Thursday, September 08, 2005


I can't sleep. I tried for a while, but work today just left too much lactic acid in me. I dutifully lied there for like an hour, and then I started thinking about lying there, and anyone who's experienced even a single night of sleeplessness knows where this train goes. So I'm trudging to the bathroom, and opening the cabinet, and just as I'm reaching for a fistful of large-animal tranquilizers to boil down into a tasty reduction, I remember that someone gave me this assignment like weeks ago, and thought that working on it might, I don't know, make me sleepy or relaxed or something. The assignment was to list five foods that remind me of childhood, or of being a kid--and if you can find a difference between those, you've taken too many improv classes.

So here goes. And I'm going to do this with a minimum of weepy explanation:

1. Marrow bones.

2. Welsh Rarebit on English muffins instead of bread.

3. Chocolate cupcakes with lime frosting instead of birthday cake.

4. Seckel pears from the tree in the yard.

5. A carrot that I pulled straight from the ground and wiped off and ate without washing.

Hmm. My left eye just twitched, but I'm still not tired. Let's do some more:

6. Little ice cream cups with "sundae" topping that you lick off the paper pull-back lid to get it all, then you eat the ice cream with a flat wood spoon. I got these from the dairy at Cornell and later, after my parents got divorced, I was allowed to get Hostess fruit pies there, too. But not before. Yeah, you don't need me to figure that one out.

7. Salmon patties. I don't know what ethnicity these are. Think burgers, then make the burgers out of canned salmon. Way, way better than they have any right to be. My grandma would make a plate of them and before the plate hit the table, they'd all be gone, courtesy of my really big for a little kid teeth.

8. Apple pan dowdy. Ask your oldest male relative.

9. Crab legs. All I could eat. Now I know they were frozen.

10. This isn't really my usual funny shtick, is it? It's like my normal edgy-but-an-okay-guy-underneath thing has combined with my tiredness and work angst oh and plus this goddamned ridiculous idea of food from when you were a kid, thanks a lot, into something even I have to admit is a little melancholy, no matter how much I try to buoy it up with snide asides.

11. Then again, maybe it's just bittersweet to me, since I'm the one remembering my childhood, and not you/yours. You're just reading about a kid eating carrots. I know--cry me a fucking river.

12. The skin on chocolate pudding.

13. French fries at a diner with a friend of mine who put ketchup on them and when his mom said "maybe Dan doesn't like ketchup on his fries," responded without a pause "who doesn't like ketchup on their fries?" The truth was, I kind of didn't.

14. I want to write about my first great oyster, but refuse.

15. The cupcakes were my choice, by the way.

16. Maine lobsters, in Maine. I think I was 2.

That'll do. I actually am a little drowsy now, and that didn't even take that long. Plus, I won't feel like I'm walking through gauze all day tomorrow. At least if I fall asleep now.

Or, okay, now.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mellowing In My Old Age

So, it turns out I do regret an earlier post. Not for the reason I thought I might, but still--I am regretting. Here's the gist of the post: I told food and wine writers to strip down their writing. Okay, that's not exactly what I said. Exactly what I said was...wait...Go back and read, slacker. Man. You give an inch...

But in any case, I was kind of overworked about overuse of certain words in food writing, and I vented, and my concern is that I overstated my case. My concern, such as it is, arose the other night, when I opened three bottles of red wine for a dinner party. I won't dither about the where-from and when of them, but they all had similar, yet slightly variant descriptions. Yes, dear reader(s), I based my buys on the ad copy. Well, you can't blame me--I bought at Bristol Farms, where, when I asked the oen guy for some help, he walked directly to the Super-Tuscans and said "How does $70 sound?" Needless to say, he didn't want to help me anymore when I told him how it sounded. And so I was stuck with what I knew and the labels. And all the labels read something like:

"Ripe, jammy red fruit with hints of smoke, leather and a touch of oak."

Not all the labels in Bristol Farms read like that--just the 3 bottles' that I bought. We were serving lamb racks, and that seemed the ticket to me. And they were all from the same year and similar environs, just to head off that line of later questions.

Well, you guessed it--the 3 bottles could not have been more different. One was like my Uncle Lou, who, after every Passover dinner, would open the top button on his pants and say something like "Oyyy, if I ate another bite, I woulda explotet." This was a wine that you smelled the second you opened it--no need to swirl and inhale--it just leached right out of the bottle and into your nose. A wine forthright, soft and ingratiating, but one that will slap you on the back of your head when you're walking to the kitchen. The fruits I got were dark, not red, and the smoke was totally absent, in favor of earth. And people agreed with me, so don't try the "everyone's palate is different" shit with me.

Number two of the red, jammy fruit with Marlboro-Man-like qualities. Oh, and before I go on, yes, I tried each of these at similar points in the meal, too, so please let's not talk about what food and chemistry can do in a mouth. Number two was like eating a steak itself. Bloody, metallic, austere, silky smooth and haunting. If wine were guys, this wine and Uncle Lou would not get along at all. This wine would not bowl. This wine would not sit down at polite gatherings, preferring to stand and make everyone nervous. And every chick at the party would want to fuck this wine. I went to high school with this wine, and its name was Keith Wa. I'm serious: this guy I went to high school with was like the rawest, tattooedest, head-shav-ed-est badass I've ever seen--like this guy is definitely dead now--but he just drew women to him. That was this wine. The fruit? THERE WAS NO FRUIT IN THIS WINE. This entire wine was, I swear to god, mashed from live animals. If there had to be a fruit in there, let's make it, oh, I don't know, quail. "Ripe, jammy red fruit?" Sure, sure. Well, it made me buy the bottle anyway.

Moving on to number three. Number three. Man, speaking of high school, if I kicked number three's ass once while waiting for the bus to take us skiing, I kicked it a hundred times. Number three was Wayne LaPointe. Number three was this loud-mouthed little snot of a wine that just bleats at you until you put it in a headlock and pummel it. Okay, it was junior high. This wine has jammy red fruit all right. It has so much of it that you want to kick its goddamn ass. It's like it comes up to you on the first sip and yells at you like Gilbert Gottfried "I'VEGOTJAMMYREDFRUITI'VEGOTJAMMYREDFRUITI'VEGOTJAMMYREDFRUITI'VE--" and then down it goes when you sock it in the gut. Annoying wine in the extreme. Wayne, if you're reading this, I live in L.A., and will totally fight you behind my office anytime, just not on Sunday because I have a private yoga session at 11:30 and that cuts the day in half for me.

My point is that you wine label guys have to get re-acquainted with your words. I know I screeded about overused words. I know, and I'm sorry. It must have made you really skittish and now I'm the one paying for it (not $70 a bottle, but still). So use your words. Learn to communicate what you're experiencing--really--to your reader with just a little 1-1/2 X 3 inch label to do it. You know you wanted to be an artist when you were younger; well, here's your chance. Tell me what your wine is like. Tell me what it's really like. And feel free to use any of the forbidden words. Just use them well. I'm watching.