Back at last from travel with a certain production company, can’t say who really or where, the company has attached screws to my thumbs that can be tightened by remote, so I cannot even say where exactly I’ve been, not a mot, but that’s why I’ve been neglectful of the dear old blog.  Have been reading and enjoying the comments from afar–thanks.

Interesting page one story in the times on genetically modified animals , a subject I’m on the fence about, except for the fact that generally, I’m not in favor of fucking around with anything’s DNA and feel that natural selection has done pretty well so far.  But I’m not a business man, which is what this seems to be about.  The editorial pages weighs in on the factory farms growth market in the United States.  Would that the increasingly desperate pea brains at the Humane Society had the balls to tackle important issues like this instead of wasting the time and resources of the relatively tiny, not to mention humane, Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm.  (del Grosso has more.)

Got an email to day from H.rao (thanks) with this compilation and commentary on chef movies from Sara Dickerman at Slate. Have yet to see Tampopo, alas, and there’s no dvd available from netflix! Have yet to see the unfortunately named No Res, but assume the chefness is background music to the romantic and familial saga. Ratatouille will rule until I finish the Making of a Chef script and can convince my friend Richard that he and he alone must make it.

Orzo
Devored some exquisite hog preparations on the road which, one day, I
may be able to mention, but until then, I offer this, a breakfast
inspired by these really cool Calphalon dishes a friend at Calphalon
sent—perfect reentry meal after JFK unpleasantness and eating primarily
protein and fat for two weeks, a breakfast composed of protein fat and
starch: Orzo baked with mozzarella and reggianno, an egg and bacon.
Inspired by a pan, and the leftover orzo the kids didn’t eat.

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51 Wonderful responses to “Off the road…”

  • lurker

    Mark,

    If you hadn’t yet seen tampopo let me know I can send it to you.

    Thanks for a great blog, and some wonderful books.

  • lurker

    Mark,

    If you hadn’t yet seen tampopo let me know I can send it to you.

    Thanks for a great blog, and some wonderful books.

  • Leah S

    Hi Michael,
    I just wanted to say that I loved the Cleveland episode of “No Reservations.” I grew up in Cleveland’s fine dining biz (Johnny’s Bar) and I felt that you definitely captured the texture and tone of the city. However…you skipped a few biggies – (namely, the real Cleveland folks who paved the way for chefs like Michael from Lola. I’ll leave it at that lol.)
    Lure that bastard Anthony back! As he said at the end of the Cleveland episode, his business (in Cleveland) isn’t finished.
    See ya’ll around town,
    Leah

  • Tammi

    I remember when my son was born two months premature, they “lavaged” him, which means they force fed him through a tube down his throat as he was too little and too weak to breast feed. He’s quite a healthy and happy young man now. I’m sure there’s little correlation between that and force feeding ducks…but it’s what came to mind anyhow.

  • SallysGotABigCan

    I once ate 1/2 of my body weight in salted pork.It was a bet. I won. So have a gander at these boobies momma!

  • Sean S.

    I hope the Humane Society and PETA can pull those sticks out of their asses and start realizing the big picture here. As for Hudson Valley FG, I hope they can stick with it for the long hall. I’m already pissed off that they were able to shut down Sonoma Valley FG. I hope it won’t come to the point of me having to learn to raise poultry and produce my own Foie at home (although that would be an interesting endeavour).

  • nika

    I grew up with egg cassarole thingies like you show from Calphalon …. in my case, its a Colombian thing. Ours were enamelware.

    We would put in butter, a bit of hogao (green onion, garlic, cilantro, cominos, sauteed in butter) and then a couple of eggs cooked to desired goopiness.

    YUM

    yours look s lovely too :-)

  • JsinGood

    Thank you again for defending the much maligned foie gras producers and consumers of the world!

    I have to say that I think much of the fear and aversion toward genetic modification is irrational and emotional. As DNA “alteration” occurs naturally overtime, there is nothing to be afraid of if humanity directs and controls the changes with a goal in mind. People have been affecting mutation for thousands of years, cross-breeding dogs, wine grapes, all sort of things, for generations, to achieve a better end result. Just because we have become more sophisticated in the techniques does not mean Frankenstein’s monster is about to be set loose to rampage the countryside.

    My only concern, however, is that as the process moves more into the laboratory and the motivations become more controlled by the interests of big business, that the process is taken from the hands of artists and craftsmen. The concerns are not with quality of taste, but with other factors. And a ‘better’ tomato, in terms of production, durability, etc., may not necessarily translate into a better tomato in terms of flavor. It may not grow fangs and eat your grandmother, but the tomato be further the trends of fast food mediocrity.

