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When Is A Foodie Not A Foodie…..?

New York Magazine, ever on the  prowl for a new urban trend or lifestyle to expose to its audience of affluent ex-Manhattanites, offers up a lifestyle piece this week on a “youth culture phenomenon” being perpetuated by what are best referred to as “Yuffies” (Young Urban Food-obsessives) (The term is mine, not the magazine’s, so please direct your disgust at me).  Specifically, they profile a Ms. Diane Chang.  As New York Magazine describes Ms. Chang and this “phenomenon”:

Diane Chang is a prime specimen of the new breed of restaurant-goer. The species is obsessive and omnivorous. Although they lean toward cheap ethnic food and revile pretension, they do not ultimately discriminate by price point or cuisine . . . . They abhor restaurant clichés (Carnegie Deli, Peter Luger) and studiously avoid chains (Olive Garden, McDonald’s) but are not above the occasional ironic trip to either. They consume food media—blogs, books, Top Chef and other “quality” TV shows but definitely not Food Network—like so many veal sweetbreads . . . . They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. Some are serious home cooks who seek to duplicate the feats of their chef-heroes in their own kitchens; others barely use a stove. Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it.

Ms. Chang seemingly defines herself by what she is not – she is not a hipster, not a foodie, not a yelper.  “I just like what I like,” she says.  Fair enough.  The article seems mainly focused on how her tastes seem calculated to support a certain agenda – i.e, obscure, unfamiliar, unappreciated food is good, while mainstream, well-known food, even if widely appreciated, is lacking.   A lunch at Momofuku Ko and dinner at Blue Hill are dismissed negatively, while Ms. Chang’s iPhone screensaver proudly displays a pig’s foot dish “from a tiny food stall in Taipei.”

Of course, Eater pounced, extracting ten damning lines from NY Mag’s “insufferable foodie story” and declaring that the article is “ostensibly about how people have turned dining out into an obnoxious status-symbol seeking hobby” and “eye-rollingly maddening.”  The comments (both on Eater and the NY Mag article) were not kind either.

Now, it would be easy to pile on,and certainly Ms. Chang made some statements in the article that are hard for me to defend:

She says she disliked M.Wells, last year’s consensus “It” restaurant, partly because of “the fact that everybody loves it, and I just don’t want to believe the hype.”

If you say something like that you are selling yourself out right there, and you lose credibility.  But Ms. Chang also speaks some truth.  In regard to her quest for obscure dining experiences, she says: “It’s a badge of honor . . . Bragging rights.”  As much as I might hate to admit it, its true – having gone to more than my share of obscure restaurants hidden away in Queens and elsewhere, IT’S FUN to be able to brag about it afterwards, boast that you went on this adventure that no one else did.  Of course, you have to be honest about it – if the place sucks, you can’t brag to everyone about how good it is.

The truth is, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.  I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about if we ever met.  Honestly, it sounds like she needs to get around Queens a bit more – Spicy & Tasty is sort of a noob’s Flushing Chinese (not a criticism of the restaurant,which I enjoy greatly), much like Sripraphai is a noob’s Queens Thai (again, no critique – they have taken lots of my money over the years).  Likewise, I don’t know my ass from my elbow when it comes to eating in Brooklyn.  But I can’t escape the feeling that Ms. Chang did not get a  fair shake from this interview, or from Eater.  As to their “Top Ten Lines” from the article, I have already discussed the ones that I don’t particularly agree with (e.g., M. Wells, Momofuku Ko).  Others I am not so sure about.:

The author describes the “silence” among Ms. Chang’s lunch guests when he revealed his favorite restaurant was Eleven Madison Park, and writes cleverly that “on the food-as-indie-rock matrix, I have just accidentally confessed to loving the Dave Matthews Band.”  But his whole issue seems to be entirely internal, there is no indication that his guests care one way or the other.

Second, Eater (via the author) seems to be trying to pin the (purported) opinion of a friend of Ms. Chang’s on her, excerpting  the statement that:

Lately, Casey has been championing the theory that mediocre food is better than good, the equivalent of a jaded indie kid extolling the virtues of Barry Manilow.”

“Casey” is James Casey, a friend of hers and some sort of food writer.

Eater again goes after her for “not riding the subway,” quoting the article’s report of her taking a $38 cab ride to go to a Korean BBQ place in Flushing.  Now, I’m not sure why anyone who knows better would take a cab to Flushing when it is about 15 minutes away on the 7 Express Train.  However, read in context, it is clear that she had a budget to spend on food from NY Mag and the cab fare came out of her budget.  Plus, as I mentioned before, it sounds like she is not very familiar with Queens. (Also, it sounds like she took the subway home anyway, I’m not sure $38 would get you there and back.)

Finally, she calls Park Slope “the worst food destination ever.” Now, I have no experience in this area but when I sent the article to J. Burger the first thing she said was “she’s right about Park Slope.”  So there you have it.

Anyway, all this to say, the media may have been a bit hard on Ms. Chang.  She obviously is very passionate about food and highly opinionated.  The author of the article made his decisions about how he would describe their time together, and fashioned his story accordingly.  When I first read this article I prepared to pile on but, as I said earlier, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.   We obviously care enough about food enough to spend our time eating out, or planning to eat out, or cooking at home, or planning to cook at home, or writing elaborate blog posts when we could just be relaxing and watching Netflix.  I can’t support everything she says in the article but neither do I think it quite makes her out to be the “status-symbol seeking” snob that some have labeled her.  And I am probably guilty of exercising some of my “bragging rights” in a way that has annoyed people.

Her Tumblr page is quite unassuming, just a simple collection of photos of stuff she’s eaten with some commentary and a link to a “paired” song.  Unlike this blog, there are no tirades about restaurants, or culinary trends, or news of the day.

UPDATE: Eater has posted Ms. Chang’s response to her coverage in New York Magazine (and subsequently on  Eater).  Without further comment on my part, it can be found here for readers interested in pursuing the subject further.

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Move Over, Padma

For those readers who can’t get enough sexy burger eating, this one’s for you

Shame on You For Studying The Science Behind Food Porn

March 14, 2012 3 comments

Yes indeed, we loves us some food porn here at A.O.D., and not least because it drives substantial traffic to our blog.  But apart from the shameful pleasures and tawdry thrills derived from ogling images and video that display food at its most lustful and succulent, do we really understand food porn? Have we bothered to comprehend the cognitive and biological factors that drive us to stare hungrily at sun dappled images of farm fresh garden veggies, or at Padma Lakshmi devouring a cheeseburger, or at the Disney Food Porn Facebook page?

Well, some scientists have concluded that this is all a result of “supernormal stimuli,” a phenomenon in nature in which the features of an object – be it a parent, a mate, or food – are exaggerated to make animal respond more strongly to them. In her book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, author Deirdre Barrett discusses how advertisers and fast food companies exaggerate things that we like in order to hijack our emotions and cravings.  The idea is that viewers will react more strongly to images of a food/product where the enticing features have been enhanced – mainly, color and texture, e.g. crispness, moistness, freshness,etc.  Barret’s hypothesis is that everyone knows that fast food is unhealthy, but because its advertisements (TV, print, etc.) are expertly designed to scratch a particular itch, by manipulating our desire  to feed ourselves, we can’t resist eating things like Big Macs or Arby’s Big Montana.

So – courtesy Of Christopher Mims’ article on the SmartPlanet blog, we can share the ultimate food porn experience – a nearly 3 minute montage (actually a music video by the Amsterdam-based DJ Mason) showing food porn/advertiser manipulation at its finest.  Mims claims the video drove him to make lunch immediately, and promises you will be headed to get a snack after viewing it.  So, see for yourself – be sure to crank the volume.:

Supernormal Stimuli got hold of you yet? No? Well, we understand that for some of you, food porn may be more properly used to satisfy some of the more base biological urges. We don’t want to leave you all frustrated, so here are some of the most titillating advertisements we have come across in our long history of exploiting sexual food imagery. Enjoy!

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Here’s one that goes well beyond chicks eating burgers, and will assuredly be never aired in the U.S.  However, it is some pretty optimal food porn.

Next up: Hardee’s Monster ThickBurger.  I don’t know how this one escaped my two previous posts on the subject, but in the interests of completing the oeuvre, here you go:

And that finally brings us to the grand prize winner, food porn commercial extraordinaire, blue ribbon, par excellence (warning: may be an ad before this one).

Allegations salutes . . . The Fat Boys

March 13, 2012 1 comment

Here at Allegations we like food, but we also appreciate a good tune, and we pay special attention when the worlds of food and music converge.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we sit up and take notice.  Occasionally, it happens in the world of Hip Hop – many rap artists have written songs in praise of their favorite foodstuffs.  A Tribe Called Quest famously sang about “Ham & Eggs” (and other foods).  MF Doom devoted a whole album to the subject of food (“Mm…Food”).  There is, however, one Hip Hop group that predates all these efforts.  This group didn’t just write a song about their favorite foods, they adopted food as their identity- fully embraced it as an expression of who they were.  And so, we present a tribute to The Fat Boys, one of Hip Hop’s pioneering ensembles.

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Now, by way of full disclosure – The Fat Boys will always be dear to me because their eponymous album (pictured above) was the third album I ever purchased, at the tender age of 8 (it was preceded by “Pac-Man Fever,” and Men At Work’s “Business As Usual”).  This album came two years after Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” and came out the same year as Run D.M.C.’s debut album, just to give an idea of its place in the old-school chronology.

The Fat Boys were (from the right), Prince Markie Dee, Kool-Rock-Ski, and The Human Beat Box.  A particular distinguishing feature of The Fat Boys was the percussive verbal stylings of “The Human Beat Box.”  He wasn’t the first to bust a beat with his mouth, or necessarily the best, but he had a distinctive style and was more than capable of carrying a song when the drum machine dropped out.  Importantly, The Fat Boys were not all gimmicks – they were decent rappers as well, they loved food, and they weighed in at a combined 750 pounds.  For a brief period they were movie stars as well.  Although they may be remembered for their star vehicle “Disorderlies,” they had also chewed up the scenery (literally) in a scene from the old school Hip Hop classic “Krush Groove.”  Here, the Fat Boys are enticed by the all-you-can-eat Italian buffet at the Sbarro on 49th St. and Broadway, which inspires them to burst into song.  The Sbarro is still there, I walk by it every day on my way to work (although the buffet, to the best of  my knowledge, is gone) – an unassuming piece of musical history in Times Square.

Now, the “reflections from jail” song is a tried-and-true Hip Hop archetype, where the narrator reflects on what got him into jail, how tough it is in there, and how he has changed as a result.  Rappers have been recording these songs since the dawn of Hip Hop (for historians, see Slick Rick – “Behind Bars,” Ice-T – “The  Tower,” and, of course, Public Enemy – “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.”)  The Fat Boys recorded their own “reflections from jail” song, with their own unique spin.  For those with lots of time on their hands (the song clocks in at over six minutes, including an extended instrumental break and piano solo), the video for “Jailhouse Rap” is below:

The Fat Boys have sadly passed into history, but for some, their legacy remains – a testament to an earlier and more innocent time when rap artists could be severely overweight, could beatbox throughout their records, could poke fun at themselves, could stuff  their faces at Sbarro onscreen and rap about how they got sent upstate for breaking into a pizza place and eating every pizza in sight.  Never again will there be a commercially successful hip hop act like The Fat Boys – but for a brief moment in the mid-1980s, they were the coolest cats on the block.  So, we  present this tribute to the Fat Boys.  You will never see them in the Rock-n-Roll, or even the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed), but they are an important piece of early hip hop history and, most importantly, they were not afraid to stuff their faces, film  themselves doing it and sing about it.

