Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I don't read novels very often and have unsophisticated taste, but here's why Fifty Shades of Darker is better than Lila



Piglet commenters this morning seem to be loving A.J. Jacobs review comparing Huckleberry to Lunch at the Shop, but I thought it was one of the weakest yet. Or maybe I just finally lost patience. Nothing against Jacobs, who is smart and funny, but there’s something insulting about asking a guy who admits he “doesn’t make food very often” and has an “unsophisticated palate” to review cookbooks for a community of avid cooks. Like cookbooks are so dumb that anyone who can turn a phrase is qualified to judge them. 

Well, cookbooks are kind of dumb. Do you know what else is kind of dumb? Sports. 

A quick thought experiment. Just for kicks, let’s throw gender into it: 

My husband edits a web site called Bleacher Report that is visited by legions of passionate, knowledgeable sports fans. These readers are predominantly male. If my eyes do not deceive me, the passionate, knowledgeable readers of Food52 are predominantly female. 

What if Bleacher Report invited a clever, amusing lady writer (Lena Dunham? Sloane Crosley?) who admitted that she “didn’t watch football very often” and had an “unsophisticated eye” to weigh in on the relative merits of Peyton Manning and Marshawn Lynch? 

Oh, it would be hilarious! What an awesome joke. Maybe it would even go viral. 

Of course, any suggestion that what this charming female had to say about Marshawn Lynch be taken seriously would be followed by a wave of comments so horrifying your eyeballs would fall out. 

Women are so much more polite than men. I love reading thoughtful, knowledgeable commentary on cookbooks and theres almost none out there. Sometimes it turns up in the Piglet and Im just bummed when it doesnt.

70 comments:

  1. YES YES YES. You are so right about this. And I don't even want to think about the tirade of sexist remarks said lady writer would be subject to. It would no doubt get very personal.

    This makes me wonder what Food52 aims to accomplish with The Piglet. To my mind, their selection of high-profile, non-cooking judges really undermines their credibility as a website that otherwise takes the craft of cooking pretty seriously. That's sort of heavy-duty language I am using there, but I am (and we are) I think rightly frustrated. Is The Piglet a lowest-common-denominator endeavor? It is seeming more and more that way.

    I used to follow a website called The New Potato, which featured interviews with chefs and restauranteurs and then began adding profiles of fashion models' cooking and eating, as well as hoteliers, magazine editors, interior designers and other glitterati of the NYC scene. Needless to say, I stopped reading. They still profess to be "looking at the world through the lens of food" -- and I suppose they still are doing that, technically. But "food" isn't necessarily "cooking." Are we so inundated with food writing and food preciousness that cooking has become all but obscured?

    I have thought a lot about the difference between cooks and eaters, who often get conflated into the group "foodies" but are actually distinct in what they want from pop culture -- and apparently, from cookbook reviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My interest here is very selfish. I like to read about cookbooks and I never get to because most of the media coverage is total puff.

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    2. I feel this way about the "new" Bon Appetit. It used to be perfect. But with now it's become image conscious. Every time they feature an article with models modeling the food or (and I swear I saw this) in an article on *scarves* (why?) I reconsider my subscription. I really distrust the current management of the magazine.

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  2. I just want someone to shine a light on the numerous errors in Huckleberry so that Chronicle Books will feel compelled to finally issue an errata sheet. Peyton Manning: beluga forehead. Marshawn Lynch: degree from Cal.

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    Replies
    1. I'd read all about the errors in Huckleberry on amazon which is why I didn't buy it. I just googled "Beluga forehead Peyton Manning" and the second thing that popped up was your comment.

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  3. remember when meryl streep stood up and egged on patricia arquette? tell it sister!

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  4. so tipsy, what do you think about marshawn lynch? do you prefer his battering ram running style? or are you more the ladainian tomlinson type?

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  5. What a wonderful idea Tipsy! In this world where clicks are everything your suggestion would propel Bleacher Report to the stratosphere.

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  6. I am not a sports fan, and I'm a female, but the highlight of my year is in October when the new edition of Best American Sports Writing hits the bookstores. Why? Because this is the best writing ever. Each story is a small Greek tragedy, or a small Greek comedy.
    The highlight of my day is when Jennifer Reese has a new post. Why? Because the writing is so good, and the comments from readers are so smart, and in no way mean. I love chatting with this community. And I am an avid home cook.
    I don't go to Food52 very often, but I do enjoy following Piglet because the writing is good, even if all the reviewers don't cook. And I am enjoying the debate about whether the the reviewers should actually cook or not. It doesn't matter to me. I bought Lunch at the Shop when I saw it sitting in splendid isolation at the bookstore because it is such a beautiful book. Not a single recipe said, "Cook me."
    I'm going to keep reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't even seen a copy of Lunch at the Shop -- none at the library, none at the bookstore.
      I'm interested that someone who isn't a sports fan can love Best American Sports Writing. I should give it a try.

      Delete
    2. Does your husband read Best American Sports Writing?
      And Lunch at the Shop isn't a collection of recipes. It is about persuading people to eat together.

      Delete
  7. Abhor football (live w/people who feel otherwise), but I do feel compelled to point out that Lynch is a running back and Manning is a quarterback, which maybe just proves your point. Clare

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least they're both football players!