  • JaxieWaxieWoo

    Calphalon? Sheesh, next we’ll be hearing endorsements for the Martha Stewart line of gadgets. As they say in Blighty, it’s “pish”.

  • JoP

    …French Laundry was featured on an episode of A Cook’s Tour??? Oh, my, I must get my hands on it.

    Ruhlman, I’m anxioiusly awaiting news about whatever it is you’re up to with a production company and all. No doubt it’s something cool as hell that we’re all gonna love. Well, maybe not Bourdain.

    jop

  • Natalie Sztern

    i finally has the courage to watch an episode of Bourdain’s No Reservation: the episode on Montreal….some of his info is wrong…but i did admire the eskimo family he visited…but what he missed is that the Culinary Institute teaches in french only, so the two girls he took around town probably did not understand one word he said…which is probably a good thing for their parents!!

  • nick s

    “Anyone who objects to genetic engineering should remove corn and all corn based products from their diet immediately. ”

    Or move to the EU, which hasn’t moved to a corn syrup, corn starch, corn ethanol, corn-fed and corn agricultural system.

    Pro: built-in infection means fewer antibiotics. Potential therapeutic value in developing world.

    Con: repercussions may not be realised for decades; potential emergence of intellectual property regime for animals (pay up or your goat can’t breed); potential loss of breed diversity; race of super-intelligent ducks takes over world, wreaks revenge for centuries of foie gras production.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    (Putting my serious hat back on)

    Well okay, but all this genetic engineering is assuming that only the desired alteration is taking place…it doesn’t take into consideration (or even test for) whether or not these intentional alterations produce other unintentional alterations.

    My concern is that years down the line I’ll be hearing, “Garsh – we didn’t even think of testing for that.”

  • bacon dreamz

    all i know is everytime i see that genetically altered freak donald duck, i think he would taste delicious, especially if he had a grossly enlarged liver…

  • Emily

    Jesus, Tags – copy+paste, won’t you please? Don’t you know we’re the MTV generation?

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Every time I hear about genetically engineered food (in particular veggies) I immediately think of Woody Allen’s movie “Sleeper.” Goooood that was funny!!! :D I’m just going to have to find a link for that….

  • Sorcha

    My objection to GM foods is that we humans have a long and illustrious history of using technology before we fully understand its consequences. We’re in love with science, and to a certain extent that’s great, but we’re also in love with playing God, which, not so much.

  • laila

    Nice to see that you’re back.
    Have you spoken to Grant Achatz since his cancer announcement? It’s all a bit shocking.

    As for the genetically modified animals and their presence in the food chain – I’m inclined to agree with charlie. Adding gene splices from different species is the more frightening scenario. Who knows what sorts of proteins and fats will be generated with this sort of DNA tampering. In light of modern molecular genetics, specifically epigenetics, I can’t help but be worried.

  • cesia

    Welcome back…
    got arrested in Mexico? Did you at least try some tacos…real Mexican tacos?
    All I can say is that this Birthday week got even better (yeah, I celebrate for weeks) thanks to all the posts…can’t stop laughing.
    Victor…I too have my suit ready, just in case all the yummy greasy tacos Ive eaten on unsanitized sidewalks throughout my 23 years of life begin to show sideffects.

  • Kay

    Anyone who objects to genetic engineering should remove corn and all corn based products from their diet immediately. Anyone who thinks that the consumption of genetically modified produce is somehow going to cause their own DNA to be spontaneously rearranged as a result needs to go back to high school bio and pay attention this time.

  • laila

    Kay, since your comment seems to be directed at mine – the latest experimental work in genetics/epigenetics examines how gene expression can be changed by dietary and lifestyle factors. These changes can be heritable over several generations. An overview of some of the research can be found here:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover

    The old, high school model of DNA and genetics is out the window in light of the latest published research.

    Just another thing to consider when we’re putting god-knows-what into our mouths.

  • kevin

    Rory hit it on the head with his observation on anthropomorphizing, I wouldn’t even like to be a pampered dog because, frankly, smelling another dog’s ass doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Victor

    Re: genetically manipulated foods.

    Ultimately the discussion for or against genetically manipulated foods comes down to first defining the various levels of manipulation, ie, splicing the stems of two plants vs. splicing genes.

