Chapter 75: COVID Chronicles

June 11, 2020

By Karen

Day 92

Another Rebel Bites the Dust & Throwing in the Towel on Chives

Remember the other day I showed you the statue of the Confederacy’s one and only president, Jefferson Davis?…

Last night protesters kicked his ass to the curb and threw paint on him…

AP News

Presumably, he’s now chilling with Christopher Columbus in some secret storage facility.

That weasel Davis never deserved a statue in the first place. I’ve never had any interest in what happened to Richmond during the Civil War, but lately read an account of how it went down when the Union “invaded” Richmond in April 1865. I was totally shocked, in light of all the Southern butt-hurt I’ve seen over the last 48 years living here. Here’s a quick summary:

When President Davis knew the Yankees were coming, he and his cabinet fled to Danville, leaving orders for Confederate troops to burn munitions and supplies. So the soldiers razed most of the city with the civilians in it. Then they took off, leaving the population homeless, hungry and defenseless.

The mayor of Richmond went to the Union and surrendered, so they quickly arrived, put out the fires and restored order. Abraham Lincoln showed up within a day or two to make sure everything was OK and to order his soldiers to treat the residents with respect.

Around here you can’t swing a cat without hitting a Confederate monument. It should keep protesters entertained for months. Last weekend they tore down a statue in Monroe Park of General Williams Carter Wickham, whoever the hell he was…

Alexa Welch/AP

It’s getting to where if you’ve seen one toppled Confederate, you’ve seen them all, right?

But moving on to the culinary front, I’ve been watching Amy Schumer Learns to Cook on Food Network. Amy’s a comedian now married to chef Chris Fischer.

Cute side note: They had a baby about a year ago they originally named Gene Attell Fischer (to honor comedian Dave Attell). About a month in, they realized “Gene-Attell” (say it fast) probably wasn’t the best choice, so now he’s Gene David.

Anyway, they’ve been quarantined in a lovely chalet on Martha’s Vineyard with a kitchen layout perfect for a cooking show. Amy says Food Network pitched the idea to them. They’re filmed by their nanny and a few strategically placed cameras.

Episodes are an hour long. Amy makes cocktails, occasionally chops, and wisecracks while straight man Chris does the cooking. He’s low-key, but must have a sense of humor we don’t see because they make an odd couple. They keep the food pretty basic because they’re getting their ingredients on an island during a pandemic.

The chives experiment is down to three stalks and I’m officially done, partly thanks to Tony’s interference. It’s hard to see, so I’ve added cues to point out what he either stomped or knocked over. The poor runts just hated dirt…

And here’s how Tony has behaved toward the pot. Yes, it had contained mouse droppings when I brought it in from the storage room, but that makes what he’s doing here even yuckier…


Is Paula Deen a Racist?

June 24, 2013

By Karen

Paula Deen’s upbringing finally caught up with her. In a deposition for a $1.2 million lawsuit filed against her and her brother Bubba for creating a hostile work environment at their restaurant, Paula answered yes, “of course,” she had used the N-word in the past, as if to say, “Well, hasn’t everybody?”

Paula’s career is built on being a proud product of the South, parts of which are still butt-hurt over the Civil War. Being compelled to stop owning what they lovingly called “N-words” still rankles. And with good reason.

TODAY’s Richmond Times-Dispatch published 3 articles with “Civil War” in the headline. In fact, one of them is a DAILY feature that re-reports the Confederacy’s glory days.

But all bigots aren’t Southerners. My Italian grandmother, who spent her life in Massachusetts (and later years in Florida), always called blacks the N-word. She also hated the French and Jews, although I seriously doubt she ever knew any of them in any meaningful way.

She must have picked up all that racist bullshit from her parents. Just like Paula Deen probably did.

Back in 1972 when I moved to Virginia, I worked at J.C. Penney’s. Forty years later, I still vividly recall a white-haired Paula Deen type who, upon seeing a cute young white girl come up the escalator with a black boy, turned and whispered to me, “I’d like to push her right down those stairs!”

Over the years, black men have asked me for dates a few times, but I always turned them down. It’s just safer. I don’t want anybody feeling tempted to push me down an escalator.

So now Food Network isn’t renewing Deen’s contract, and her advertisers are having second thoughts.

Where was all this outrage after we found out Paula was flat-out trying to kill people with recipes SHE, as a closet diabetic, knew could be lethal?

