Wednesday, May 7

It's Because You Don't Know.

I EAT out maybe four times a year, generally family occasions where someone else has simultaneously made the reservation and assured that I'll have a miserable meal in unspeakable surroundings. Still this is about four times as often as I read the Cool Kids--I don't even follow links there anymore--and roughly twice the pleasure. The last time I found myself anywhere near them--can't for the life of me think why--Ezra was excoriating Parker Brothers for their harassment of the Scrabble™ pirates at Scrabulous, seeming for all the world to be completely and blissfully unaware of the requirements of holding a trademark I imagined everyone learned by grade 6 (Kleenex™, cellophane, Coke™, trampoline), not to mention the peculiar notions about economic ethics and the behavior of behemoth corporations. I've stopped reading more than one blog because someone said "as Matt points out..." more than twice.

But hey, live and let live. Yglesias and Klein are at least readable, if one foregoes one's devotion to English, and as for McArdle, there's always Roy to read her.

I got there late. Seems the Cool Kids got all hot and bothered by the condescending tone of this Times piece on chain restaurants, though where it is they found the condescension I'm still not clear. It's all handled well by Roy's commenters, who point out, among other things, that the article in question didn't sneer, and wasn't even as critical as it might be, that both the reverse snobbery and the reverse classism [ 1) all snooty New Yorkers are from Peoria 2) chain restaurants are therefore their national cuisine 3) therefore their dislike of chains is simple pretension] is bogus, and, somewhat surprisingly to me, that the delicacies at Olive Garden are one variety of corporately-distributed frozen Boil-In-Bag grub or another.

(Let me explain: maybe I shouldn't find that all that surprising; it's just that it flies in the face of common sense as well as culinary wisdom. Pasta is ages-old fast food. You could cook all the pasta you needed for the weekend Thursday afternoon--excepting the really tiny stuff like capellini, which takes one minute to cook from dry--and drop it in boiling water to reheat when needed. No compromise in quality. Why freeze? The people who run these Concepts will tell you it's quality control and chain-wide uniformity of product, which is bullshit; it's the ability to short labor costs and rampant employee turnover.)

Before we move on to Ezra, honorable mention to Susan of Texas, for this response to "Why would anybody read the Atlantic's columnists?"
When you ignore them they multiply, like little supply-side rats.

So, as to Ezra (because I have no idea why anyone would have me-too'd the piece, unless they're just always doing this). He thinks the Times went too damn far, even if he feels their pain:
I'm pretty much your consummate coastal elite (I biked back from the farmer's market today with a baguette and artisan cheese fastened to my rack)

Y'see, the thing is, Ezra, behaving like a caricature might make you a caricature, or even a paragon of caricature-ness, but it does not make you any more elite than anyone else who reads the same fucking magazines and espouses the same carefully selected "tastes". That comment is twice as condescending as anything in the Times piece, which merely occasionally disdained a group of corporate operators who deserve occasional disdain. You and your cohort grew up in an atmosphere of celebrity chefs and cooking networks and Bon Appétit, and so you imagine that, having inhaled enough culture dust, you're all officially gourmands by now, able and accredited to denounce fusty food snobbery in the name of the Little People.

Pah. It's painless expertise, and unearned (later, seeking an adjectival gotcha to substitute for any evidence supporting his thesis--these folks really ought to learn to keep their opinions about grammar wars and Middle East ground combat to themselves--Ezra will ask, "Can a batter really be 'insipid'?" And rather than point out that "insipid" can mean "lacking vitality or imagination" as well as flavor, we will stick to the subject and note that even batters lacking distinct flavoring agents [beer, brandy] may be designed specifically for meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit, and of varying viscosities, and as such may be horribly misused--obscuring, say, the delicate flavor of seafood, as Ms Cook reported). Palates are born, not made; still, their training is more arduous than cycling to the market. It's possible there are a few out there worth listening to which are attached to people still in their early twenties (the adult palate generally surfaces around age 25; before then you are clamoring for the sweet gooeyness of Not Poison and the, yes, insipid richness of Mother's milk. Afterwards you will long simply for the container) but if so they belong to people raised in the restaurant business or the wealthiest homes, not to everyone who buys Swiss truffles. None of them, I daresay, is yours. Had you dedicated yourself to connoisseurship these would be the early days of your learning to distinguish St. Julien from St. Estèphe, or Nahe from Rheingau, and your tongue would be too busy for any half-assed lecturing.


aimai said...

