Why Lesley Stahl Can Suck It

img_3111Last night we had a lovely simple dinner.  We picked up a few pieces of Salmon at the farmer’s market and a nice little bunch of asparagus.  I grated a little lemon zest on the asparagus, salt, pepper and olive oil and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes till the asparagus was a little soft but still had a bite to it.  While the asparagus was cooking, I cooked the salmon on a griddle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and green onions.  I put together a sauce of equal parts yellow mustard, honey and water, with salt, pepper and more green onions.  I used this sauce to brush on the salmon the last minute of its cooking.  Boom. Done.  Cooking the whole thing took 10 minutes  — and if I may channel sarcastic Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny, “Oh My GAWD, What a Fucking Nightmaaare!”img_3112

Why this reaction, you may ask?  Because while eating this dinner I was watching a Lesley Stahl piece on 60 Minutes about renowned chef and slow foods movement pioneer Alice Waters.  Ms. Stahl’s reporting was so condescending that I found it offensive. 

Alice Waters’ philosophy is that healthy, nutritious AND local food should be a human right and that people should value fresh, natural ingredients shared in peace with friends and loved ones as an alternative to fast food.  For that, Stahl called her an elitist and a dreamer.   Stahl sneered at how Waters went to the unbelievable effort for her breakfast of “slicing tomatoes, chives, and even marinating them in olive oil & garlic.”    Um, hello?  That part takes 45 seconds — 90 seconds if you’ve never used a knife before.  (Then, yes, Alice Waters used a pimped out fireplace to fry her egg — which can be replicated less dramatically with any skillet in another 90 seconds.) 

Ms. Stahl might as well have been the dumb blond co-host of any infomercial — “No, Todd, who has time to chop tomatoes without chopping your finger off!  Can’t there be an easier way?  Todd:  Why Yes, Lesely, what you need is the chop-o-matic”

Seriously, though, this “gourmet” breakfast likely took less time than waiting at a drive through for an Egg McMuffin — and I’ve waited in plenty of those lines in my day.  But Stahl validates one approach (fast food for “busy moms”) and derides this approach as an elitist dream that asks too much of people.  This really frustrates me.  I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that sponsors for 60 minutes are much more likely to be fast food companies than they are to be small, family owned organic farms.

Her sloppy, and completely biased reporting encourages mediocrity.  Why take 10 minutes out of your day to make something with love for your family?  Why take any time to take the healthy, natural option that supports business in your own community?  Why do anything that you can take pride in when you can take the supposedly easy way out with a ton of hidden costs?

And the utter hypocrisy of it all is that while I believe from her commentary that Stahl proudly doesn’t know how to cook, she most likely eats many of her meals at power player restaurants in New York and DC that already use local, organic, fresh ingredients.  Now THAT’S elitist!  She gets to benefit from this type of food while demeaning any efforts towards enabling the “common masses” to have access to this same food.

That’s why, ladies and gentelmen, Lesley Stahl can suck it.

(Maybe this can be a recurring column, Andy Rooney style, where every so often I tell someone else to suck it. :))

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6 Comments

  1. jerseygirl77 said,

    March 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I think the media portrays anything even marginally outside the mainstream as weird, crunchy, bizarre, etc. That’s part of the reason why I think it takes cultural tides so long to turn.

  2. Theresa said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:45 am

    Ha ha! Will you please make this a regular feature on the blog? I agree with JerseyGirl up there. It’s so funny that there are actually people that are “against” organic food, cooking healthy, etc. But it’s apparently outside of the mainstream. I attribute much of it to laziness.

    Speaking of Alice Waters, have you eaten at Chez Panisse?

  3. almostima said,

    March 17, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Everyone in my family has been to Chez Panisse but me. The whole thinking ahead for reservations plus hour and 15 minute drive has gotten in the way … but we should make it a date night.

  4. Karl said,

    April 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Waters is a whispy, over massaged, Berkeley freak. I say this having known and loved many freaks very much like Alice. I lived in Berkeley for a decade and a half and know a few including AW. Stahl worked with what she was given, and came off like an airhead. I agree with your outrage. Americans are going to see the “pimped fireplace” and not much else, and think that AW is a space alien. Alice is not grounded in the economic reality of your average television viewer. Start at the farmer’s market. Most people are not going to take the time to get to one. They’ll also flip out of at the cost of a single heirloom tomato, and a dozen farm eggs. The topic is over, without even looking at the cost of a French range, and a fancy pants cooking hearth. Start by teaching people that growing small amounts of their own food is fun and sffordable. Show them how to cook it on no elite pots and pans on below average stoves, and then you’re getting somewhere…

  5. Karl said,

    April 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Waters is a whispy, over massaged, Berkeley freak. I say this having known and loved many freaks very much like Alice. I lived in Berkeley for a decade and a half and know a few including AW. Stahl worked with what she was given, and came off like an airhead. I agree with your outrage. Americans are going to see the “pimped fireplace” and not much else, and think that AW is a space alien. Alice is not grounded in the economic reality of your average television viewer. Start at the farmer’s market. Most people are not going to take the time to get to one. They’ll also flip out of at the cost of a single heirloom tomato, and a dozen farm eggs. The topic is over, without even looking at the cost of a French range, and a fancy pants cooking hearth. Start by teaching people that growing small amounts of their own food is fun and affordable. Show them how to cook it on no elite pots and pans on below average stoves, and then you’re getting somewhere…

  6. almostima said,

    April 13, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Karl,
    Thank you so much for your post. I totally agree with you that the world would be much better off if people felt empowered to grow small amounts of food at home and even share the bounty with their neighbors. (I long for a garden some day.) And yes, the fancy shmancy equipment is not necessary to make wonderful meals.

    However, if you want to talk about economic realities of the average citizen, I think the slow foods movement must be seen in context with the rest of the citizens’ lives, too. For instance, it may be true that a farmers’ market tomato costs a little more (not always, by the way). But maybe the tradeoff is that you aren’t also impulse buying the People magazine at the checkout stand. Or that you are so excited about the fresh food that you picked up at the market that you don’t go the Cheesecake Factory one time that month but proudly invite people to your house to eat. That change in behavior more than offsets any price differential between mainstream grocery shopping and farmers’ markets.

    I think that’s the point that AW was trying to make regarding what we prioritize — you might prioritize $200 shoes, but balk at 25 cents difference for organic cream.

    (And, I admit, I have never met AW and can’t speak to her personality or character… but I believe in what she’s aiming for)


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