Saturday, November 29, 2008

A cook's manifesto: I'm no chef

Marcella Hazan, who has taught bazillions to make the great eats of Italy in their own kitchen, has an op-ed in the NYT today. She argues that our fascination with food as entertainment and artistry, and with the chefs who create that kind of food, has caused us to devalue the importance of food as family- and community builder, and the people who do the more humble home-cooking. Snip:
I am my family’s cook. It is the food prepared and shared at home that, for more than 50 years, has provided a solid center for our lives. In the context of the values that cement human relations, the clamor of restaurants and the facelessness of takeout are no match for what the well-laid family table has to offer. A restaurant will never strengthen familial bonds.

A while ago, my dad gave me a chef's jacket with my name embroidered on it. I've worn it on occasion while making some fancified food for friends, but after reading Marcella's column, maybe I'll just stick with an old-fashioned apron.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Unexpected cutbacks?

Anybody who's been paying attention has noticed that increases in the prices consumer goods have increasingly taken the form of decreases in the amount of product you get, instead of increases on the price tag. What used to be a half-gallon container of ice cream became 1.75 qts, then (for Breyers, anyway) 1.5 qts. Well, caveat emptor--you gotta keep your eye on the ball and look at the little shelf tags that give per-ounce prices, or do some quick math in your head.

But Kimberly-Clark may be taking this trend to strange new places: my underwear. When I opened my last shipment of Depends Guards for Men, the package announced that I was getting a new, more comfortable fit. I also noticed the package looked a little smaller. After a couple weeks of product testing, I've come to the conclusion that the new, more comfortable fit must have come at the expense of, uh, capacity. So sure, reduced lumpiness in the area in question is bound to increase comfort, just like a 25% smaller cheeseburger makes for a burger with just 75% of the fat in the previous product.

Here's the kicker: if you want the properties of the old product, Kimberly-Clark helpfully offers Depend Boost inserts, which allow you to soup up your existing disposable absorbent garment. In other words, you're welcome to buy the missing 25% of your cheeseburger. Somebody get Ralph Nader on the phone...