Ihave only this to say, I read your comment about the Olive Garden as "boiled-grub-in-a-bag" and thought it sounded pretty good, from a larval perspective.

No, I guess I'll say one more thing. I am utterly uncharmed by Ezra and Megan, their brand of self satisfied elitism is really rather strikingly repulsive. Here's the thing, I think I come from as elite/more elite a background in some ways and I just don't see *making a living* crowing about it is all that much to crow about. Essentially, Ezra comments on policy so other people don't have to worry their pretty heads about it. He's a glorified PA with upper class tastes. And he self consciously writes for people just like him. That remark about the baguette and the cheese was just fucking priceless. But the fact of the matter is that he doesn't do anythign with his high priced education that a gazillion lower class people couldn't do as well or better. And ditto for Megan. They are knowledge workers in a market where they actually probably posses the least amount of specialized, complex knowledge of anyone other than a widget manufacturer. Megan herself demonstrates over and over again that she doesn't have the knowledge of a smart freshman writing their first comp essay. They exist in a little bubble of self congratulation about their merit which includes sidelong winks about how they got where they got through connections rather than merit.

Anonymous said...

i dont read megan, because i'm allergic to randroids.

ezra is pretty okay at regurgitating policy positions and giving simple explanations to complex debates that i have no window onto, not being in that policy community. his other stuff, well, meh. but that's not why i read him.

at least he's riding a bike now. if you're living in DC you really have no fucking excuse for not using either public transportation or riding a bike.

Kathy Rogers said...

I don't read any of the cool kids. When most of the boy cool kids proved themselves to be women-dismissing assholes, I stopped reading. I have never, not once, been back. I do not miss them. They overestimate their importance/influence/intelligence.

Especially Atrios. I don't understand how he maintains an audience any more. Sure, when he was nearly the only game in town, it was good to hang around there in the company of what I thought were like-minded people. But he's no writer. Is it nostalgia?

heydave said...

Damn, I'm glad I come to this blog.

Anonymous said...

So I don't read Ezra, Megan, or Matt - who else counts among the Cool Kids? I don't read Markos. I don't read Joshua, but I don't see that he deserves any heapings of scorn, since he funds what seems to be a lot of useful investigative reporting. Is Glenn Greenwald somehow a Cool Kid in his painstaking bury-the-enemy-under-fifty-paragraphs-of-their-own-words way? Because in the right mood I enjoy his work quite a bit -- he's cranky enough for someone twice his age. Is Kevin Drum a superannuated Cool Kid? Who's in the club? I want to know.

I didn't actually know, when I discovered the liberal blogosphere in '05 or so, that I'd be so instinctive drawn to grumpy middle-aged voices (Lance Mannion, Hilzoy, Digby, Echidne, David Brin, you). I'm only 34, and even at that the Obama campaigner on Monday greeted me at the door with "Is your father home?" before looking at me more closely. Then again, I'm a schoolteacher; that's probably enough to age anyone at extreme rates...

Anonymous said...

That's the most terrible brutal putdown I ever seen in one of these blog things. You cut the kid no slack. Why so brutal?

On the other hand, have you seen the photos the kid posts of his stir-fry preparations? How can every one of them look like the dog coughed it up?

Last two weeks in Sète, Languedoc-Rousillon, where they grow the mussels in the lagoon back of here. Mussels every which way, marinière, skewered, farci à la Sètois which apparently means chopped up and mixed with ragù then stuffed back in the shell and drizzled with French's mustard.

And the oysters! You get a plate of raw oysters before everything else, the way you might get a plate of tastefully arranged canned beets in one of the better San Francisco restaurants; I've kept away from Indianapolis and have no analogy there.

The best part of French cuisine is the guy who for a €uro sells you a liter of red wine via a plastic hose from a couple of fifty-gallon tanks in the back of his van. It's maybe not cuisine, being wine, but for five bucks you could wash down a lot of mussels, or canned beets, or what have you. Take that, bike-riding whippersnappers.

Excuse the post-- just thought you were descending into bitter denial of the earthly delights and figured the site needed a little classing up.