Monday, November 3, 2014

The Decline and Fall of Food and Wine

(Or: "Erica reads the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine, 
and determines that the world has gone to shit.") best friend has moved in with me.  She lived in New York City for six years, and while she never dwelt in Manhattan proper, she brought with her from that city with more culture and snazz than I have ever seen.

I used to get all my wine at Trader Joes, and it was okay. I know beer though, and I would buy good ones. Well now that Erica is here, we are card carrying Binny's Beverage Depot shoppers, asking for vinho verde (her request) and "party friendly Bordeaux" (mine).

Erica calls a tray of fucking celery crudite and knows how to turn goat cheese into manna. She cooks in the middle of the night with whatever we have left over, and makes falafel and eggs to die for.

All this is to say that Erica knows a little bit about food and wine.  So when she whipped open last month's issue of Food and Wine and the ARRRGGGHs starting pouring from her foaming, anger-twisted lips, I grabbed a pen and a notebook.

Let's just say the magazine is not what it used to be. And this was "the wine issue" no less...

The following video is half-scripted by her scathing and exhaustive commentary, half-improvised with my ad lib a la (always drunk) Julia Child.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your oils do not tempt me

Welcome to our "home." We've made it as uncomfortable as possible so you won't stay too long!

I live in the suburbs. Not just any suburbs, but possibly some of the most vanilla, mildly affluent, tasteless suburbs in the country. I am not proud.

Of all the things that a person like me has to deal with and spend energy hating on in the suburbs -- chain stores, wide roads, McMansions, upspeak, people who name all four of their kids some variation of "Aiden" (why not Bladen? Paraden?) -- my personal bane is the tasteless decor of the young-to-middle-aged suburbanite's home.

Seriously, one day last semester I parked next to a house near my suburban university and saw paintings through the windows. Real paintings. Some Audubon prints too! This was such a rarity to spy through an open, beautifully curtained window in Aurora, Illinois. I just sat there in the car staring. Who are these people of taste? Why are they here? And then I walked to class to teach kids in Adidas sandals about Nietzsche, walking past paintingless, Audubonless houses, walking past closed doors that probably hid the following:

At least three bottles of olive oil with shit floating in it. All over the kitchen counter. Displayed in duplicate behind backlit glass cabinet doors. Do they cook with that stuff? How long does it sit there? Is it supposed to impress dinner guests that they might have just been poisoned by it? When do you say, "Honey, I need a new bottle of olive oil with shit floating in it, can you pick me some up at da Costco? I think I'd like floaty lemongrass and pomegranates this time..."

Your oils do not tempt me. In fact I feel a little sick just writing about them. Here's a picture:

Also behind the suburban door are fake wrought iron candle-holder wall sconce swirlies. Above every doorway and overstuffed beige microfiber couch hangs a nest of twisted cheap metal, painted black, possibly supporting tea lights, flowers, wine glasses if we're in the kitchen. Other iterations of this waste of space (for them it fills space, covers their lack of ability to think of anything to put on that huge wall under the vaulted ceiling) include kitchen wine racks, living room wine racks, billiard room wine racks, um, bed frames, master bathroom toilet caddies, you get the idea.

All this shit was on their wedding registry.

Also behind the door, on the coffee table, the overstuffed ottoman, the end table... There are bowls of balls. Let me explain.  They are bowls, and in them are balls. Mosaic balls, feather balls, bark balls... I asked my friend about this and she said she's seen: "So many balls... I don't even know..." What does a bowl o'balls inspire in a guest? Envy? Sensory stimulation? Wait I don't think you're supposed to touch the balls.

Kissing cousin to the balls in bowls is the tray of stuff. Silk artichokes mostly, but other stuff too. Maybe a porcelain rabbit, if the house is big enough to warrant such extravagance-on-a-tray.

In the kitchen there are attempts at Tuscany all around. The olive oil is only the beginning. The best suburban kitchens have crackle finish over at least a third of the surfaces, hideous dark granite countertops, Bed Bath and Beyond artworks of grapes and wine glasses, a set of three painted wooden signs that say "LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE." (Trans: "EAT. DRINK. FUCK."  I should paint that on some wood pieces, in curly-cue letters, to match all the faux wrought iron I don't have.)  But the pictures are the worst. Sometimes hanging, sometimes fake-frescoed right into the wall. Lots of grapes. I can't make one, it will kill me, so here's an internet example:

(Run out of ideas?  AGAIN?  Just cover the wall in that shit.)
If you haven't read my rant about Tuscany (and paint color names, and Anthropologie) read it today.  It's funny as hell.

Behind the door are stainless steel everythings. No kids to get sticky prints all over them. (Maybe a baby, but everything is covered in baby-repellent.) What happened to the white kitchen? I love a bright white kitchen. Or even some knotty wood cabinets. I have both white things and knotty wood in my current kitchen, which has the original 1941 cabinets (new knotty doors on them) and that makes it worthless in the suburbs. Suburbanites loves cavernous, granite lined, crackle finished, steel coated oil cellars as their hangouts. Wait they probably don't even hang out in the kitchen. (Don't all the coolest people hang out in the kitchen at parties? Dumb 'burbans.)

Ok, I know there are worse problems in this world than my own two eyes being ravaged by bad looking things in other people's houses.  But I still hold that one of the worst things about living in the suburbs is the tastelessness. I will deal with my neighbors' excessive disposable income. My kid gets to go to a school with iPads and teachers assistants in every classroom, and free after school art classes that give me an extra hour to get home every Friday. I will deal with their whiteness I guess. I wish my kids saw more diversity around them, both cultural diversity and income diversity (they know our own poorness but have none poorer to compare it to). The rich vanilla issue is a serious issue.

But, as a person with an aesthetic, I really wish I didn't have to look at all these fucking wall sconces.