I have the worst restaurant seating karma. Without fail, I wind up at the least desirable table at any given eatery. And what’s worse is it’s often my own fault. I once arrived for dinner at a place that was super crowded. I was already nervous that my friend, who had warned me he was cranky and hungry but had yet to show up, would be irritated if we had to wait too long for a table given his self-diagnosed low blood sugar issue. A table for two had just opened up so I said “Yes!” when the maitre d’ asked if I’d take it. I knew I was in for it the minute I sat down. I was led waaayyy in the back, wedged between two loud parties of four, and equi-distant from both the swinging kitchen door and the less than fresh smelling bathrooms. I immediately cursed myself for letting my anxiety get in the way of my patience. For, a lovely table by the window in front became available just three minutes later as my friend walked through the door with a “What were you thinking?” roll of the eyes and a furrowed brow. But it was too late. I was half-way through my first glass of Chenin Blanc and we resigned ourselves to an evening of “pardon-me-scuse-me” and yelling across the table to each other to be heard over the din of the Carrie Bradshaw wannabes sitting to my right.
The other night Rich and I got out of a late movie and were excited to find a pleasant looking table ready for us at a restaurant which is normally hard to penetrate. Company, a high-end pizza place in Chelsea created by bread baking guru Jim Lahey, serves charred, crusty pies with inventive toppings and I’ve been wanting to try it since it opened. So, we took a table along a long wall, I sat inside (as the lady or the mobster always should) and my heart sank. Sitting to my left were two young guys vying for the Most Annoying Jackass Foodie Award of 2010. Jerk #1: “Dude, I bought amazing ricotta fresca from the yadda-yadda creamery when I hit the Hudson Valley this weekend. It was sick!” Jerk #2: “No, dude. I just picked up like the most incredible ramps at Union Square. I’m totally making Floyd Cardoz’ sautéed spinach and ramps, he uses lentils too. It’s gonna be sick.” And blah, blah, blah.
It was all I could do to keep from letting out a primal scream. What I wanted to yell was, “Shut the Hell up! I don’t care about your precious ricotta, or your ramps, or the Union Square Greenmarket! And stop saying sick when you’re talking about food! You’re making me sick!”
Yes, I sound like an angry, crazy lady because I really hate foodies. First of all, I hate the word. What does it even mean? They care about food more than someone else does? And who decides who cares most? People care about food in their own way. But second of all, there is nothing worse than the one up-manship of the foodie; it is so New York. The constant competition of who knows their butcher’s first name, who travels (by subway of course—you need to be green) to the outer-most borough to source the best buffalo mozzarella or roof cultivated honey or rice noodles and who wins?
Look, if the care and feeding of your food before it comes to your restaurant or kitchen table is meaningful to you, great. That is a good thing. But it’s the ad nauseum soliloquies of so many cooks and diners that sends my blood pressure skyward and threatens a stroke. Why can’t we just enjoy our meals and not talk them to death? It’s like what my parents say about my generation’s habit of analyzing the minutiae of every fragile relationship…”too much talk!” (So true, and a lesson I have yet to learn.)
When did all of this food fetishizing start? Do we blame Top Iron Chef? Alice Waters? Gordon Ramsay and his Hell’s Kitchen Kitchen Nightmares? Which came first? The foodie or the (local, organic) egg?
When our dining neighbors readied themselves to leave they noticed our pondering of the menu, leaned over and said, “Get the ramp pizza. It’s killer.” We did and it was. But I refuse to talk about it.
As a reaction to my foodie rage I embarked on the least foodie-ish dessert I could think of that I would actually still want to eat. How about something with an ingredient that comes out of a can and has the (optional) addition of maraschino cherries? The top of this cake is so moist it is almost juicy and really has a tarte tatin vibe to it with sticky, caramelized pineapple. Try it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or or Greek yogurt or crème fraiche. It’s sick.
Please Stop Talking Foodie Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
From Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, Marilyn Brass & Sheila Brass, 2006
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½ cup butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
7 slices/rings of canned pineapple in juice (not 'heavy syrup') from 20 oz can, and 5 Tablespoons reserved juice
1 cup cake flour (not self rising)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 Maraschino cherries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Rack should be in middle position.
Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In 9 inch cake pan, swirl butter to coat the bottom and sides of pan. (Do it over the sink in case of drips) Most will settle to the bottom.
Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom of the pan.
Using a paper towel pat pineapple slices dry on both sides and arrange in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl stir egg yolks just to break them up and add sugar, vanilla and 5 Tablespoons of reserved pineapple juice. Mix well and stir in flour mixture until combined. Set aside.
Place egg whites in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment and beat until just stiff but not dry.
Fold egg whites into the batter already in the large bowl until fully combined.
Pour batter into cake pan.
Bake 45-55 minutes until tester inserted into middle comes out clean.
Cook pan on rack 2-3 minutes then invert onto another cooling rack. It will still be quite warm and very moist. Scrape any remaining bits of sugar or fruit from pan onto top of cake and, if using, place maraschino cherries in center of each pineapple ring.
The cake is lovely served warm.
Yield: 8 slices.