Eating Good in the Neighborhood

Listening to NPR on the way home last night, when this dreck came on:

Tell us how the recession is affecting the way you live.

But like a train wreck, I couldn’t change the station.  I listened as whiny hipsters called in bemoaning the fact that they have to “buy day-old bread” and that they’re considering “taking up fishing” to supplement the fact that they can “no longer afford fresh fish.”  The distaste in their voices for both of these activities was truly stunning.

It went further downhill when another caller spoke plaintively of the fact that she can no longer afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and is instead living solely off frozen dinners.  Give me a MF’ing break.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a MILLION times: fresh produce — especially at local farmers markets — is always cheaper (and better for you!) than anything frozen, boxed or processed.  Clearly, frozen-foods caller never actually purchased fresh produce to begin with or she would know better.

And then the segment reached its nadir: A caller on the verge of tears explained that for her 21st birthday, she wanted to go somewhere nice for her birthday, but instead her family took her to Applebee’s.  Her voice cracked as she spoke of this humbling and sorrowful experience.

…what?  Excuse me?  My friend, did you ever stop to consider that your family took you to Applebee’s for dinner because you’re a whiny, spoiled bitch and they hate you?  I mean, you have the nerve to come on national radio and COMPLAIN that your family took you out to dinner for your birthday?  And because it didn’t live up to your exacting expectations, you’re going to ball them out in a public forum and act like fucking Scarlett O’Hara having to make dresses out of Tara’s ruined curtains?

Dude, I don’t like Applebee’s either.  But you’ve got a lot of nerve to bitch about being taken out to eat — especially during this terrible “recession” that everyone is buying into — when there are people literally starving to death throughout the world, people living with war and famine and unimaginable poverty, people living on the fringes of societies who have NOTHING, while you eat your Three Course Classic and the waitstaff brings you a free piece of cake.

You know what?  Shut the hell up.  All of you whiny people, just shut the hell up.


Au Revoir, Chef Schmit? J’espère Pas…

Cleverley’s blog greets us with sad news this morning:  Philippe Schmit is no longer with Legacy Restaurants.

Most of you will remember the equally sad revelation this past November that bistro moderne was closing, as the Hotel Derek’s new management clearly had no idea of the quality and talent that they had under their own roof with Schmit and and no ability to appreciate that fact that bistro moderne had succeeded — triumphantly succeeded, at that — where so many other restaurants had failed in the past.

Houston foodies waited with baited breath to see where Schmit would land and when he took the rather unusual step of partnering up with Legacy Resturants (the company which operates Tex-Mex haven Ninfa’s and sandwhich chain Antone’s, among others), we cocked our heads but still sighed with relief: “He’s staying here!”

Cleverley made a rather prescient observation in her blog about the move back in January:

In culinary terms, this is a rather unconventional relationship move for Schmit. I am reminded of another top-level, high profile, fine dining, celebrity Houston chef who formed a relationship with a mostly non-fine dining group with promises of his own signature restaurant in the future. When he found himself cooking Tex-Mex in a trailer, he hit the road – quickly. This happened a few years ago and it all turned out OK for this chef. He is doing superbly now. Now I’m not drawing any comparisons, I was just reminded of this story.

I think she could start a psychic business on the side if this whole restaurant guru thing didn’t work out for some reason.

So here we are, back to November again, waiting and hoping that Schmit will remain here, in the city that loves him, despite the way it’s treated him in the past year.  Stay with us, Philippe!  We promise we won’t hit you no more, baby!  We’ll change!  And, hopefully, give you that signature restaurant you’ve long deserved.

Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.

Paging Dr. Chef

NPR had an interesting story this morning on a chef turned doctor who’s making it her business to spread the word about healthy cooking and eating to fellow healthcare professionals.  CIA graduate Michelle Hauser, who’s now in her third year of medical school at Harvard, teaches courses on fresh, quick and inexpensive ways to prepare healthy meals through a collaboration between the Culinary Institute and Harvard University.

Image courtesy of NPR.

The result of the courses are doctors  who are taking the information to heart not only for their patients, but for themselves.  So many healthcare professionals that I know don’t have the time or energy outside of work to research and prepare good meals for themselves.  And many more doctors simply don’t encourage a healthy diet to their patients that actually makes sense for the patient’s lifestyle and budget, or — worse — barely mention healthy eating habits at all.  It’s one thing to encourage wellness, but if you’re not supporting it with concrete and attainable methods (such as working with a patient to develop a health plan and outline a diet for them), then that encouragment will end the moment the patient walks out of the doctor’s office.

Food is such an integral part of who we are and how we live — healthily or not.  It’s our fuel.  And yet hardly anyone gets asked about their diet — not whether or not they’re ON one, but about WHAT they eat on a daily basis — when at the doctor’s office.  It doesn’t take a genius, or even a brain surgeon, to realize that what you put down your gullet each day affects your overall health in ways other than blood pressure or weight gain.

A recent and close-to-home example occurred when my grandfather was put on Coumadin by his physician.  The doctor never bothered asking my grandfather about his dietary habits, or warning him about excessive Vitamin K consumption while taking the Coumadin.  If he had, the physician would have found out that — as part of our typical Southern diet — my grandfather ate a lot of spinach and other greens, all bursting with Vitamin K.  When he started to feel sick after taking the Coumadin for only a few days, we called the doctor, who — again — neglected to ask about or mention any possible interactions and said just to let it work its way through Grandaddy’s system.  Thankfully, my mother took it upon herself to research Coumadin and found that it interacted very strongly with any foods that contained Vitamin K.  We took all the dark greens out of my grandfather’s diet and all was restored to normal.  When presented with this information, his physician was nonplussed.

The NPR website has more information to supplement the story, including some delicious-sounding recipes that Michelle Hausman uses in her presentations.  Here’s hoping that more courses like these take off, as a benefit not just to the doctors themselves but also to their patients.

UPDATE:  I should mention, before my friend Dr. Q gets here to defend her profession in the comments section, that not all doctors are such schmucks.  I feel that’s the way this has come across.  Dr. Q, for example, is a very holistically-minded physician and I’m sure that she takes things like this into account when treating her patients.  Then again, she’s an ER doctor, so…I don’t really know from squat.  If you, too, are lucky enough to find a holistically-inclined doctor — that is, one who takes into account the fact that you are many parts that all work together, not just a foot, not just an esophagus, not just an inner ear — then you stick with that doctor, my friend!  They are a rare breed, indeed.

On Plating

I like to think that one of the most important culinary achievements of our time (our time being, oh, the 1980s forward) is the ability of chefs to present dishes in a manner that elevates food from mere sustenance to an art form.  Granted, some people can take this a bit too far into that grievous “food porn” territory (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, NIGELLA LAWSON), but on the whole I’m quite happy to think that I’ll never be presented with this:


Or this:


Both monstrous dishes are courtesy of the reliably hilarious Gallery of Regrettable Food (the website, that is).  If you’ve never been there before, go posthaste.  Among my personal favorite galleries are The Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables and the bilious 10pm Cookery.

The point of all this is that there’s a new book out called Gastroanomalies, which is in the same vein as the Gallery of Regrettable Food (and by the same author, James Lileks) and which I will most definitely be giving out to friends and family this Christmas.  NPR recently did a great story on the book and Mr. Lilek’s fascination with frightening food.  You can listen to it here.

Manny Howard, I Salute You

If you’ve got time, listen to this great little segment from All Things Considered about a man who decided to create his own farm in his tiny Brooklyn backyard, complete with chickens, ducks and rabbits.

Man Lives Off the Fat of His Brooklyn Land

I can’t wait for the book to come out!