This is probably why I was aghast yesterday upon reading the food section in the paper. The food editor's article yesterday was about home made chicken stock (oh, sorry, "broth"). While you might think that is a great thing (I make stock quite often and have stopped buying it at the store), the article turned out to be the end of it for me and the newspaper food section. Here are some reasons why.
Back before the switch to Kelly Brant from Irene Wassell, I kind of looked forward to the food section. I could count on there being one recipe to clip most weeks. And, Wassell's stories about friendship cakes and starters and things usually made me laugh. I could imagine sitting in her kitchen and her sharing some crazy secret with me that I would have to run home and try. Not so with the current editor.
It started a few weeks ago. Brant was writing about tortillas. Now, I know that I am probably the only gal on my street with her own tortilla press and a reserved spot in the freezer for my bag of masa harina, but come on! Brant detailed how she lives like less than two blocks from a grocery store, yet they were too lazy to walk to the store to get corn tortillas. So, what's a girl to do? Instead of deciding flour tortillas would do and making those (everyone has flour and fat in their house, most likely--at least food editors should), or instead of pulling out a bag of masa harina and a tortilla press, Ms. Brant decided to make tortillas from corn meal. While I applaud her resourcefulness, I really wonder if this is really what readers really want or need in the food section? Shouldn't the paltry two pages that are now allotted to food in the Wednesday edition actually be focused on good food?
So, yesterday, I gave the section another try. This time, Brant was talking about making chicken stock. I gritted my teeth as I read that she keeps some in the freezer for "special" meals or when she runs out of store bought broth, which she always has on hand. I really lost it when I found out why she made stock the first time--she only made it because she couldn't stand to throw out the breast-less carcass of the chicken she tried to part out.
Shouldn't the food editor know how to part a chicken? Shouldn't she be able to withstand the "squishy" noises (this is apparently what made her throw the whole bird in a pan and roast it, cutting the cooked breasts off and leaving the rest) associated with parting a freaking chicken?
And, isn't it ironic that the lead article yesterday was on making your own sausage? Something tells me that the thought of actually grinding meat into sausage would make Ms. Brant apoplectic. I'm sure reading about her experiences with it would certainly make me apoplectic.
It got worse.
Once she described her freak out over the noise that resulted as she attempted to cut the first leg quarter, she then described her sadness at looking at the breastless chicken. She had, after all, bought a whole chicken because she wanted the breasts but didn't want to pay the price for breast fillets. She contemplated making chicken salad, but decided that the idea of an "all dark meat" chicken salad was gross.
WHAT?!? Are you kidding me? Let's first realize that most commercially raised chickens these days don't really have "dark meat" in the sense that they used to. These gals don't get enough exercise to really muscle up their thighs, which leads Crochet Renee to question sometimes if she's eating white meat, even when she threw the thighs in the pan (I'm the same way). Let's move past that, though. Most food nerds will go for the thigh way before they go for the bland, saw-dusty breasts. Now, there are specific dishes where you need breast meat (stuffed chicken breasts, for instance) and some cooking methods lead to great breast meat; however, to hear someone who is a food editor be turned off by thinking of making chicken salad from roasted thigh, leg, and back meat is difficult for me. All credibility is lost, I fear.
To compound all of this, she goes on to talk about how she thought it would be weird to make stock from an already cooked chicken. Heck, Bourdain talks about how he ONLY uses pre cooked carcasses to make stock anymore. He even will roast bones before throwing them in the stock pot. And I don't blame him. I have a bone bag in my freezer right this very minute. And, any cook worth their salt will tell you that there is no shame in asking the hostess if she's going to use that turkey or chicken carcass or if she'd like you to take care of it.
I sure I'm being too hard on Ms. Brant, but in these days of food blogs, Food Network, and a crumbling economy, shouldn't we have a food section that strives to inspire people to learn to cook? While I applaud the "let's not waste this carcass" that the story eventually turned into, why not go beyond and show us that you've overcome that squeamishness and can now part out a chicken? Or that you not only walked to the store to buy tortillas that night, but you were determined that you would learn to make your own real corn tortillas? Give folks something to aspire to. Show us if you can do it, we can, too, and that the end result is amazing and saves us money.
Let's hope that the food section will turn toward teaching us something we didn't know about soon--instead of providing short cuts for those who are too lazy to go to the market or those who can't stand to part their own chickens. I want a food editor who says "hey, get a load of this" and actually challenges themselves and their readers--someone who enjoys what they are doing.
I miss you, Irene--more than I could have ever anticipated.