I am in a state of despondency. Shopping for dinner at the grocery store, a prospect which once filled me with anticipation and glee, now puts what Eric sometimes calls the "Sad Kitty" look onto my face.
And it's all Michael Pollan's fault. In last week's New York Times, Pollan, that purveyor of buckets of sunshine, wrote "Unhappy Meals," a huge article about food. Food, and the lies we've been told about it all my life.
Pollan's article ably covers a planet's worth of territory that I couldn't possibly hope to summarize -- it took us three days to finish the article -- but let's just say that at the end of it, I felt a flood of emotions. I was melancholy, despondent, feeling not smart enough to make it through the dizzying swath of food studies and sift out what is truth and what is lie like a good conscientious consumer should. Basically like the victim of poisoning who realizes that not only has she been lied to and betrayed, but in the process, also has been stupidized.
The very idea of making dinner filled me with a kind of resigned emptiness, because even though we shop at Golden Produce, one of the nicest greengrocers in the whole city, and get that nice grass fed beef at the semi-reliable Whole Foods, how do I really know just what in the dickens I am eating?
Take our menu for the evening: Braised Beef Short Ribs, with a side of mashed Yukon Golds and a baby arugula salad. Okay, certified organic produce? Check. Fresh local producers? Check. Beef: Niman Ranch, all natural, hormone-free, grass fed, not raised in horrifying conditions, but in a low-stress environment with dignity and respect? Check.
So you might think we're doing okay. But as I wander the aisles I start to think too much about it all. I'm going to have to use all-purpose flour-- where was it milled? Is the bulk stuff organic? How about the olive oil? It's not locally produced, so how can I be sure nothing weird was added to it in processing? The tomato paste -- it doesn't have corn syrup in it, but what else is in there to enhance flavor? And what do I really know about where that arugula was grown anyway? Was it sprayed with E. coli. ridden water? And don't those carrots look a little too perfectly formed to be all natural? And what about those onions? What if the onions weren't HAPPY while they were growing up? How can I possibly even think about putting unhappy onions in my meal?
Suddenly our Saturday dinner has disintegrated into one of those awful Thanksgivings where Uncle Beef Broth is souring into his autolyzed yeast extract and Auntie Shallot is weeping over her troubled childhood in the fields.
Thanks a lot, Michael Pollan, for ruining my meal.
Thanks to you and the New York Times, I feel hamstrung, I don't even trust Cheerios anymore --I can't even drink the water.
Kitty thinks this is all ridiculous. "What's your problem?" he sniffs, "Just buy lots of French cheese and wine."
Okay, kitty. I'll set aside my hysteria for a moment and get back to loving food.
To assuage my despair, I purchased a slice of Nevat -- a tangy Catalonian goat cheese which is soft and inviting, though never got as runny as I wanted -- and half a round of Chabichou de Poitou--a delightful little Loire Valley goat cylinder with a brainy rippled rind that we love so much, I can't believe I haven't mentioned before. Why did I get only a half Chabichou? I have no idea. I must have been insane. We polished off that unctuous perfectly balanced ripe little gem in about five minutes.
In preparation for Eric's Zin Mania birthday, I also put together a little sampler of classic zin tastes for us to try with some samples of wine: Blackberries, black cherries and dark chocolate. And before you ask, no I have no idea where the fruit and the cacao beans were grown or who grew them, or whether they had happy lives. I merely closed my eyes and threw the petroleum-product plastic containers into my cart made of steel whose smelting process has probably poisoned a lake someplace in China, and proceeded to propagate the horrible unwitting consumerist rape of the environment. Okay, okay. Just let it go...
Cherries and chocolate were the overwhelming winners in Zinfandel notes for Ridge and Paso Robles' maverick Zin Alley. Notes of Fennel and Star Anise interestingly made it into the nose of Zin Alley. I'll let my Omnivore detail the rest on his blog.
He can cover the dessert wine too, a Muscato with which we had with a bit of Montbriac and some slices of Comice pear. Not a recommended wine for blue tinged, creamy Montbriac, but hey, it was worth a try.
I'm going to drink myself into a stupor and have some JOLLY TIME® Healthy Pop® Kettle Corn Microwave Pop Corn.