Tag Archives: Food

Vulgarity and Ambrosia

Over at eGullet, there’s a lively discussion regarding profanity in food writing. While the forum thread was started as a question regarding the inclusion of the word “fuckingˮ in a quote from a chef, it evolved into a larger discussion on the place of colorful language in the food world.

I see a larger discussion here that has yet to be touched upon; the elevation of food to a near poetic status and how it sometime dissuades views upon what I perceive to be the reality of food. We see this elevation everywhere, from magazines and books to even movies and blogs.

(Notably absent from the above list of media is television, which for some reason has a difficult time communicating the sublime nature of food. In television, the food technicians are exalted; the food rarely so).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with exalting food in this manner. I love to (ahem) consume these kinds of food media, and judging by the commercial and critical responses to the above, many of you do as well. What all of these types of media do well is apply a certain level of aesthetic to food, elevating it from a simple consumable product to one that either:

  1. …is capable to delivering allegories or metaphors to the more romantic notions that are within many of us. (As an example, think of the stories out there that use the Thanksgiving dinners as a treatise on how swell family life can be).
  2. …is capable of delivering what my friend Gwyn calls “brief instances of pure being, experience erasing thought and bringing (one) to a point of stillnessˮ.

When done well, these types of art oftentimes exceed the pleasures of the foods they describe.

However, to use this perspective as the only frame of reference in dealing with food is completely missing out on several hard-core realities of the food world. Food is a dirty business. Animals die for it. Millions of people call the food industry their principle means of support. It is less an exaltation than a simple fact of life. For many, food is simply that…food. In the course of dealing with food people for almost three years now, I find that it’s clear that many people either forget or choose to ignore this fact. Oftentimes these are the same folks who don’t wish to be reminded that meat comes with a face attached to it.

And yes, at times, food is a vulgar business. Fungus, molds and decomposition are used in various aspects of its production. There are many recipes where blood is a critical ingredient.

Then there’s the people involved in food production. From the fishermen who are “full of testosterone, full of yourselves, straight off the “high seas,” with all the bravado and machismo of Green Berets ” to the kitchen cooks that Anthony Bourdain likens to “piratesˮ and everyone in between and elsewhere, these are folks that are rarely seen in the cover stories of Bon Appetit.

Food isn’t just about the tribe of humanity, or that ever-nebulous sense of family. It’s also about death and rot. It’s as much about the guy who steals a bottle of Jack Daniels from the back stockroom as it is about Emeril. It’s about politics and romance, good steak and bad beer. It’s about caviar and hot dogs. Anyone who views food through the rose-colored glasses of “Good Housekeepingˮ or the poetry of MFK Fisher is missing out on a much larger and colorful world.

A world, by the way, that happens to include a fair amount of vulgarity.

Technorati Tags: Food, Vulgarity, Aesthetic

When a Pittsburgher thinks of food

Pittsburgh has a culinary tradition.

I can hear some of you snickering out there, but Pittsburgh does have a food tradition. Sometimes it isn’t pretty (much like our predilection to use the word “yunz” in sentences), but it is a tradition nonetheless.

Here are some of the foods that we can make claim to, or simply remind us of Pittsburgh, in alphabetical order.

  • Big Macs: Invented and first sold in Pittsburgh.
  • Chip Chopped Ham: Shaved ham, a deli meat. Often quite fatty.
  • City Chicken: Veal or pork disguised as Chicken…don’t ask.
  • Clark Bars: North Side Candy Bar that became popular nationwide.
  • Dippy Eggs: eggs over easy…over very easy, often served on untoasted white bread.
  • Fried Zucchini Strips: Popularized by Italian immigrants, I grew up on these and fried Zucchini Slices. Of course, Pittsburghers can’t just leave well enough alone, and you’ll often see them topped with Heinz Ketchup.
  • Heinz Ketchup: Thank GOD Heinz makes an Organic Ketchup.
  • Hoagies: Our version of Submarine Sandwiches. In Western Pennsylvania, Hoagie sales are extremely popular in High Schools to raise money.
  • Imp an Ahrn: An Imp an Ahrn, is a shot of Imperial Whiskey placed in a glass of Iron City. Our version of a boilermaker.
  • Iron City Beer: Our hometown brew, known for their cans featuring the various sports teams. It’s taste? Meh.
  • Italian Wedding Soup: Beef meatballs in Chicken broth, with pasta and carrots.
  • Jimmies: Jimmies are what everyone else calls sprinkles (i.e. the tiny candies put on ice cream).
  • Jumbo Sandwiches: Jumbo isn’t a size, it’s a name for Baloney
  • Klondike Bars: Isaly’s ice cream treat.
  • Pierogies: Potato dumplings made popular by the many Polish and Ukranian immigrants in the area.
  • Pittsburgh style steak: Steak cooked at an extremely high heat, so that the outside is burnt, but the inside is pink
  • Pop: Coke and Pepsi are pops. Soda is water.
  • Strawberry Pies: Every year, Eat ‘n’ Park would have specials based on this dessert, and every year, families would make at least one pilgrimage to indulge in them.
  • Rolling Rock Beer: Actually a Latrobe, PA institution. Home to the Steelers training camp.

Restaurants and Food Sellers

  • Eat n’ Park: Our version of Denny’s. Tasted better than Denny’s as well.
  • Giant Eagle: A local grocery store, often pronounced J’an T’ggle in Pittsburghese.
  • Isaly’s: Actually a Eastern Ohio Dairy Company that became Pittsburgh’s version of a Soda Shop.
  • Primanti Bros.: A Pittsburgh Institution
  • Winky’s: A long gone fast food restaurant, who had a slogan that went “Winky’s makes you happy to be hungry.”

Technorati Tags: Food, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Food