    Semantics aside, the next item involves defining the various purposes behind introducing the genetic manipulation. Are we trying to grow the bigger turnip or are we trying to grow a tomato that’s more resilient to the rigors of international transport?

    Lastly (at least on my short wiki-educated list) are the precautionary measures required to test the food. [Or is it really "food" now that man has dipped his grimy little fingers in the mix? (I'm not taking that tangent here.)] Its unfortunate that a lot of studies into the long-term affects on people, especially kids, begin after adverse symptoms get discovered in the general public and traced back to various food products.

    Right now, no two governing bodies (political or industrial) agree on the terms, concepts, and guidelines for evaluating GM foods (not the car or cereal people)but the UN is making the attempt. Until then we must judge bionic skinless chicken and enlarged fruit each on its own informational merits before adhering to “movements”.

    As for me, I’m in my 30′s and have my X-Men suit ready.

  • Tags

    So it was a Triple-Dog-Dare that got him to Cleveland? Better be careful, that stuff is like Mojo, what with the side effects and all.

    you. a father. That line snuck up on me like a ninja with a cast-irron skillet. I’m still a little weak.

    Don’t ask why I was looking up an interview with Owsley Stanley from the late 90s, I won’t give you a straight answer. But check out his answer to questions about his diet and especially on where the money comes from. True, plenty of people talked about factory farms long before this, but he lends an incisive perspective that strikes home like a bear claw.

    http://island.org/news/Owsleyinterview3.pdf

  • parkbench

    Thanks for the Cleveland airdate info, and thanks to you and the Dark One for giving me a televised birthday present!

    –parkbench

  • Clarkehead

    Genetically modified food? No thanks. Those gigantic skinless “chicken breasts” I see in the grocery store have me suspicious enough already. Steroids is one thing, but artificial DNA scares the shit out of me. Eat that and the next thing you know, your kid is born with a full set of teeth.

    Michael, any chance of seeing you with Tony in his New York episode of No Reservations that airs next Monday? I saw a brief preview last night and it looks like the whole clan from the French Laundry episode of Cook’s Tour is there eating bone marrow.

  • ruhlman

    clarkehead, no, I try to stay out of Helltown whenever possible. we did get bourdain, on a triple dog dare, to cleveland, airing 8/27.

    and tony, i pay my own mini bar bill as a matter of principle. the amount of which is an anthill compared with the hotel porn charges you rack up on zeropointzero’s account.

    you. a father.

  • Sorcha

    can’t say who really or where, the company has attached screws to my thumbs that can be tightened by remote

    Could’ve been worse – they could’ve attached the screws lower down.

  • Rory

    Julie (and others),

    I often point people to Jeffrey Steingarten’s incredibly level-headed piece on foie gras from Men’s Vogue: http://www.mensvogue.com/food/articles/2006/08/21/foie_gras

    Like most people who take a serious look at the issue, Steingarten finds foie gras to be fairly humane and chooses to continue to eat it in moderation. Sure, it’s not a pretty process to force-feed and slaughter ducks, but neither is the process of any meat production. Medical research so far has shown few signs of distress among force-fed ducks, but research is admittedly somewhat thin. Perhaps the problem is that neither side wants to invest in potentially proving themselves wrong with thorough medical research.

    Particularly relevant to your argument, however, is the following passage:
    I know of only two medical or scientific attempts to answer this question. Neither of them has been cited by animal-rights advocates, who instead encourage us to anthropomorphize, to imagine how we would feel getting tube-fed and fattened. But this may be the wrong question. How would we like to be a duck under any circumstances? How would we feel having to paddle all day on cold New England rivers and among the sodden marshes? I wouldn’t be able to take it. Think of all the bugs and crawling things. Isn’t there a better way of gauging a duck’s distress?

  • Emily

    I adore foie gras (beef-flavored butter. What’s not to love?), and I also love eggs, beef, chicken, pork, and dairy. However, I’m becoming ever more mindful of where all these deliciosities come from (yeah, I made that word up) and how the animals are treated during their lifetimes. I am purposefully ignorant of the truth behind foie production as I’m still digesting, as it were, the realities of chicken farms and cattle production. I’ve made a conscious decision to source my animal protein from local ranchers as best I’m able, with special efforts to limit consumption to pastured, free-roaming conditions and humane slaughter practices.

    Blah blah. I’m no hero of course, but it is important to me, and not all that difficult to do. I respect the HSUS for the most part, finding them far less strident and offensive than PETA. I admire their recent efforts to bring about punitive actions against dog-fighting Michael Vick and will jump aboard any program they head which increases awareness of how food-source animals are treated. Animals intended for human consumption deserve nothing less than humane conditions.

