a farewell to shmaltz

Fat, especially chicken fat. Used in place of butter in kosher homes when a meat meal is served. The cracklings left after chicken fat is rendered are gribbenes or greevn. My mother made her own chicken fat and kept it in the refrigerator in a Skippy’s Peanut Butter jar.
    There’s a Romanian-Jewish restaurant on the old Lower East Side, Sammy the Waiter’s, that has one of those glass pitchers other restaurants use for cream or maple syrup, filled with schmaltz on every table. Marvin Hamlisch’s dad used to play accordion at this restaurant. It was during one of his breaks that Zero Mostel stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “This food killed more Jews than Hitler!”
    My theory is that although Jews in Eastern Europe were poor, we were fairly certain of two good meals a year; for the new year in the fall and for Passover in the spring. So we invented a cuisine we could taste for six months just to remember.
    Shmaltz and its Americanized adjective, shmaltzy (in Yiddish it would be shmaltzik), also refer to high-cholesterol styles of music and tear-jerking drama.

    —Joel Siegel, Lessons For Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me, PublicAffairs, 2004, p. 239.
Zero Mostel’s restaurant review is corroborated by The New Yorker, Volume 50 (1974), p. 84.

European cultures are of three kinds: wine drinkers who cook their food in olive oil; beer drinkers who cook their food in butter; and vodka drinkers who don’t much care for cooking, or food. My lifelong project is to ascend from the last position, to the first.

we loved to trust him

Sushi Nozawa is closing on February 29th after 24 years in Studio City. Allegedly designated as the “Sushi Nazi” by his admirers and detractors, Kazunori Nozawa is known for claiming daily fishmarket dibs at the crack of dawn and eschewing all pandering and pollution in serving his omakase.

Nozawa will continue to oversee his rapidly proliferating prix fixe Sugarfish sushi bars. But his craftsmanship and comportment will be sorely missed in their dining rooms. Nozawa’s imperious service instantly separated vexatious vulgarians and fastidious foodies from discerning and diligent disciples. Time and again I saw Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street mavens reduced to solicitous timidity at his sushi counter. My favorite vegetarian relinquished a life-long, second-generation herbivorous scruples and eagerly embraced the ingestion of flesh upon her first exposure to Nozawa’s handiwork. So long, Chef Nozawa. I regret your departure, but hope and trust you to enjoy your hard earned retirement.

Nozawa’s fans…
…and their fodder.

mais où sont les viandes d’antan?

—for Michael Wong

A college student was walking past a butcher’s shop. His appetite whetted by the display of thick and juicy, well marbled prime steaks in its window, the hungry scholar entered the shop and inquired about their price. “Ten dollars a pound”, said the elderly butcher. The youth assessed his finances, which barely sufficed to purchase hamburger at one tenth the price, and beat a hasty retreat.

Over the next thirty years, his appetite for fresh meat never abated. He studied and worked hard and traveled far and wide to rise in the world, all so that he could afford to consume the finest viands. And so, upon belatedly returning to his college town on a business trip, he drifted towards the old butcher shop next to the campus. To his surprise, the quaint boutique was no more, supplanted by a high-rise that housed a fashionable supermarket. He approached the meat counter and asked for a thick slab of prime steak. “Sorry”, said the pierced and tattooed metrosexual meat expert, “we only carry organic, grass-fed Angus beef.”

The businessman surveyed dainty pink slices artfully arrayed in the brightly lit cooler. They were nothing like the corn-fed prime cuts glowing in his mind’s eye. He looked around and saw himself surrounded by trim and chatty whippersnappers lining up for healthful foodstuffs under the guidance of their appropriately gendered and similarly aged companions. He recalled his trophy girlfriend barely half his age, delicately nibbling on exotic delicacies that suited her size zero figure. He pondered the time he spent at the gym to stay ahead of her contemporaries nibbling at his heels. And he realized that under the laws of supply and demand, the likes of the prime meat of his youth had long since been shat out into the sewer.

metagraph redux

— for Chien-Ling Liu  

                             In a Time of Cuisine
                             A fact the gourmet
                             euphemism can’t silence:
                             vegetarians eat sex,
                             carnivores eat violence.
                             — Les Murray, April 2004

                  Fair Play
         Herbivorous scruples
         betoken the coward —
         men eat flesh on credit
         ere they get devour’d.