Among the many sobering statistics available to today’s Americans, none are more jolting — at least to this American — than the numbers on consumption of sparkling wine vis-à-vis the French. They enjoy bubbly about 47 times a year, on average, or nearly once a week, while we manage just three or four times: Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, somebody’s birthday. We tend to pop the cork only on special occasions, in other words; the French make a habit of it. Of course, they also make a good deal of the world’s stock of sparkling wines, so this must help boost their tally. Still.
In my own small way, I have been trying to right this imbalance. I buy, for $2.99 each — a pittance — those splits of Spanish cava (from Segura Viudas) that add a bit of effervescence to an everyday dinner for two. I also serve sparkling wine at every conceivable gathering, regardless of the time of day, though the sad truth is that the enfeeblement of the dollar has made authentic French champagnes uncomfortably expensive.
Fortunately, there are alternatives, from American sparkling wines of various characters to European bottlings, such as cava, that are made in the méthode champenoise (with the second fermentation occurring in the bottle) but whose labeling cannot mention that fact, per the rules of the European Union. There are even French sparkling wines, made in the traditional way and quite competitive in quality and appeal with champagne, that fall under this bureaucratic ban. These are called crémant wines and, costing a half to a third of what their pedigreed cousins do, are among the wine world’s great bargains.
Some of the better-known of these little-known wines come from the Loire Valley — St. Hilaire is a fairly big name in this country — but one of the most convincing comes from Burgundy, a northerly viticultural region not far from Champagne itself. The wine is Louis Bouillot’s crémant de Bourgogne Grande Reserve Brut, costs in the $15 to $17 range, and in its bright, lemony crispness is comparable to a good blanc de blancs from Champagne. Very similar in sunshiny character is the Aimery Sieur d’Arques “1531” crémant de Limoux, produced near Carcassonne in the south of France, from chardonnay, chenin blanc, and Mauzac grapes. Did I say “sunshiny”? Mais oui!
- No categories
Crème de les crémants
If fantasies are about transcending limits, then it’s no wonder the la Cornue range is the dream love of so many kitchen fantasists, yours truly among them. Here we have a line of stoves whose cheapest model costs about $17,000, and I do not know what the upper limit is or even if there is an upper limit. Buying a la Cornue is, one supposes, a little bit like buying a Rolls-Royce or a Maybach. The buyer is consulted on all matter of minutiae, including color (a wide palette is offered), and the finished product — assembled by hand by a single worker in France for a certain sort of manufacturing authorship that is increasingly, vanishingly rare in our shabby world of mass production — features a brass plaque emblazoned with the buyer’s (or, to be polite, client’s) name. The burners are also of brass, a corrosion-resistant alloy long used on seagoing vessels, and this is a real advantage to the working cook, who knows that tides of salty fluids are constantly sloshing and slopping across the top of any range. Do brass burners justify the price? Your kitchen-minded Lotto winner might well say yes; check back with me after I’ve won.
Recently a neighbor with inside information told me that a la Cornue could be had for just $10,000 or $12,000. He wasn’t quite sure of the exact figure, but it was surprisingly less than expected. The range in question was a floor model at Cherin’s, the appliance Valhalla at 18th and Valencia. After checking my money clip — $18, in small, unmarked bills — I hurried over to Cherin’s, and I did indeed find a la Cornue range on the floor there. The sales rep, moreover, had news even better than I’d hoped. No, they weren’t giving the stove away, but it cost a mere $8,000, leaving a deficit (for me) of only $7,982 plus tax. There was, alas, a slight catch: The la Cornue in question was a member of the new la CornuFé line — authentic looking and in stock but not made to quite the same standard. Also, no brass plaque with one’s name on it. A worthy but lesser la Cornue, in other words, that owes its existence at least in part to la Cornue’s acquisition, in the autumn of 2004 by Aga, the British stovemaker eager to acquire market share. Is this wise, I wonder, or a fantasy?
The imminence of a determined pork eater raises certain questions in the porkless kitchen. The largest of these is, Can pork be faked? Meat fakery has come a long way in the past few years, as anyone who’s eaten a Boca burger knows — but if some entrepreneur has come up with a porkless pork roast that would nonetheless convince a pork connoisseur, I have not heard of it.
In my everyday cooking, I have found that turkey, in its various forms, nicely fills in the gaps left by the pork we more or less stopped eating when Bill Clinton was still president. The breast slices make good scaloppine. Turkey bacon creditably substitutes for pancetta. And the whole tenderloins (really adjuncts of the breast in turkeys, rather than of the back, as in hogs) are marvels of adaptability: They can be butterflied and quickly grilled or cubed for vindaloo, among many other applications.
But would the tenderloins, I wonder, accept the arista treatment, as so temptingly laid out by Bruce Aidells in his Complete Meat Cookbook? Arista means “the best” in Greek, and the dish is said to have originated as an herb-rubbed, spit-roasted piece of pork served to a contingent of Greek prelates visiting Florence in the 15th century. Their verdict? Aristos!
Acclaim and applause are lovely, of course, but I was hoping just to pull off my bit of subterfuge without being caught. Turkey tenderloins are not large (less than a pound each), so I would need several to make the equivalent of a four-pound pork roast. Their smallness invited direct grilling — a blessing, since I have no spit, though even fast grilling of a lean meat like turkey poses the danger of desiccation. Aidells’s rub (of fennel seed, sage, rosemary, and salt) is fabulous, but I also took the precaution of cutting a deep, narrow slit in the side of each tenderloin and filling it with a pat of butter and a clove of peeled, smashed garlic. One additional precaution: a buttery port-cognac sauce derived from the one Wolfgang Puck offers for tuna au poivre in Live, Love, Eat! (My modification: adding dried thyme.)
The guest list included no prelates, and no one was heard speaking Greek, either before or after the appearance of the forged arista. But the meat was juicy and tasty, and most of it disappeared.
“I thought it was pork,” the pork eater said later, when informed of the deception. Bravo!
Rice makes nice
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then paella is a dish best served … not in a restaurant. Yes, if it’s good paella you seek, you are well advised to start inquiring among your friends as to which of them has a paella pan and might be prevailed upon to use it, perhaps at a summertime party. For paella could be summer’s ultimate party dish: Not only is it one of those rare preparations in which the home cook has a distinct advantage over commercial short-order kitchens, but it is also easy to make in party quantities, and it affords considerable spectacle if made the traditional way, over an open fire.
Last week my intrepid brother entered the party-paella sweepstakes, the party being the graduation from high school of his stepdaughter and the paella suggestion being mine, since I like paella and have a good recipe for it (adapted from Pierre Franey’s invaluable 60-Minute Gourmet) and have made it successfully over an open fire, though not for 80 people, many of them overexcited teenagers stoked on mojitos. My pan is just 14 inches across; the one he procured for the party was three feet across. It looked like something that had fallen from a jet passing overhead.
My thoughts went out to him, across two time zones, on the evening of the party: Now he must be laying the fire in the steel drum, now he must be softening his onions and peppers. We had discussed ingredients, quantities, shortcuts, possible problems, and remedies beforehand — too much fire and too little fluid were paramount in my mind — but in the end, he was there, he was the wielder of the long-handled spatula, and he would have to pull it off. I would only hear about it, for better or worse, the day after. And, the day after, I did hear, and he did pull it off, and the crowd cheered, then accepted leftovers.
Other graduation parties, he told me, offered cocktail wieners or burritos ordered in en masse from Chipotle’s — the latter being, perhaps and sadly, the way things are done now in affluent exurbia: Write a check and let somebody else do the work. I’m sure the graduates enjoyed their burritos, but I’m even more sure they will never forget their first sight and taste of a dish made for centuries in the centuries-old way of making it, by someone skilled and interested enough to make it for them.
Marin is not my favorite county — it is the police state, bristling with bored and predatory officers of the law, that must be traversed to reach the wine country — but it does have its glories. Among these is Sabor of Spain (www.saborofspain.com) in San Rafael, a kind of Spanish Table of the North Bay selling various foodstuffs, ceramics, glassware, and a stupendous selection of Spanish wines. Last summer Sabor sprouted a tapas restaurant, Vinoteca, in an adjoining space that has the Barcelona-modern look of glass, chrome, dark wood, stone, and mirrors. The restaurant offers by-the-glass service of many of the bottlings for sale next door at Sabor, and if you want to spring for a whole bottle, you’ll pay about an $18 markup over retail. This doesn’t mean much at the lower end of the scale, but it does mean that a magnificent $75 Priorat can be had in the restaurant for under $100 instead of the $150 or more you’d likely pay at a place that uses the more typical, and lucrative, method of tripling the wholesale price.
(Historical note: The dot-com-era restaurant Elroy’s followed a similar fixed-markup policy for bottles of wine, but the numbers were even more dramatically skewed in the customers’ favor. The restaurant’s markup was only $10, and that was over cost, and for pricier wines this was such a good deal — better than in any wine shop — that people were said to be coming to the restaurant just to buy bottles of wine to take home. Distributors and winemakers eventually rained on this parade, and, perhaps not coincidentally, Elroy’s is no more.)
Despite the extensive selection of Spanish wines, the staff at Sabor rather glumly confided to me that the restaurant’s patrons overwhelmingly prefer familiar varietals — chardonnay and merlot, to name a pair of the all-too-usual suspects — to wines made from such difficult-to-pronounce Spanish grapes as tempranillo or verdejo in such oddly named Spanish regions as Rueda or R??as Baixas. In a predictable response, Spanish winemakers are now turning out chardonnays and merlots — with those names conspicuous on the labels — for what I can only hope is export to us. At least some of the chardonnay vines, I was reassured, were brought to Spain from Burgundy and presumably would give their Iberian offshoots some Burgundian character, though whether that character will play in California, land of the butterball chardonnay, remains to be seen, alas.
Forget me not
The server who performs from memory is either a virtuoso or a show-off — and more likely the latter, experience suggests, with muffs and miscues an almost certain result. On Saturday last, we shepherded some out-of-town guests to the Napa Valley, where, between stops at the Hess Collection and the Mumm champagne works, a latish lunch was had at Bistro Don Giovanni, a 13-year-old Italian restaurant on the north side of the town of Napa, in a roadside building that, from 1991 to 1993, housed Jonathan Waxman’s heralded but troubled Table 29.
Our server knew that much, at least. Years ago we had eaten at Table 29 but couldn’t summon the name from memory; he pulled it from the top of his carefully coiffed head. On the other hand, he couldn’t remember what we had ordered; he nodded attentively as we spoke in turn, but petitions for soup (a puree of roasted tomatoes and red peppers, as I recall) and a mojito vanished into the ether, which was pleasantly scented by the wood-burning oven and did have a mollifying effect, it must be said. An iced coffee was produced only because we were given an opportunity to ask for it a second time, when he prodded us to order coffee or liqueurs with dessert. To his credit, he picked up on the iced-coffee flub and did not put it on the bill, but he seemed quite unaware of his other two misses, and we let them go, in part from fear that we would seem to have been keeping score. But then, we were keeping score, for that is what people do when they order this or that in a restaurant and the service staff forgets to bring it.
Writing orders down doesn’t automatically eliminate this problem. The server returning to the table to clarify an order — due to illegible handwriting or having written down the wrong thing, or nothing — is not an unfamiliar experience. It is embarrassing and sometimes a little irritating, but at least the server in question has a script to work from. The would-be memorizer who returns for a refresher ought to be handed a notepad, but at least there is the return. Setting plates of food before the wrong people is an easily corrected faux pas. The would-be memorizer who forgets having forgotten, on the other hand, is a blithe idiot, a discredit to servers everywhere.
Marion Nestle’s hefty new book, What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating (North Point, $30), is on one level the successor to The Supermarket Epicure, Joanna Pruess’s 1988 book about managing to eat well with foods bought at places like Safeway. This was tricky enough 20 years ago, and as Nestle demonstrates, it has become more so.
In the past two decades, food companies have become even bigger and their marketing tactics even more sophisticated, which means, more or less, that when you step into a supermarket today, you are like a lab rat entering a maze in some elaborate experiment. You must have your wits about you if you hope to negotiate the maze to your advantage, and while Nestle’s book isn’t exactly a pocket-size guide, it can profitably be examined beforehand, so when you finally do set off to do the food shopping, you will have a pretty good idea of what you can expect to find — in particular, how the marketing machine will attempt to manipulate you, and why.
In the largest sense, of course, the why isn’t difficult, for it is the job of food companies and supermarkets to sell you as much or as many of their most lucrative products as they can, and their most lucrative products are likely to be full of inexpensive, highly processed ingredients (i.e., corn syrup), bundled up in gaudy packaging, and not especially good for you — surprise!