Allegations at 100: Chocolate Coated, Freaky & Habit-Forming

June 30, 2011 1 comment

This marks Allegations’ 100th post.  Special thanks to all our regular readers who helped us along the way, and additional thanks to all those who stumbled over us while looking for Sandra Lee recipes or pictures of Kool-Aid Man.  We couldn’t have done without you.

I thought I would take the opportunity to share some facts and figures regarding the blog that we are privy to behind the scenes.  Since our launch in April 2010 we’ve had over 36,000 views – so we are not exactly the Huffington Post, but I guess its not bad considering we have done exactly zero to promote the site other than share it with a handful of our friends.

J. Frankfurter’s most popular post by far is “Reports Of Cookie Monster’s Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated” – in fact, it has generated 7,000 more views than the second most popular post.  This may be a result of J. Frankfurter’s keen intellect and rapier wit, or it may just be that a lot of people search for pictures of Cookie Monster on Google Images – I leave that to the reader to decide.  For whatever it is worth, it is probably one of my better posts and it debunks an insidious urban myth, so it serves a public service function as well.

J. Burger’s most popular post is “Popsicles are the new cupcakes.”  J. Burger strolls upon the cutting edge and this post is no exception – people seem to be linking back to it, unsurprisingly, as it provides invaluable advice for hip snackers and popsicle fans alike.

J. Frankfurter’s second most popular post is “Shame  On You For Looking At Food Porn – Part 2.”  Well, what can I say? It is surprising how many people stumble across our site after searching for “food porn” or “bacon porn.”   Well, here at Allegations we like to give the public what it wants – food, porn and snarky commentary.  If you feel you need a primer on food porn, and can’t just jump in at Part 2 of our ongoing series, then Part 1 can be found here.

J. Burger’s second most popular post is “Willy Wonka and The Gorton’s Fisherman Walk Into A Bar.”  Back when I was a young and naive blogger with more free time on my hands, I challenged J. Burger to cook a “food that hadn’t been invented yet” (courtesy of this Village Voice article).  I went first, cooking up a veal liver creme brulee which I ended up concluding wasn’t all that outrageous, and tasted really good on toast with strawberry jam.  J. Burger responded by cooking up chocolate-covered fish sticks.  How did they turn out? Well, you can go here to find out, suffice to say that the commenters were not impressed.

So, hopefully I’ve enticed you to click through to some of our greatest hits.  Thanks again for your patronage – it wouldn’t be much fun if we were playing to an empty theater every night, so its good to know there are at least a few people out there in the seats.

Categories: Food Media

Parents Vs. Childless In Anonymous Internet Smackdown

June 28, 2011 3 comments

A few months ago Eater posted a short blurb to the effect that Dale Levitski, AKA goofy Dale from Top Chef Season 3, will start serving brunch at his Chicago restaurant “Sprout,” with the real news being that no kids are allowed, in an otherwise kid-friendly neighborhood.  “Anyway”, observes Eater “we’re sure the stroller class is going to get up-in-arms about this.”  So, you can see where this is going. 

Flash forward to June when J. Frankfurter is aimlessly clicking around Eater and comes across this seemingly innocuous write-up.  Having two children himself, who he frequently brings to restaurants, J. Frankfurter stops to read the article.  It becomes quite clear that Eater has only bothered to report on this piece of non-news for the purpose of provoking some controversy – and indeed, the comments section has quickly devolved into a full-on flame war.

Some readers are fully supportive of this policy, and seem to have some preconceived notions about parents:

There are more brunch options in chicago than buildings in some suburbs i.e. don’t go to sprout if you have kids. That’s it! Just, don’t, go; the rest of us will have a splendid time while you’re conversing about what new-agey parenting books you just read and if you foresee patronizing a charter school, or tossing your offspring into the CPS.

