Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Dear Lord, Megan McArdle is foodsplaining again. What edict is being issued forth from Mount McMegan mow?
It has come to my attention that some of you are becoming unable to eat good food unless it is spiced to within an inch of its life.
I have two words for her: Aleppo pepper.
I've been noticing this for a while. It started with friends who put hot sauce on everything, even on dishes that were perfectly good without hot sauce. With dinner party hosts who proudly declared that the secret to good cooking was just to douse something in Cajun spices until you noticed the powder forming drifts on the side of the pan. With people who reported that an Asian restaurant was "good" because it had left their taste buds numb for hours.
McBittman disapproves. Pepper is now Out and Something Else Yet To Be Disseminated is In.
Then, during the holiday season, I saw a Slate food writer declare that American apple pie is not as good as French apple pie because it is "bland and goopy," and I began to suspect that something had gone seriously wrong with our food culture. When I saw an article on restaurant chefs who are daring to bring back prime rib, I became sure of it.
The linked prime rib article demonstrates that prime rib never really went away, it just became too expensive to serve in many places. The real question a journalist should be asking is why a lucky few can now afford to pay high restaurant prices for expensive prime rib when so many others are buying meat on discount or not at all. Fortunately McArdle is a propagandist and can pretend the income inequality toggle in her SimReality  is on "off."
I'm as excited as anyone about the majestic spread of foreign food throughout our nation's urban downtowns, its strip malls and cookbook aisles, its fruited plains and amber waves of grain. I can't think of a national cuisine I don't like, and that includes foods that will sear the taste buds off a water buffalo's tongue at 20 feet.
McArdle knows all, experiences all, and approves all unless she doesn't which is probably your fault.
But somewhere along the way, too many people seem to have gotten the idea that if exotic foods are good, that must mean that the boring old domestic varieties are bad. Excuse me, "bland and goopy."
This is first-class fustian. If you are unable to enjoy simple, traditional fare that has been properly prepared with good ingredients, the problem is not with the food; it is with you. To purloin a phrase from Slate food writers, you're doing it wrong.
You may think conservatives food is boring and stuffy and bland and goopy but you are so very, very wrong, dear sir! T'is fustian to say so! (We now know McArdle reads Regency Romances, heh.)*
I'm not saying that you have to like every available food. I dislike tripe, most cooked fish, liver and kale. But that doesn't mean there's something wrong with foie gras or salmon mousse; it just means that I don't care for them. Almost anything I do like, however, is as good prepared simply as it is in your triple-braised habanero short rib stew. Complicated dishes highlight the interplay of ingredients, but basic recipes allow your ingredients to shine. And without all that capsaicin numbing your taste buds or salted caramel overwhelming your palate, you can taste their full, delicate flavor.
We just endured countless posts about seasoning your food to within an inch of its life but now simple, delicate flavors are the In Thing.
I am not above cutting the kernels off a fresh ear of corn, blanching them in a little boiling water, and then sauteing them in brown butter before drizzling with truffle oil. That is delicious. But fresh corn is also delicious boiled until just done, then eaten with butter and salt. Magnificent tomatoes make a magnificent marinara and an equally magnificent tomato sandwich on fresh bread with good ricotta and just a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Apples are gorgeous in a galette, and also in a good, old-fashioned American-style apple pie, with flaky pastry on top and lightly spiced juice oozing all over the plate. It is not a worse version of the French pastry; it is a different dish, to be enjoyed in its own right.
The guilty man flees when no one pursueth and the professional contrarian defends when no one condemns. One Slate writer calls apple pie some names and says it's too heavy and common for Thanksgiving, and McArdle must rush to make a quick and easy buck defend All-American Exceptionalist Conservative Pie.
To get the most out of eating, you should be prepared to like as many dishes as possible, including the old favorites that now seem a bit passe. You can broaden your horizons to enjoy the deliciously spicy foods of the Asian and African continents without looking down on the equally delicious culinary marvels that are right there at your feet. Prime rib, baked potatoes and, yes, pie have just as much place in our culinary canon as pad Thai. 
Likewise, it is good to eat three times a day, but not too much. You can eat hot food or cold food, but don't look down your nose on luke-warm food. This wonderfully original and necessary advice was 'splained to you by your elite so you now know what to do and how to do it. Say thank you to the nice lady, America.

*Yes I read some too. It turned out that most of them were genteel ladyporn novels.


aimai said...

Jeezus Christ, she had me at Fustian. A number of bad puns come to mind but I won't go into them. I particularly like the way she seems to think that "Galette" and "Pie" signify two different things. They are identical, right down to the "sweet goop" if you are "doing it wrong" or the clear, crisp, flavors if you are doing it right.

McMegan's writing here reminds me of a book that came out about 20 or 30 years ago on the peculiar writing style of National Geographic. The authors pointed out that the captions underneath the pictures had a plaintive, "balancing" format in which the natives/palace/jungle/antiquity/modern juxtaposition always balanced out in such a way that "good old american values" were reaffirmed.

"Joyful Peruvian Girls Find Something To Love In Borrowed Barbie Dolls" served as a way of dismissing anxiety about globalization, poverty, an creeping cultural domination. Megan's writing always aims for a sick spot (opposite of a sweet spot) in which she
1) Demonstrates her superiority and, if hers, than that of her readers
2) Describes a problem she asserts her readers/generic americans/intellectuals are having
3) prescribes a remedy which she procures for them.
4) the remedy either comes from far away and intellectual heights (Megan is educated and well travelled) or from nearby but forgotten homes (Megan speaks up for the virtues of the american heartland).

Kathy said...

Try to imagine a universe where Arglebargle really is intelligent, perceptive and yes, even self aware. I just can't.

Clever Pseudonym said...

Dear Ms. McArdle,
This girl with better taste in food than you have in your toenail clippings will continue to eat as she pleases without your insipid, useless advice.


Clever Pseudonym said...

By the way, if I could raise a group question, just who with does this woman keep company? Friends who don't understand pots and pans, those who are impressed with her versatile use of both salt and tongs... at the same time? People who saw angels when their Hollandaise wasn't made by the help?

Susan of Texas said...

Clever Pseudonym, I just assume she makes everything up.

What would we do without McArdle to tell us what to think or want? The fun part is watching her constantly scanning the zeitgeist for the newest fad so she can be a cultural leader.

Unknown said...

Megan doesn't know what "fustian" means.

Unknown said...

Fustian, for example, is when you "purloin" a phrase rather than steal or borrow or simply use it.

Susan of Texas said...

I think she is referring to the use of fustian to describe pompous speaking.

Skinny Little Boy from Cleveland, Ohio said...

Apple pie generally does disappoint. It's pretty simple to make but it's been tuned into something gloppy. To admit that, McMegan would have to notice all the other things that have been ruined and/or ultimately done in by industrial cooking: macaroni & cheese, just about anything where chicken is the main ingredient. Doing that would require critiquing the food-industrial complex and McMegan would be out of a job if she did that.

Susan of Texas said...

McArdle is industry's best friend.

Some bakeries otherwise have great pies but a good apple pie is hard to find. I make my own. Streusel apple pie is easier. Apple crisp is like crack.