There isn’t much revelation in How to Eat, but Nestle is an attractively peppery writer, and she brings a good deal of lore — about nutrition, marketing, agriculture, politics — to her scrutiny of a routine chore too many of us think too little about. She repeatedly makes a point, too, that’s worth repeating: The true value of organic agriculture isn’t that it might result, here and there, in slightly higher levels of certain nutrients or even that it definitely reduces the presence of pesticides and other chemical dangers in the food we eat. What really matters, she writes, is that organics represent "a political choice. When you choose organics, you are voting with your fork for a planet with fewer pesticides, richer soil, and cleaner water supplies … for conservation of fuel resources and the economic viability of local communities, along with freshness and better taste." By Jove, I think the forks have it!
The fine print
"People will sleep better not knowing how their sausage and politics are made," Otto von Bismarck said — and he might have added wine to the list, though one sees the Iron Chancellor as more of a beer man. The production of wine grapes in recent decades has become a festival of chemicals — pesticides, fertilizers — from which many of us instinctively avert our gaze; we like wine, we want good wine, and when we get good wine, we are not inclined to ask any questions.
Still, there is growing evidence that a paradigm shift is under way, to judge by the public relations emphasis that winemakers around the world are placing on organic and biodynamic grape production and on the broader if slightly hazier theme of sustainability. Whether people will pay a premium for wine that’s produced in environmentally sensitive fashion is still largely an open question, since at the moment eco-friendly wine represents a tiny fraction of the world’s overall wine production. But if people are willing to pay more for organic produce, as seems to be the case, it is likely they will be willing to pay more too for wines produced in an environmentally responsible way — providing they can figure out which wines those are.
At the moment, the labeling practices of the wine industry are of little or no use in helping wine buyers figure this out. At a recent forum sponsored by the Sonoma Vintners Association, I found myself examining a bottle of zinfandel I knew for a fact to have been produced at a biodynamic winery — but the label breathed not a word of that noble story. One longtime Sonoma winemaker admitted to me that labeling was an issue and that winemakers, even beyond issues of certification, need to do more visually to let buyers know what they’re up to.
Meantime, you label-scanning wine hounds might look for the following (usually in uncomfortably fine print) on bottlings you’re interested in: "CCOF," which indicates compliance of some sort (most likely organic grapes) with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990, and/or "Demeter," which is the certification agency for biodynamic agriculture. I found the latter recently on a bottle of 2003 Côtes du Rhône from Château de Bastet (for more info go to www.organicvintners.com), along with organic certification from Quality Assurance International and Ecocert, another pair of word patterns to look for, in lieu of logos, which for once are actually called for.
The gadget diarist
As a confirmed gadgeteer, I naturally feel a pang of genuine sorrow — and sometimes real inconvenience — when a kitchen gadget expires. Most such instruments die lingering rather than sudden deaths, of course; they become inefficient or unwieldy or caked with gunk. Or, as in the case of the fancy, French-made digital scale I acquired midway through the Clinton years, a naughty deus enters the machina, causing it to give jittery and therefore useless data. This is the mechanical equivalent of dementia, uncorrectable by a fresh battery, and so the device now sits on a remote stretch of counter, daring me to throw it away.
My little spice mill, on the other hand, died unexpectedly earlier in this winter of cold rain and mortality. It was born as a Braun coffee mill, one of those upright cylinders whose top you press down to make the blade whir, and it served without complaint through two decades of grinding fennel seeds, whole dried Anaheim chiles, and countless teaspoons of cumin and coriander. Later it was joined by a Bosch cylinder I reserved for the grinding of nuts. And then, one day, around Valentine’s Day, I cleaned the Braun, pushed the top — and nothing happened. I couldn’t even turn the blade manually. So now it too sits there like a dead tooth, daring me to take action.
There is no ready substitute I am aware of for a kitchen scale gone haywire, but when an electric spice grinder fails, there are "work-arounds," if I may briefly borrow a Rummyism. There is the mortar and pestle, of which I was astounded to discover we had two examples: a small one, acquired a few years ago to pulverize the dog’s pills, and a larger edition, brought back last year from Vietnam by the neighbors as a gift. I’d set the latter on the counter as a display item, only to discover, in a pinch, that it is not just handsome but does a good job, is good exercise, uses no electricity, and — short of some unimaginable catastrophe — cannot break. This is basically the catalog of virtues of the ideal cook’s tool. Also, the mortar and pestle, while not silent, makes no noise to compare with the nerve-<\h>shattering whine of the Braun — an important consideration for the gadgeteer who prefers that gadgets be seen, and used, but not heard.
