Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"When a nicely dressed gentleman would come in for lunch alone," remembered Claude Le Gall, "he told us to go out and check his car to see if the tires were Michelins. That wouldn't be proof, but it could be an indiciation, anyway. Sometimes, when we weren't sure which car he had come in, he would have us going through his coat pockets in the vestiare, to see if the keys might identify the car."

Rudolph Chelminski, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine (151)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

There was only one answer. The moment that followed was akin to the one in desert-island tales, when the poor shipwrecked souls decide they have to resort to cannibalism, or perish. We looked down into the pools of hollandaise sitting in those foot wells, those disgusting, fish-juice-stained foot wells, and without a word, we nodded to each other, solemnly acknowledging what must be done. That we each took a bucket, got down on out knees, and with cupped hands began bailing the hollandaise from the car floor back into the buckets. Glancing up at each other we knew that we had both come to the same unspoken decision - that as long as we didn't actually touch the unspeakable floor of Lake Hollandaise, dislodging its bacteriological horrors, we could live with ourselves.

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, "Our Big Brake," in Don't Try This at Home, Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman, eds. (212-13).
The weekend crowd embraced the Dean & DeLuca lifestyle so readily that it was sometimes more then the store's founders could handle. Their original counterman, the expert cheesemonger Steven Jenkins - who claims he was the first to apply the word "artisanal" to cheese - recalls a busy Saturday in the early years when a few staffers failed to show up, forcing a furious DeLuca to join Jenkins behind the counter. "It was total chaos, and Giorgio was slicing some preservative-free bacon, and he lopped off the tip of his thumb," Jenkins says. "He started cursing and rushed off to the clinic on Spring Street. Once he was gone, I decided to merchandise the piece of thumb, which still had fingernail on it. I put it on a little piece of marble in the display case with some rosemary and thyme and put up a sign that said 'Gaetano Crudo'"-crudo meaning "raw" in Italian, Gaetano being DeLuca's middle name. Fortunately, no one asked to taste the product, though Jenkins says a few people inquired as to "what the hell it was."

David Kamp, The United States of Arugula (207-08)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The grocery store was another great place to play the dating game. My mother always let me unload the cart, so I pretended all the groceries were going to a party. As the conveyer belt moved my mother's purchases to the cashier, I would match every food item up with his or her partner. Ketchup always went to the party with Mustard, of course. Aspirin went with Vitamins, Orange Juice loved Milk, and Spam had a thing for bologna whose first name was O-S-C-A-R. Produce items tended to stick with their own kind, but Lettuce was a rebel. She was dating Catalina French dressing in spite of the protestations of her sisters, the Roma Tomatoes, who thought Celery was a much better match for her. Lettuce would not be swayed and always attended parties with her French lover.

Todd Pozycki, "The Lives and Deaths of Buffalo Butt," in From Boys to Men, Ted Gideonse and Rob Wiliams, eds. (90)
"I'm a free-market advocate and a staunch libertarian," [Charlie Trotter] says. "I don't feel like I'm part of the New American cuisine movement. I have no tolerance for the left-wing embrace of food politics and things like that. I think you can support farmers' markets and that you don't have to do it with a Berkeley sensibility. Don't get me wrong - I'm not on the other end of the spectrum. But everybody who's against genetically modified foods and big corporate food production, I think they could be a little more open-minded in how they look at these things."

David Kamp, The United States of Arugula (328-39)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in at every opportunity to "conceptualize." Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Pot, quaaludes, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, Seconal, Tuinal, speed, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we'd send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get. We worked long hours and took considerable pride in our efforts - the drugs, we thought, having little effect on the end product. This is what the whole life we were in was about, we believed: to work through the drugs, the fatigue, the lack of sleep, the pain, to show no visible effects. We might be tripping out on blotter acid, sleepless for three days and halfway through a bottle of Stoli, but we were professionals, goddamnit! We didn't let it affect our line work. And we were happy, truly happy, like Henry V's lucky few, a band of brothers, ragged, slightly debauched warriors, who anticipated nothing less than total victory - an Agincourt of the mind and stomach.

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (123-24)
At half-past eight the work stopped very suddenly. We were not free till nine, but we used to throw ourselves full length on the floor, and lie there resting our legs, too lazy even to go the the ice cupboard for a drink. Sometimes the chef du personnel would come in with bottles of beer, for the hotel stood us an extra beer when we had had a hard day. The food we were given was no more than eatable, but the patron was not mean about drink; he allowed us two litres of wine a day each, knowing that if a plongeur is not given two litres he will steal three. We had the heeltaps of bottles as well, so that we often drank too much - a good thing, for one seemed to work faster when partially drunk.

George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London (65)

Monday, September 03, 2007

I didn't know what to say. My boss was telling me that, to do my job, I now needed to go home and have sex. It has already been a long, long day of carnalities. The meat truck was arriving in a few hours. It seemed unlikely that I had the stamina for more carnality and making butcher love to my wife for the rest of the night and reporting for work before dawn with no sleep. Maybe I didn't have the constitution for this life after all. But, you know, I did the best I could. I didn't want to let the guild down.

Bill Buford, Heat (249)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, possessed great credit among the Saxons, and were much celebrated both for their valour and nobility. They were reputed, as most of the Saxon princes, to be sprung of Woden, who was worshipped as a god among those nations, and they are said to be his great grandsons; a circumstance which added much to their authority. We shall not attempt to trace any higher the origin of those princes and nations. It is evident what fruitless labour it must be to search, in those barbarous and illiterate ages, for the annals of a people, when their first leaders, known in any true history, were believed by them to be the fourth in descent from a fabulous deity, or from a man exalted by ignorance into that character. The dark industry of antiquaries, led by imaginary analogies of names, or by uncertain traditions, would in vain attempt to pierce into that deep obscurity, which covers the remote history of those nations.

David Hume, The History of England: from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to The Revolution in 1688, Volume I (17)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This is what computer manuals looked like in 1961 (click to enlarge):

Paul Siegel, Understanding Digital Computers (205)

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Damnit, Bucky. Last time that goateed butterball was in here, he lectured me - me - for a full fifteen minutes on why I needed to intervene in that vegetable case down in Georgia. Christ in a refrigerator, that woman'd been in a coma for fifteen years. She had a flatter brain scan than a three-thousand-year-old Egyptian mummy. And he wanted me to issue an executive order to plug her back in. Who appointed Gideon fucking Payne the conscience of the nation anyhow? Hell, he killed his own goddamn mother, didn't he?"

Christopher Buckley, Boomsday (114)