Other readers seem to feel that having kids around will cramp their style

Do you know how hard it is to have a nice, quiet, brunch without your messy brats SCREECHING in my ear? It’s Sunday. I want quiet. I am hungover. I am going to talk about how hungover I am, graphically. And maybe what drugs my friends did, and who hooked up with whom. No kids, yay!

This draws a swift and decisive reaction:

I think YOU should stay home. You’re the one with the problem, not me. If I want to take my SCREECHING kids out to brunch, not only will I do that, I’ll personally seek your hungover ass out just to piss you off.

Finally, a voice  of reason chimes in:

Nice. Just, nice. What we all need is more confrontation about silly-ass things. All of you, grow up.

But it is ignored:

Why should I be allowed to have one nice, quiet, place where I can enjoy a meal with friends and not have to worry about it being ruined by obnoxious children? You chose to have kids, I chose not to. Don’t force your lifestyle choices on me. And at BRUNCH no less, in front of the EGGS.

And then things just get ugly:

By the way, those of us who /choose/ to continue the human race actually do expect a little thanks from selfish little non-breeding jerks, just like you.

And stupid:

Really? Seriously? I’ll spare you the points here about overpopulation, et. al. So you get no thanks from me for the great service you’re doing to me with your offspring.

And from there things just go downhill:

What a pompous ass. Maybe there should be restaurants where men can’t go? Women? Black people? Chinese?

Then everyone gets all insulted and offended that someone would equate this to racism and sexism, etc.  Then finally someone named “Lynette Spring Baker” chimes in with this:

To all the parents with well-behaved, respectful children who feel slighted, let’s face it: some less-than-stellar parents ruined it for you. Please place your angst where it belongs.

So, time for my rant now that we have gotten through that unpleasantness. 

First of all, I’ll just state the obvious – these people are all idiots. Second of all, I am a parent of two energetic children, ages 4 years and 21 months.  I like to go out and eat in restaurants, and I do so often, with my children.  Here’s where I stand on this issue: more power to Dale Levitski if he wants to keep children out of his restaurant. Frankly, I could care less, and the fact is, most other places are kid-friendly. 

In regard to bringing my own children to restaurants, I follow my own set of guidelines that are intended to prevent them from ruining other people’s meals.  Call it self-policing.  The way I see it, in exchange for me following these guidelines, the other patrons of a restaurant can, in return, STFU and mind their own business. 

Here are my guidelines:

1) I will not take the kids to restaurants that are clearly not kid-friendly, or that are excessively quiet/romantic.

2) I will bring along toys, games and/or art supplies to keep them busy and quiet.

3) I will keep them from running around the restaurant.

4) I will tip very generously if my kids make a big mess, or create lots of extra work for the waitstaff

5) I will remove the kids from the premises if they start screaming or causing a loud disruption

So that’s my end of the deal, and I’ll keep it.  But if you’re hung over and don’t feel comfortable sitting near two little kids, too fucking bad for you. I’ve been up since before 7am and probably had a bad nights sleep, and I could care less if I’m cramping your style.

Sandra Lee Pushes The Limits Of “Mixology”

August 19, 2010 1 comment

Courtesy of Food Network Humor (no actual affiliation with the Food Network):  Sandra Lee loves her cocktails, and is always coming up with creative new ways to ingest booze.

As with her cooking , Sandra is not content to mix up the drab concoctions of yesteryear.  Moving beyond Manhattans, Sidecars and French 75s, Sandra seeks out bold new ingredients and combinations.  To get a flavor of Sandra’s flair for mixology, here is the recipe for her “Cruisin’ Cooler” (apparently to be drunk at the racetrack, sort of like mint juleps are drunk at the Kentucky Derby)

However – for the cutting edge mixologist, not every cocktail recipe that seems good in theory actually works out well in practice.  For every inspired combination like Gatorade and melon vodka, there may be a concept that does not fully work in the way intended.  Below, a frame-by-frame presentation of Sandra immediately after drinking another of her concoctions – “Farm Stand Lemonade”, consisting of lemonade, heavy cream and vodka.