Split is a splendid little word, one of my favorites, at least when we are wandering through the joyous realm of sparkling wine. Who wouldn’t want an adorably petite bottle of bubbly for one’s own, complete with cork wrapped in fancy foil in a cage of golden wire? Yet split, alas, has other meanings too; in that terrible, inevitable restaurant moment when the check arrives, the word becomes the occasion for close scrutiny of the bill, who had what, some people drank more than others, tax is always a muddle, multiple credit or debit cards (all confusingly similar in appearance) are produced, and, at the very end, there is the dreadful business of agreeing on a tip. It is a business negotiation, basically, a moment for teams of accountants, and it sounds a slightly off note at the end of a lovely evening.
Splitting a check is somewhat less cumbersome and embarrassing in cash transactions, true — which tend to be smaller anyway — and I would grant an exemption for gigantic get-togethers like birthday-party dinners, where 20 or more people can gather at a single table and the tab can easily drift past $500 or even higher. But: For the usual small rendezvouses, têtes-à-têtes and so forth, somebody should just pick up the check. I nominate rich people. Rich people should pay. The richest person at the table should fess up or, better yet, just discreetly snatch the bill when it comes and discreetly whip out the putf8um card to settle the matter. This would be a kind of gracious ad hoc socialism that would also meliorate a small but galling social blight, and while it wouldn’t necessarily assure the fate of one’s eternal soul, if any ("Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" — Matthew 19:24), it couldn’t hurt. Spending money on food is a virtue, as is spending money on other people — so spending money to feed other people must be doubly virtuous.
How to determine who the richest person at your table is? I recommend the stare-down. And if two rich people happen to be having dinner? (Surely this happens from time to time.) One pays this time; the other, the next — socialism for the rich, kind of. SFBG
Tossing the salad
During the long weeks of this un-spring, I have often found myself looking out into the rain-swept garden and thinking: salad. The reasons for this connection have to do, I suspect, with the fact that the garden looks like a huge salad — greens of various shades and shapes dripping with water, as if from those computer-<\h>controlled squirt guns in the produce section at the supermarket — and with the fact that by the end of winter, one is just sick to death of greens, of any and every kind. The winter dinner so often ends in a simple tossed salad because the diners simply cannot bear another round of beets or turnips or parsnips or broccoli or cauliflower.
But even salad can grow wearisome, and this is true even if the greens or baby greens are enlivened by the colorful presence of edible flowers. What can the beleaguered home chef do to bring a spark of life to the season’s umpteenth tossed salad? You can cheat, of course, by slicing in some hydroponic tomatoes, or cucumber that comes in that Saran Wrap stuff, or some other imported memento of summer; you can add leftovers, like white beans or risotto. You can add bottled artichokes, you can change your vinaigrette, you can drop the vinaigrette entirely in favor of creamy dressing.
Or: You can add parmesan chips. There are many, many upsides here, from welcome crunchiness to a distinctive nutty-<\h>salty tang to the pleasure of actually making the chips. If there is a catch, this is it: Parmesan chips are DIY. You might be able to buy them prepackaged, but I’ve never seen them so offered, and anyway, making them is easy and fun.
Begin by finely grating a cup or so of parmesan cheese. Real Parmigiano-Reggiano is vastly preferred here, of course, but you could also use grana padano or romano or any other gratable cheese. (The pregrated stuff in the green can? I cannot comment.) Preheat your oven to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a cookie sheet or line it with wax or parchment paper. Spoon the grated cheese onto the cookie sheet in well-spaced little mounds, as if making cookies. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes; when the cheese melts into disks and turns a pale gold at the edges, the pan is ready to come out of the oven. Let the disks cool slightly, remove them from the pan, add them to the salad and … toss!
A Twinkie defense?
A question too seldom pondered in these parts might be put as follows: Do twinkies eat Twinkies? The latter, of course, is the iconic cream-filled cake from Hostess; the former, a term for decorative if not decorous young men who can often be found at parties thrown by rich old queens with wine cellars full of Napa cabernets. And the answer to the question is almost certainly no, at least not if the twinkie ("twink" is a butch truncation — see Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City) is interested in maintaining his value on the sociosexual market. This is because Twinkies, like so many of their near relations on the supermarket’s junk food shelves, are bad for you, and may I be forgiven for being the bearer of this truly stunning news.