      Delete
  8. Maybe I'm missing something (not the first time) but my goodness, the snark here. A person who admits he rarely cooks uses a cookbook and makes successful recipes from it and writes about it? And that is bad how? Isn't that the point of a cookbook? Would it be better if Lena Dunham said she made the muffins?

    I do like AJ Jacobs as a writer. The fact that he can make a cookbook review this enjoyable is a tribute to his skill. Chill, people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Snark wasn't my intention, but if that's how you read it, that's how you read it and I can't tell you you're wrong.
      I also like AJ Jacobs as a writer and this wasn't aimed at him personally. I tried to make that clear.

      Delete
    2. You are missing something, and it is the context for this conversation and the spirit of this blog. You can avail yourself of both of these if you read the most recent entries preceding this one and check out the rest of Tipsy's great work here.

      Delete
  9. I recall, years ago, that a group on the Chowhound boards had a cookbook of the month. The group would vote on a cookbook for each month, then cook from it and post about the results. That was news you could use! No idea if it's still going on, though.

    Your predicted reaction to a non-expert female writing about sports reminded me of the This American Life episode from a few weeks ago. It purported to be about people being nasty online, but I think 75% of the episode actually discussed people being misogynist online--as that apparently is the dominant form of nastiness.

    To Clare: It would be useful to compare Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Manning if you wanted to make a point about polar opposites in off-field demeanor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should go back to Chowhound cookbook of the month boards. I used to love them.

      Delete
    2. Jessica, there is still a cookbook of the month group on Chowhound. It's on the Home Cooking board. Chowhound is doing it's best to make the site impossible to use, but if you go to the Home Cooking board, and mouse over the little "i" in a blue dot next to the board title, you'll see a list of links that includes the link to the current Cookbook of the Month threads. Right now, we are cooking from "Mighty Spice" by John Gregory-Smith. March will be "Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen" by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall. Please join us, or at least read along!

      Delete
    3. I like the idea of Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen. Maybe I will join.

      Delete
  10. I think the main difference is that cookbooks are often intended for an audience of people who haven't done a lot of cooking / aren't sophisticated about the kitchen so it makes sense to have someone with that perspective review. And Food52 has a lot of material for that audience. On the other hand - let's have more good cookbook reviewing! A New York Review of Books for Cookbooks! Yay!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a really good point, Anonymous. To see what a novice has to say has its uses and charm.

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    2. That was supposed to say "Helen" - the profile selector believes I'm anonymous (maybe I should pretend to be someone really interesting like AJ Jacobs)

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    3. P.S. Tried the ricotta ice cream recipe with simple syrup that I'd used to make candied orange peels and saved figuring some opportunity would arise - awesome.

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    4. Oh good! I'd guess that would make the ice cream even better.

      Delete
  11. janet ohl, It's really obnoxious of you to visit this blog, which showcases a highly personal viewpoint, and then scold the author and her readers for expressing themselves. If you don't agree with what people say here, go somewhere else. If you don't like snark, then turn off your computer or go visit the Disney website. Never, ever tell people what they can or cannot say in a public forum, and never, ever tell the owner of a blog how to write.

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  12. Thanks for reminding me of Gabrielle Hamilton's excellent review. What makes it special is that she can cook, and she can write with the best of them. I think she cooked more from the books she reviewed than any other reviewer before or since, which lent credibility to her opinion. And the fact that it was as well - or better - written than other reviewers who cooked less and tried to make up for it with cleverness was the icing on a very sweet cake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was the best. She's got a real edge and would terrify me in person, but her writing is A+.

      Delete
  13. Totally agree with your larger points, though I will say when Bill Simmons has Lena Dunham on his B.S Report podcast and they touch on sports, it's kind of neat (says someone who knows nothing about sports).

    -j

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  14. witloof, thank you for scolding me for my viewpoint. I guess only people who agree with Jennifer's posts are allowed to comment.

    Fortunately, for me, there is a simple solution, also known as the "unsubscribe" button. Toodles.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Personally I have always felt that The Piglet has a bit of a clickbait-y appeal. I mean, part of the fun of the Greenspan vs. Ottolenghi review was its slightly mean tone. So, I can't really hate on Food52 for picking a mishmash of judges.

    I remember there was this one huge poll, I want to say on Jezebel, and it was like a March Madness for cake vs. pie. The winner? Pie. The winning pie? Cheesecake. I don't think I need to explain why I found this disturbing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't really hate on Food52 at all. I look forward to the Piglet all year. Now I feel kind of creepy, like I've been stalking it, and I'm going to stop.

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    2. I don't expect Food52 (run by Amanda Hesser who used to be a food critic for the NY Times) to promote mean or half-assed reviews. Maybe they consider it fun, but I'd rather the reviews be serious. Perhaps I'm just looking for something that's not there.

      Delete
  16. NO NO NO please don't stop writing about the Piglet!

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  17. Well, you got a shout out on Mimi's blog (keep scrolling):
    http://mimithorisson.com/2015/02/26/my-funny-valentine-the-meaning-of-life/

    ReplyDelete
  18. I just want to know why I am reading about putting a big mirror on my wall over at Food52. So confusing.

    ReplyDelete
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