All these entities turning on Paula now should be ashamed of their belated shock. Anyone can take one look at Deen and her whole redneck family and see you probably don’t have to scratch deep to find some festering Southern ugliness.

But I don’t think Deen would ever choose to be a racist. She’s been conditioned by her culture.

Paula reminds us all that, in spite electing a black president TWICE, racism still thrives. Republicans out to sink Obama no matter what the consequences for the country, and Deen’s loyal fans who are screaming, “What’s the big deal? Bring Paula back!” are just further proof of it.

This country can’t be cleansed for at least a few more generations, and only then if our leaders and people who should know better stop spewing mindless poison.

A few weeks ago, a Southern friend told me how a drunk woman in a bar hit on my friend’s husband, assaulted my friend, and then got herself arrested.

My friend called the woman the N-word.

Later in the conversation, my friend was incredulous when I mentioned I’d worked on Obama’s campaign. Yet she couldn’t give me any good reason she preferred Romney (other than, I suspect, his color).

This was a side of her I’d never really seen before — in 30+ years. But it’s there.

We all have it, to some degree, I’m sad to say. I bet there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t at some point avoided someone “other-looking” because that stranger made them uncomfortable.

Right now, George Zimmerman is on trial in Florida for killing a black teenager named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s defense team has been dredging up dirt from Trayvon’s life to make the case that Trayvon needed killing for something. That way, Zimmerman’s a hero, not a gun-toting weirdo trolling for trouble.

This is how racism thrives.

BONUS: Watch Paula’s attempts to muster a sincere apology to her fans.

Will Sandra Lee Have the Last Laugh?

January 5, 2011

By Adele

The Today Show this morning did a story on Semi-Homemade’s Sandra Lee, who is now the first girlfriend of New York. Her lover, Andrew Cuomo, was sworn in last week as governor while she demurely held the Bible.

One of her pet causes will be to alleviate hunger in New York — one yukky can of vegetables at a time.

She and Cuomo met in the summer of 2005 after they both went through divorce. They have been living together and will continue to do so. Cuomo has 3 teenage daughters by his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy (yes, one of those Kennedys). Sandra is childless.

Now that Sandra’s got connections in high places, I wonder if Karen’s buddy, Anthony Bourdain, will retire his schtick about her putrid Kwanzaa Cake? He may very well cross her path a lot more at anti-hunger charity events.

And did Huffington Post cave under Sandra’s new political status and yank Denise Vivaldo’s story about how she developed and sold to Sandra the Kwanzaa Cake recipe and many others even worse?

Will Sandra finally be on the receiving end of some respect, or earn herself a reputation as the tackiest hostess ever to grace a governor’s mansion, serving such delights as lasagna made with cottage cheese and tomato soup? Cuomo claims to love it, while his mother says the very idea makes her want to vomit.

Will her penchant for tablescapes and replacing all the drapes daily bust the state entertainment budget and drive the household staff berserk?

Michelle Obama tested her influence by getting women to wear studded gladiator belts hiked up under their armpits for a while. Will Sandra try to make MSG- and salt-laden processed and canned cuisine chic eats for New Yorkers?

Will being the governor’s girl (and, who knows, a future presidential candidate’s cutie) become so all-consuming that Sandra abandons her dream of becoming the reconstituted Martha Stewart? Will Cuomo have to use that familiar cardboard cutout of Sandra with the pasted-on smile at official functions while she’s out in the pantry concocting and chugging cocktails?

This reality show promises to be more fun to watch than anything Sandra Lee has ever done on the Food Network.

Bourdain, Ray & Lee – Together Again

November 9, 2009

By Karen

Scripps Networks Interactive, owner of Anthony Bourdain’s first cruel TV master, the Food Network, bought a 65% controlling interest in the Travel Channel for $181 million, bringing Tony back into the fold. I hope all the FN butts of his jokes are kind to him.

Scripps also plans to launch a Cooking Channel, which Bourdain mocked in “Robo Chef,” the first episode of his Alternate Universe Web series.

Last week, Winnipeg Bob withheld one New York City photo from us. He snapped Tony on the wall of Katz’s Deli. Unfortunately, this was as close as they got.


(Photo - Winnipeg Bob)

On November 18, Bourdain is appearing in Denver, and Tony’s Market there is running a 50-word essay contest. The winner gets to make dinner for Bourdain and meet him face-to-face.

Confirming the opinion of Cats Working’s Finnish reader, Fanfromfaraway, here’s a bit about how Bourdain wows ‘em in Helsinki.