As a child in the 1960s I liked Twinkies well enough, but I have not eaten one for decades nor even thought about them for years, not until a press release arrived the other day like a bolt from the blue, announcing that Ten Speed Press — of all presses! — is bringing out The Twinkies Cookbook. I have not yet seen the book, so perhaps it will turn out to be a fabulous joke, but the press release is not reassuring, with its references to recipes for Twinkies-pecan bananas Foster, pumpkin-Twinkie bread pudding, Twinkie burritos, and chicken-raspberry Twinkie salad — all of them, apparently, submitted by red-blooded, star-spangled, born-on-the-Fourth-of-July American Twinkie lovers.
Since the Twinkie is famous for its long shelf life and (unlike the twinkie) its sponginess, my thoughts turned immediately to trans fat, the hydrogenated vegetable oil that is one of the most artery-clogging substances you can eat but, until the health furor of the past few years, has been immensely helpful to the food industry in keeping packaged baked goods moist and salable. In the last year or two, many junk food makers have responded to public pressure by phasing out trans fats with alacrity; would I find that the Twinkie had been upgraded too?
No, alas. A quick trip to a neighborhood market and a quick scan of the (lengthy) list of ingredients in Twinkies revealed the words hydrogenated and shortening. End of inquiry: When you see either of those words, you move on, whether you are or were a twinkie, or even if you aren’t or weren’t. SFBG
Organic wine is on the rise, and the French, no dopes as regards marketing, are on the case. A recent tasting of organic and biodynamic wines by the importer Louis/Dressner (at K and L Wine Merchants) included offerings from some small producers from the south and northeast of France and the Loire Valley and served as a reminder that (1) French winemakers do right by chenin blanc in a way that American winemakers, to my knowledge, cannot yet even crudely approximate, and (2) if you are going to buy French organic wine, you might be better off with a white than a red.
We did not taste all the reds, but the two we sampled, a 2004 Coteaux-du-Loir rouge-gorge from Domaine de Bellivière and a 2004 Côtes du Rhône from ?
Shooting a pig
A good deal of blood gets spilled in Michael Pollan’s intelligently gory new book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Penguin Press, $26.95), but amid the accounts of chickens’ throats being methodically slit and steers’ assembly-line encounters with the so-called stunner, the shooting of a wild pig near Healdsburg commands a particularly dark fascination. For one of the shooters is Pollan himself, our guide, narrator, and conflictedly omnivorous Everyman, and his act of marksmanship in Sonoma’s golden hills closes the circle that is the book’s central conceit: of bearing personal witness to, and accepting moral responsibility for, the collection of the food one will then prepare and eat.
The breaking of that circle is a chief objective of the food industry. As Pollan notes, Big Food "depends upon consumers’ not knowing much … beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing … [and] the global economy couldn’t very well function without this wall of ignorance and the indifference it breeds." And even in America, ignorance and heartlessness cannot be assumed. "Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively," Pollan writes, "we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do … for who could stand the sight?"
The pig who falls at Pollan’s shot — "a very large gray sow" — was probably shot by Pollan’s more experienced guide, or so Pollan seems to imply. Later there will be ham and prosciutto and other porcine wonders, but under the hot Sonoma sun, the immediate prospect is "a dead wild animal, its head lying on the dirt in a widening circle of blood." One cannot help admiring Pollan’s nerve, his gameness, even as the hunting episode brings forth a spasm of not quite seemly triumph — his sense of himself, candidly described, as "playing the hero’s part."
I would not, could not, shoot a pig, or any mammal, any creature — and I say this not with pride but as a fact. I recoil from accounts of Dick Cheney’s beer-bust quail hunts. If I had to do what Pollan did to eat meat, I would not eat meat. But I don’t, none of us do, and there is our dilemma.
We haven’t quite reached the point at which you can cuss somebody out with the phrase “farmed salmon,” but for responsible fish buyers it’s a fairly hair-raising expression nonetheless. Farmed salmon, while predictable, convenient, and relatively inexpensive, implies a great many bad things, among them water pollution, the spreading of pathogens, and the overuse of antibiotics whose long-term effects in people are poorly understood. Salmon farming is also part of the unfortunate American habit of industrially producing everything, from furniture to writers. And, for connoisseurs, farmed salmon is just not as tasty as its wild cousins.
My dark confession for today is that, all other things being equal, I would prefer to buy farmed seafood