    That said, I really can’t fault them for targeting foie farmers, if they are cultivated as described. Rhulman describes Hudson Valley farmers as humane, but what are the details? Is it possible to raise a fat liver in a free-roaming bird?

  • Gina Edwards

    LinkTV, an independent channel on Dish Network, used to have Tampopo in their foreign film line-up. Haven’t seen it there in awhile, but they have a wonderful Iranian film called ‘Border Cafe’ in their line-up right now. Has anyone had the chance to see this film? It’s a poignant film that touches on a variety of issues and how food can bring people together and be a driving force. (Plus the food looks wonderful . . .)

  • Kiki

    I was able to find Tampopo at the library of the local community college. Can look it up online and have it delivered to my closest branch library. Not quite as convenient as Netflix, but doesn’t cost anything either.

  • Mykl

    Yeah – Tampopo is a must see.

    So Mike, who plays you in the movie?

  • julie

    I like your blog, but…foie gras is humane? I’ll believe that, Michael, when you allow yourself to be force fed for 2 weeks with enough food to cause -your- liver to expand.

    Really, I completely understand people saying, “I love to eat (whatever) and simply don’t care how the animal is treated.” That’s a choice, honestly stated.

    The least diners can do is to honestly embrace the cruelty along with the tastiness of their meal. (Hypocrisy being generally bad for digestion.)

  • NancyH

    The version of Tampopo that is available on Amazon (which is the one I have) is missing between 10-20 minutes from the original theatrical release and some of those minutes are critical to getting all of the jokes.

    It remains one of my favorite food movies – Michael, get yourself a copy of the DVD (it was $10 on Amazon when I got it late last year), some noodle soup from Pacific East and enjoy!

  • Michael Greenberg

    Netflix doesn’t have Tampopo? They had it three or four years ago. The DVD is only $20 on Amazon: not a bad price, considering I’ve seen it sell for $80 or more.

  • French Laundry at Home

    I may be alone in this opinion, but I don’t care: I didn’t like “Tampopo.” I found it incredibly annoying and shrill. I’d rather watch “Glitter” twice than watch “Tampopo” ever again.

    But how nice to boot up the laptop this morning after a grueling 3-day weekend in New York with clients to find not only your post, but within it mentions of the “Making of a Chef” script and a photo of bacon, eggs and orzo.

  • david

    Eh, Tampopo: spaghetti western filmed in Japan. Fun to watch exactly one time.

    Glad to see everything back to ‘normal’ here.

  • Franck

    Why don’t you just be honest and tell you readership you were away serving time for “past indescretions” and concocted this whole story for posterity.

  • NTSC

    The Humane Society can probably drive Hudson Valley out of business, simply by making their legal fees high enough to absorb all the profit. With it is the implicit threat that anyone trying to replace them will get the same treatment.

    If they tried this with a big ag company, the Humane Society would be snuffed, probably by the same tactic.

  • bourdain

    Welcome back, Ruhlman–and about time. I’m tired of holding down the fort while you’re off shooting Kazakh bukakke flics. (Ooops! I guess that lets the cat out of the bag!)All I can say is I hope the company paid your mini-bar bill. I’m STILL paying for Vegas.

  • syoung68

    I say bring on the genetic mutations. Maybe if we can get a goose to “naturally” have a 3lb liver instead of a la gavage, people would not get so pissed off about foie. Delicious foie. Or even better, if we could get multiple hanger steaks out of a single cow – sweet.

    BTW, with friends like Bourdain….

  • charlie

    Ever since the first guy got the bright idea to stop in one place and plant some stuff, man has modified what he eats because what nature gave us isn’t really good enough.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Michael
    Welcome back to the blogosphere. So you can’t even talk about black truffles and wild boar? Okay (shrug).
    In my view:
    All farm products are the result of primarily artificial selection (organisms with desirable traits are propagated while those with undesirable traits are euthanized), not natural selection (traits that are “aptive” promote the reproduction of some individuals while those without the trait don’t reproduce). Direct alteration of a genome is a form of artificial selection (so are some types of abortion, btw.)

    I will allow that there is something about a form of artificial selection that involves a guy in a lab coat inserting a gene from a ringworm into the DNA of a pig that seems to be more unsettling than the image of a farmer-breeder who snuffs a litter of piglets that don’t grow fast enough or whatever.

    Or is there?