Domestica saw Tony in Des Moines on November 5, and her husband thinks Bourdain’s a misogynist. Could it be all those Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, and Alice Waters digs? Domestica also has something interesting to say about Andrew Zimmern.

The Michigan Daily caught up with Tony before his appearance in Ann Arbor on November 7 and had him suggest a resolution to the Pakistan/Afghanistan problem (it involves Chicken McNuggets) and name his favorite album (The Stooges’ Fun House).

Tubefilter considers Bourdain’s writing in Kitchen Confidential and Alternate Universeoverseasoned.” If it is, I like whatever spice Tony’s using.

January 14-18, 2010, marks the 3rd annual (Grand) Cayman Cookout. Tony will be there, hosting a beachside BBQ at Calico Jacks, which Eric Ripert calls, “the best dive bar in the world.” Seems fitting.

And of course, Cats Working readers Morgan and Cindy and yours truly are having our own brush with Bourdain on November 11 when he co-hosts the Capital Food Fight in Washington, DC. Stay tuned…

Assessing the Bourdain Backlash

April 14, 2008

By Karen

Travel Channel finally reran No Reservations in French Polynesia, the only episode I’d missed, but I’m bummed because Anthony Bourdain is crisscrossing the U.S. like a maniac with no signs of ever stopping in Richmond, Va.

Tony and ham sandwich at Parisian sidewalk cafe

Tony in Paris, my favorite No Reservations

Snipes at Bourdain have been crossing my radar lately, so I Googled “hate Anthony Bourdain” to see how bad it is and got only 80 hits. Rachel Ray’s fans apparently aren’t into defending her honor. Even so, I’m sure Bourdain knows that saying exactly what he thinks about everyone and everything may get him cornered in a dark alley one day.

To give you a few examples, in July 2006 he was just back from Beirut when he managed to slam everyone on the Food Network in the Washington Post while paying Emeril Lagasse the ugliest compliments I’ve ever read:

“I still hate his [Emeril’s] show and will continue to say so. Emeril the man, however, I have come to know, deserves a lot more respect than I’ve given him. He’s an accomplished chef and businessman in spite of what you see on TV. He has a sense of humor and given the current crop of talentless, cabbage patch kids, bobbleheads and dimwits on the Food Network, Emeril now looks like Escoffier by comparison.”

Hezbollah Tofu is a new blog by Sara that bills itself as a “Bourdain Veganizing Collective, meant to call attention and mockery to the absolute ridiculousness of Anthony Bourdain earnestly comparing vegans to the freakin Hezbollah.”

She’s steamed over this passage in Kitchen Confidential:

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

To retaliate, Sara’s blog publishes vegan versions of his recipes.

There’s also a fake Gordon Ramsay blog at News Groper that skewers the new Top Chef cookbook and blasts Tony’s chapter for his lack of cred as a working chef.

I’m guessing Bourdain appreciates his bashers’ humor, even when it’s unintentional.

Indulging My Bourdain Habit

February 17, 2008

By Karen

Watching each episode of No Reservations is to fall under the spell of Anthony Bourdain all over again. I particularly love when he visits my favorite places, such as London, and Edinburgh, where my sister lives.


(Photo by Entertainment Weekly)

Tony’s a changed man these days. When Marco Pierre White said, “Time for a cigarette,” this new ex-smoker didn’t even wince. His wedding ring’s now a permanent fixture, and he exchanged his beloved leather jacket for a sports coat to prowl through Soho, looking like a mature, world-savvy sophisticate with a wife and child back home – or back at his hotel.

(After seeing him next to that mysterious baby in Greece, I now study every frame for signs of family.)

To please admirers of his hard-bitten style, he did pull out his well-worn leather friend in Scotland.

The man showed true sang froid when they placed before him the head of the deer he’d killed while he was eating its liver. Then again, a severed head centerpiece on a white tablecloth was pretty classy compared to some table settings he’s had.

In Edinburgh, he sampled the nastiest bits he could find, but that was about it. Surely there was enough worthy gastronomy for him in each country to have given them their own hours.

Although I can’t get enough Bourdain, I’m striking out on Food Network’s reruns of A Cook’s Tour. My VCR acts like it’s cursed whenever I try to record it, perhaps manifesting my utter disgust over how FN dissed Emeril Lagasse, my No. 1 favorite (still)-working chef.

(Photo by The Cleverley Show)

Seeing Emeril and Bourdain breaking bread together in New Orleans like old friends was another moment to savor – one of thousands they’ve both given us.

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