall's parties? Naaaaa.

Then the phone rang. A nice lady died. The heirs wanted to meet about a wake. Saturday morning in Cachagua.


OK....see you at the store at 10am.

Wakes are a special deal. One can't seem to be to happy the loved one has passed.....or too bummed to ruin the party. You can't put on the dog with the anticipated proceeds of the will......but you can't seem ungrateful or unloving.

We do wakes at cost....from this weird idea that food service is just that......a service. When people are stuck needing food.....we should serve them.

So....I met with the folks. For an hour at the Store. Then proceeded up en masse to the house in Asoleado. A sun-scorched condo-cabin with an astroturf putting green laden with fox shit. Wow.

In the situation....there is only so much one can do. No kitchen, intense heat, no shade. Hydration, shade, and sweeping up the fox shit are number one. Food: simple soon as possible. Granny was raised on a sheep farm in Mendocino? Niman Ranch lamb.....not a problem.

Of course we already have a wedding that day.....but one can't leave the bereft in the lurch. Who else is going to do a lunch on a sun-fried mountain in Cachagua on a Saturday in June on ten days notice? We must serve the people.

We make the deal: lots of organic lemonade and jamaica tea; umbrellas for shade; Heller wine, since the house is staring at the vineyard across the Valley; the Niman Ranch lamb; Vicki to come and buff out the fox shit a day early; rentals and deliveries on Friday, so no one is all sweaty and worried; guests to park at the Store and get hydrated before shuttling up the hill. Did I mention that it has been 105 in Cachagua the last three days? Last year it was so hot at one wedding that the force of the sun's rays throught the wineglasses piled on the bar set the tablecloth on fire.......Well, 60-40 poly-cotton Visa material....but it melted the shit out of it. No matter....all is good, the deal is done. Thank you very much.

I got home at 1pm. Three and a half hours gone in the middle of a Saturday for a $2,000 wake at cost. Oh, well. No wall, no compost, no deck. I did plant cardoons.

Monday afternoon, I get a call from the sister who was not at the meeting. "We need to meet with you again. We have some questions. What about tomorrow?"

We have 100 reservations for dinner that night. It is 105. I have already blown off a day off and four hours for this thing. "No. Email me or we can talk on the phone. This isn't rocket science.... it is a buffet at cost.....we already have it all set. I am not coming in on my first day off in four months to talk about a party that is already booked. This is wedding season, and we already met for four hours. Sorry."

Crazy chick. What is this, Madonna's wedding? Is someone allergic to jamaica? Do I need to coordinate the color of the linens to the astroturf?

I order the rentals, and call the Ranch to have the lambs slaughtered.

So......we move to Thursday. Market Day. Appointments all day long: 10:15 doctor; noon, nice man with possible kitchen in town; 2pm rich lady in Pebble Beach with giant crazy house; 3pm Farmer's Market; 4pm Wharf for the last three wild salmon in Christendom; 6pm fix Granma's computer......Did I mention 5:45 pm bottle of Gruet from Rancho Cellars for Granma?

I check my email from Granma's: The crazy chick has fired us. "Good luck with your busy wedding season."

What? Now what do I do with the dead lambs? And the rentals I pried out of an angry German chick in the middle of "busy wedding season".

Am I depressed? Let's review:

Today I got the last three wild salmon caught in Monterey Bay....and they are beauties. I loaded them myself into the Jag. Crazy Dirk turned us on to a Moss Landing fisherman who only uses lines and hooks....and can get fresh sardines and halibut a week faster than the Wharf boys.

I got two colors of organic cherries from Fred Minniazoli, a case of beautiful peaches, a case of Ugly but delicious nectarines; and a box of apricots we spent twenty minutes arguing over......not about price, but about acidity vs. sugar, and texture. Fred is amped about getting special stuff next week for Johnny Depp. Oh, and his wife threw in a jar of hand-ground almond butter. For Johnny, not for me.....

I got a case of gorgeous, sweet organic asparagus from the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in any Farmer's Market anywhere, ever....and I used to shop in Paris. The check is made out to "Hog Farms". Ahhhh. There is a God of Irony, after all.......

Bob the Egg Man had fresh-picked loganberries, and carried my eggs to the car for me. Tom and Laurie Coke had ''French'' green beans....we joked about "Freedom" beans....and they had lemon basil. I will have the best, most fragrant basil oil on Planet Earth this weekend....and no one will know but me.

