May 30, 2007

I'm Freaking Out Man!

The 92nd Street Y had a panel discussion with some heavy hitters of the food world participating: Gael Greene, Jacques Pepin, Michael Whiteman, Arthur Schwartz and Mike Colameco chairing. I unfortunately was not in attendance.

Grub Street thankfully covered the event so that lazy bloggers like myself are not left in the dark. Remember, secondhand knowledge of an event is just as good as firsthand knowledge if I pretend like I was there and dodge any specific questions. “What was Gael Greene wearing?” “Ummmmm, wait what’s that in the sky!!??” My motto is avoid, avoid, avoid.

It appears that the question of the day was, “Is the New York dining scene better than ever?” With sides drawn definitively in the sand, some pulled the “In my day things were better” logic, while others proclaimed this to be the most revolutionary time in recent culinary history. So what’s the real answer? Of course I have a theory as well.

Today we’ve seen an explosion of interest in cooking and the delights a kitchen can offer. The Food Network offers unparalleled access to food porn, blogs allow immediate analysis of new information and cooking has become a national if not international phenomena. Things are moving along quite nicely.

Yet the same problems that have always existed remain, just as they did years ago. Cutting edge dishes are bastardized and standardized as crappy chefs emulate the best trying to cash in on the flavor of the month while fad items are overused and prices have skyrocketed. Pretentious eaters spouting off at the restaurant of the moment? They were around back then, and were just as obnoxious. Apparently their kids are now too.

As with most things in life, I’d have to say the answer lay somewhere in the middle. The only real difference between the 80’s and early 90’s and today is that information moves at an insanely faster pace. This means every change is picked up immediately and broadcast to a wide audience on an hourly basis. Molecular gastronomy is just as radical as the changes made to French cooking seen back then, just at a faster and more obscure pace. Flavors from around the world are available at a rate never seen before. Things are just faster, but so is the rest of society.

Cooking and food, just like everything else in life (see the financial markets), follows a circular pattern and is just a summary of what society looks like at a particular moment in time. I’ll leave it to the heavy hitters to try and prove one side over the other; I’ll be too busy standing on line for a couple hours trying to get a Shake Shack burger.

No comments: