Check Please! Bay Area. The scenarios ran through my head like The Three Stooges played another 20 or so frames per second faster. Do I toss the aging bedroom RCA out the double paned window? That should make a stress-relieving crash. Shall I go and fetch my pick axe and dismember it where it sits? Or shall I roll over to the night stand and grasp the cold comfort of walnut grips sandwiched over the steel butt of my Para .45 and just fill the god damn thing full of holes till its insipid glow is finally extinguished? The Para it was, at least for about a second and a half. Then I gathered my wits, placed the Para on safety, nestled it back amongst my socks, and came to explain to the keyboard.
A dinky, horribly produced KQED production that reviews Bay Area restaurants in a loose and fast format, Check Please! Bay Area pits three regular (and I use the term so loosely, it needs a fucking belt) Bay Area residents, plus a host with face lift tighter than a snare drum head, at a table on set. Wine glasses are present. The colors are pastel and soothing. Tones are overtly PC and typical of most anything bearing a production credit from PBS.
The common man’s input on local restaurant fare is the angle. Each of the three confess and present their favorite eatery for scrutany. They begin with a general description, location, perhaps even some personal notes on the chef or owners, and then heap praise upon their favorite food choices or the establishment’s signature dish. The other two visit sometime prior to taping, eat, drink, and observe, and then return to either praise or pan the experience in turn. Each of the two opposing reviewers has a turn, amateurishly describing their experience over video interiors and exteriors of the restaurant and a few shots of the plated food.
I’ll give the show one fair comment. The three who bring their opinions of good food and where to get it are, for the most part, an interesting cross section of those that live near, or what seems like mostly in the city. East Oakland and the gang bangers within, the Valley rednecks, the vato locos in EPA, however, seem to severely lack representation. What you usually end up with feet under table are aging hipsters, technical types, balding gays, code writers with no social skills or taste, and the occassional fat haus frau making her living as a “marketing consultant” or “editor.” Usually, one can surmise that such fat haus frau occupations are derived from overtly rich absentee husbands, having set up boutique magazines or jewelry importing operations to occupy the portly plastic surgery disaster. Meanwhile, said husbands spend their time speeding down 880 in their 7 series BMW with the latest in poultry hormone enhanced bimbette the local high school is turning out, hoping the fat bitch on the Habersham leather at home finally O.D.s on Milanos before the cocktail hour arrives.
But, as with most ill-inspired rants, I digress……
For the most part, it’s what you would expect out of any Bay Area restaurant review format; alot of trendy flash and no real substance. Occasionally it’s entertaining when the gay vegetarian personnel manager accuses the fat black meat eater of being vindictive, selfish, and anti-gay, and the fat black meat eater accuses the gay vegetarian personnel manager of being racist and gay, all in the quietest, most PC tones one could imagine. It’s like watching two people intent on murdering one another face off with pillows.
There are no really consistent highlights, other than wondering how people actually manage to sit and eat in a Afro-Cuban joint in the Lower Haight no bigger than a breadbox and brag on the ignorant service and the overpriced, mediocre fare while sitting in the lap of the person next to them with a potted palm sweeping their brow every time the door opens. Apparently, foodies in the Bay Area are also the ball gag and hot water enema types. Torture, given the most expensive price tag, seems to be a priviledge.
But tonight’s episode, which I just happened to catch while chewing on my customary evening Nutter Butter with milk, went up my ass with the ferocity of a weathered broom stick. Thus, you catch the fruits of my freakout.
Two words. Fried green tomatoes.
A reviewer gushed over his favorite restaurant’s preparation and the lowly fried green tomato was inserted as accent. The other two gushed over this particular restaurant’s preparation of fried green tomatoes, obviously new to the thrifty and creative use of unripened fall tomatoes and true staple among southern backyard gardeners.
I fumed, in a simple phrase. I fumed over a feeling of helplessness washing over me as I remembered how life’s twists and turns don’t ever seem to jive with the guidebooks.
I fumed in memory of the hours and hours my sainted Aunt Clara slaved over canners and frying pans and scaulding Mason jars to save produce from the yard so her family and all her neighbors might enjoy a summer vegetable or two over the long winter, all from the goodness and warm depths of her God-fearing, motherly heart.
I fumed in memory of my Uncle JW’s heirloom giants, their red skins glistening in the sun. My mother still will not consider any other tomato an actual tomato; they are merely distantly related, poorly formulated, but alas, readily available substitutes.
I fumed at the memory of back breaking labor it took to pull weeds and trim suckers and pick enough fresh produce to feed (and I am not consciously exaggerating here) the entirety of their small town in West Tennessee for the length and depth of the summer, if they were so inclined, all accomplished off the country wisdom locked in my Uncle’s brain and five of the tiniest terraced acres the good lord ever saw fit to push out of a hillside.
I fumed at the memory of tomato vines as lush and tall and green as an Iowa cornfield. The vines stood out boldly, seeming to almost leap out of the red clay rows, straining the splintery gray stakes and torn strips of yellowed muslin.
Then I fumed at some asshole who takes a simple, waste not-want not foodstuff and tacks a $50.00 price tag to a plate where the only real change is a bit of achiote powder or anatto seed added to the corn meal.
You want to eat without complication and complexity and still enjoy how a field pea or a slice of summer squash or the delicate flesh of a free range chicken should actually taste? Do you want comfort and warmth and nourishment? Go to my Mom’s house and ask to stay for dinner.
Do you want to be hovered over by insincere, flighty, swank, dingbats concerned more with gratuity and whether they are showing enough cleavage and their hip huggers are truly hugging? Do you want to filter through the pile of unrecognizable sauced confusion slowly drooling and oozing its’ way around the lip of a white china plate whose only hope appears to be a natty, 20 word menu entry that only reflects a weak and sweatily desperate quest for sophistication? Do you desire meals prepared by goose stepping foodie fascists clad in checkers and clogs who are so taken with self-induced illusions of grand artistry that they concretely believe in their heart of hearts they could plate a warm buffalo turd, drizzle it with truffle oil, sprig it with arugula, and create a rage? Then go eat at pretty much any trendy restaurant in San Francisco.