The artichoke guy and I reminisced about "Woolgrower's" in Los Banos, and bewailed the fact that no restaurant serves artichokes anymore.....too much labor. I told him the story about the tourists at Fernand's that ordered chokes....and ate the wrong end. I was too slammed to notice....but they came back the next night and ordered them again, goddamit.

Elsie the Apricot Lady and I joked about her being exiled to the grass, away from the Produce People....dried apricots aren't Produce, I guess. I promised to bring a pitching wedge and a soccer ball for her next week. The Old Goat from Corralitos snuck two beef sticks into the front seat of the Jag for my blood sugar attack.

The live plant guy from Paicines and I laughed and laughed about the time that I sicced Amanda on him to buy centerpieces for Laguna Seca.....she dragged him through all five acres of his place looking for flowers that "weren't angry".......

The Protea guy had neck surgery, and a nasty brace, but he got me the stuff for ten centerpieces and a beautiful bunch for Granma, complete with kangaroo paws....and we laughed about dogs. His Jack Russell is named Gomez....the best dog name in history. We almost named The Puppy "Gomez".......with permission, of course.

I left the market with enough white blood cells to start a lab.......

I finally dragged in at home at 7pm.

The Puppy waited.....I had to take him for a walk up the hill. Fuck. 100 degrees, hot, sticky....and exhausted.

We walked up to the outlook, and I collapsed into the old rocker. There was finally a fresh breeze off the ocean 15 miles away. The sun was still high over the Santa Lucia's to the south....but the air.....The air was alive.

As my brain finally slowed down, the image in front of me gained power. Dazzling golden light. Fresh, crisp, clean breeze.....laden with crushed deer mint and poison oak from the dogs

. I started counting the mountain ridges between me and the sea. First I found six. Then, as I looked more carefully I realized there were more and more....maybe thirteen or fourteen....tall, vicious, barely climbable ridges. I could not see a single sign of human habitation in the entire fifteen mile, ten billion dollar vista.

The light became beaten gold. I was literally stunned by the beauty and intransigence of what I was witnessing.

Eventually, I turned away....and in front of me was the Mount Toro vista to the north. Pastures of Heaven. Here the hills are more forgiving...but lay one upon the other like the folds in a Navaho blanket in a Georgia O'Keefe image. More beaten gold.....changing every second as the light moved.

So much of what we do in the kitchen is transitory and ephemeral. We struggle like warriors in the moment, grasping at seconds and split seconds with tools of fire and iron to transmit a vision of what we see.....folded into the social and practical forces that really rule our work world. Mostly only we see our little victories and our little masterpieces, and the craft and the realization is supposed to be enough. There is never enough money to pay for the stress, pain and labor it takes to get to that place.....

Why do we do it?

My favorite Jerry Jeff Walker song:

"Why do you ride for the money?
Why do you rope for short pay?
You ain't gettin' nowhere,
And you're losing your share........
Son, you must have gone crazy out there.....

"But she ain't never seen the Northern Lights....
Never heard the hawk on the wing...
Never seen the Spring hit the Great Divide....
And she's never heard old Camp Cookie sing......"

Ol' Camp Cookie would trade thirty years of hard labor for that sunset tonight.....

Wait....I guess I already did! Damn!

Thanks to Whomever....That was a nice day.......

If only I could sing.......

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Locals Rule.....

Sorry....pretend these charts are down near the end of the post. Thanks, Blogger! Meanwhile......thanks to Phil Howard, from Michigan State....ex Santa Cruz food warrior:

Perusing my own writing of late, I noticed a theme: The Cuisine of Oppression.

First I started off railing about people that think St. Patrick’s Day is cute, and mentioned African-American cuisine and Jewish cuisine as being emblematic of the racial, cultural and economic oppression that afflicted the practitioners…..usually grandmothers.

Then I mentioned Mexican cuisine as an aside. Without really thinking about it, just as an adjunct of the culture that our immigration and economic policies have destroyed. Upon reflection, I realized we really have destroyed Mexican cuisine. I hark back to an era that read and saw Laura Esquivel’s “Como Agua Para Chocolate” in Spanish….and took all its lessons to heart. ("Like Water for Chocolate", for you unassimilated folk). I learned the Cordoniz con Rosas recipe (Quail with Rose Petals) from an abuela in Acapulco fifteen years before the book and movie, and it changed my life.

The idea that the chef’s tears incorporated into the wedding cake could have an emotional and physical impact on the guests rang an emotional bell like a giant fucking gong with us. We relive that environment every Monday Night. Blood, sweat and tears. Veal cheeks with thyme sauce and mashed edamame with goat’s milk. Fuck you for a stupid simple bastard if you don’t order it.

And, the idea that a Mexican granny could take a recipe involving quail and rose petals and beat it into a young visiting American chef as being emblematic of her culture is such a foreign idea twenty-five years hence as to be almost incomprehensible. I mean “beat”, as in “striking with fists”. Mexico is Taco Bell. It is poor meats cooked a long time, drowned in chiles and salt against corruption….accompanied by beans, rice and corn: amino acid building blocks for proteins for manual laborers.

The Cuisine of Oppression, Take Ten.

Almost unnoticed amongst the trampled down cultural kitchens around me were the Chinese in Monterey. Monterey used to be thick with Chinese. There was a Chinatown on the coastal rocks in Monterey about where Hopkins Marine Station and the American Tin Cannery are. (It was burned out by whiteys back in the day). Chinese laborers left over from the railroads chipped Tassajara Road out of solid rock in the late 1860’s and 70’s. They were the Mexicans of then, before the Sicilians came to the canneries.

I was scouting in Big Sur for a documentary shoot we are doing next week about Jack Kerouac. Susie Moon was showing me her property above Bixby Creek and pointed out a former Chinese village. There are tombstones still there from workers from two centuries ago who lived in the mountains in the hundreds…..mining and logging. Her kids used to dig amongst the graves like fiends….certain there was buried Chinese treasure amongst the tombs. (Nice, fit kids. All the other kids were growing pot).

Chinese culture and cuisine has been utterly destroyed in Monterey. We have the worst Chinese food this side of Omaha. “Chong’s” has entered the English language as the Chinese word for either: “hangover”, “cockroach”, or “MSG poisoning”.

Then I thought about the Sicilians. The worst cuisine in Monterey….other than Mexican or Chinese….is Italian. Eggplant Parmesan is the defining dish. Where the garlic is powdered and rancid, and tomatoes canned. In a once thriving seaport….all the sardines are frozen, and the calamari is from China.

I described the calamari scene before: local boats catch the critters off Pebble Beach and freeze them in the hold. The catches are assembled on the wharf, shipped to Salinas, trans-shipped to Alameda and sent to China. There they are thawed, cleaned and re-packed by Chinese ladies…..then shipped back across the ocean to be bought by us….18,000 miles of travel, six miles from origin.

The sardine story is almost worse. Asking for fresh sardines in a modern fish plant is like walking into Jesse Jackson’s church and asking for watermelon. The Italian grandmothers and grandfathers who built the fishing industry have left their progeny a sense of shame. Nowadays, we whiteboys fight the Asian housewives and grannies for the freshest, healthiest fish catch in Monterey…..sold as bait for a buck a pound. Or frozen in piles because there is no demand.

Just as I was getting smug about all these destroyed cultures, I started my battle with Whole Foods. Pricks from Texas selling farmed salmon as wild to the retired rich. White Hypochodriacal Overeducated Lame Egocentric....... Hucksters promoting this bizarre image of “organic” foods as being an exclusive ideal, leading to long life, happiness and giant erections for the anointed wealthy intelligentsia without access to fact-checking.

There is no longer any such thing as organic foods…..any more than there is Cordoniz con Rosas in any restaurant outside The Cachagua Store. It is a bullshit fiction bordering upon Weapons of Mass Destruction….and featuring the same marketing techniques, and many or most of the same players. Organic became Big Business…..and the organic food industry is now to food what Boy Bands were to music in the 90’s. A concept. A market. Definitely not Mozart. The federal guidelines were actually written by Jack Abramoff….and have you ever eaten with golfers?

Item: Whole Foods owns a major part of “American Gold”, a salmon farm destroying parts of Puget Sound. Whole Foods buys the fish from American Gold….but does not identify any fish in their cold case as being farmed. Farm salmon costs $5 a pound. Wild salmon is $12-20 wholesale….if you can get it.

Item: Sustainable Fishery Conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Pundits on the dias, rattling on about sustainable fisheries. The water on the dias in front of each pundit: Fiji Water. Derived from an ossified source that can’t be refilled, and flown 9,000 miles in tiny, non-compostable bottles at a cost twelve times greater than gasoline.

Item: Horizon Milk. Federal guidelines allow milk producers to establish an organic dairy. Commercial, chemically raised cows can be brought in, kept for a few weeks and donate chemically tainted milk to the organic dairy….and then cycled out to make room for new. Paranoia is defined as thinking everything is going to shit.....and being right.

Item: Salmon Creek Farms pork. We called looking for baby, organic suckling pigs. Turns out they only buy 200 pound pigs….which they buy from commercial power pork operations. A couple of weeks of organic feeding……presto!!! Organic pork. At double the price.

Item: 80% of the produce sold in Mid-West supermarkets is imported from out of state, and increasingly out of country. We grow only two crops in the Midwest anymore: corn and soy. All the laws and tax breaks are geared towards giant corporations, and single crops.

Item: 80% of most Americans food now contains corn. Weirdos like us even buy our Coca-Colas in Mexican markets because they still use actual sugar, not corn syrup.

Item: Free Range Organic Chicken. Chickens are raised in such dense, awful environments that there is no possible way to allow them near any windblown microbe for the first three quarters of their lives. At this point, a small door in the back of the giant temperature controlled shed is opened and birds could technically get outside to a tiny patch of lawn. Psychologically, they have already been conditioned to never move from their tiny little spot on the feed line. Please do not think deeply about the implications of this for you yourself in society. Please buy Omnivore’s Dilemma, read it and give it to someone you care about.

Item: Civil vs. Criminal Law. No matter what the federal and state guidelines are for fish, produce or meat producers…..a retailer selling unpackaged product can say whatever the fuck he wants about whatever the fuck he wants, and it is not a crime. Wild caught Martian Organic Salmon on a bed of Venusian Love Spinach. Not a crime. Civil fraud, perhaps….but you have to prove it. Trust me, the local DA investigators think the Onion Flower at Outback is a great way to celebrate an anniversary with the little woman. Better than roses. No quail involved.

And who gives a shit? To paraphrase Bill O’Reilly: Does anyone really care about a methyl bromide bomb going off in Fresno County? Especially if I tell you that it was set off by Democrats, with the best intentions, and the latest intelligence……with kindness and concern for your health. And Costco is SOOO convenient.

Here is some food for thought. Coke owns Odwallah and Chipotle. Well, check out the rest:

And here are the recent acquisitions: Well way up top.

And here are the stubborn independents: that.

American cuisine is a hop, skip and a jump from following Irish, African, Jewish, Mexican and Chinese into the hopper….to re-imerge as gray and brown sugar, salt, fat and starch. The four major food groups. These corporations have given us Worker Food: just nutritious enough to sustain physical life and work….and devoid of all social, spiritual and cultural context.

You are what you eat.

Even organic foods have already entered the abbatoir, as shown above..

We no longer pay any attention to the organic thing. If we do not know the supplier, we assume they are all lying. We no longer buy anything out of season. The local season. We find that we appreciate tomatoes and asparagus oh so much more for knowing we won’t have them all winter. Apples are for fall….strawberries are for spring and summer.

Is there any ecological advantage to be gained by buying organic apples shipped in trucks a thousand miles from people you don’t know? Bettah more a nice local apple shipped ten miles….screw the organic thing.

Locals rule.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Devolution update....

Late breaking update:

In an apparent ratification of the creationist values enshrined in the Creation Museum in Ohio, the world's lowest lifeform underwent startling and miraculous evolution yesterday.....right before our eyes!

Paris Hilton has been given a new chance by God......

Our sources tell us the spirit of William Shakespeare, desperate and depressed at the spiritual and intellectual state of the world, and impatient and chilly waiting for his embryo to be rescued from the frozen vault in Lynchburg.......has evicted the former spirit of Miss Hilton and is now resident in the Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles.

In an exclusive collect phone call to Barbara Walters, Ms/Mr Shakespeare said "All those tomorrows, creeping at that petty pace.....I couldn't take it. I am back."