Monday, August 07, 2006

Tofooey

It's not Daniel Patterson's fault that the New York Times Sunday Magazine decided to publish his article about an Asian soybean product after Saveur ran its feature on tofu. The more, the better. I like to read 'em all.
It's really not even his fault that he'd never heard of or tasted yuba, essentially the skin that forms on the surface of boiled soy milk as it cools during tofu-making. There's a lot of food out there in our world to try, and it's good to see Patterson approaching it with an open mind.
Whoops. Cancel "open mind."
Patterson delights — much to his avowed surprise — in his first experience with yuba, admitting, "To my American mind, tofu meant dull, bland hippie food."
Wait. This guy is a professional chef? And he's getting paid to write about eating?
I just don't see how you can go into either occupation without attempting to settle your own personal misconceptions, your distrusts, your prejudices about food — or at least lying about it.
And yet he comes out with this inane remark?
Jeffrey Steingarten made a similar confession (and OMG, I think it was in the Sunday Times magazine too) about not being able to stomach some food or other. At the time, I thought he was shredding his credentials by saying so.
Now, ditto with Patterson.
I really don't want to open a can of worms, but this is the Patterson who tinkled all over San Francisco restaurateurs last year with his snarky article (in the Sunday Times magazine!), arguing that Alice Waters keeps them from being brave in the kitchen. The same Patterson who hasn't been entirely successful in running his own restaurants here in the Bay Area. (Link, third item.) That's water under the dam, or over the bridge, or however that cliché is supposed to go. Fine.
But I was finally ticked off enough to get bloggy wit it when he described the making of yuba in Sunday's article:
Know how milk forms a skin when it’s heated? Same idea. Soybeans are processed with water to make soy milk, which is then warmed; the skin that floats to the surface is carefully removed.
"Floats to the surface"? Ew, double-big Shrek-in-a-hottub Ew! What does Patterson think is going on down in there?
The skin does not float to the surface! It develops on the surface, right on top! Ever had chocolate pudding?
However, there are some things that do float; ask any plumber. Patterson's article is one of them.

14 comments:

Dagny said...

Floating skin? ROFL. No wonder he couldn't cut it in SF.

Jennifer Maiser said...

See, now I think Shrek in a hot tub is pretty darn cute.

jeanne said...

ok I read the same article and I thought I was being too critical. no I see know that I am validate by an astute being!

PS. we need to meet at the Sunday market soon as we're now neighbors!

mrs d said...

Oh, good lord what a dink. Chopper is as carnivorous as it gets and he'd never utter such cruel words about tofu. In fact, he should make Patterson one of his kick-ass grilled tofu steaks.

On second thought, he should just wave one in front of Patterson's nose and then serve it to me instead.

sfmike said...

The New York Times Sunday magazine is one of the most insular, provincial and politically vile publications this side of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Your smackdown was funny and brilliant, and Shrek in the hot tub was pretty darn cute.

cookiecrumb said...

Thank you ladies and gent. The floor is now open to further discussion why Patterson's article was so irritating. I've got my reasons; I'm just afraid I'm too personally irked by him, and I don't even know why.

Individually:
Dagny: he's cheffing at Coi in the city now.
Jen: I love Shrek, but isn't he such a farter? Or am I all confused over his ear wax behavior?
Jeanne: Yes! Welcome to MV, which I recently left.
Mrs D: Yow, grilled tofu!
SFMike: Ah, but the WSJ ed page... rich source of very painful "humor." Thanks, dear.

kudzu said...

Whoooeee, you are so bodacious! I do think you should be writing at least one letter to the SNUY magazine. I find it quite odd that Patterson made these weird confessions about tofu. I mean, someone who expects guests to sniff their wrists (dabbed with a special mixture of aromatics) in order to enjoy his dinner would be more open minded about cultural differences. Go figure!

Jamie said...

Yeah, that's pretty pathetic on Patterson's part. To be a chef and know so little about tofu!!!!!

Steingarten I'm willing to cut some slack for, since his entire food-writing persona is based on being a curmudgeon and an outsider. He knows less about food than I do, frankly, but he has a curious mind and writes with exceptional wit.

Amy Sherman said...

You tell 'em cookiecrumb! While I have no problem with his article about Bay Area cuisine being er stiffled, I do think his stereotypical attitude towards tofu is regrettable.

Frankly, ever since Patterson made a very snarky comment about me and my food blogger posse at the farmer's market I have been harboring a grudge...

suzanne said...

Funny (funny weird funny, not funny ha-ha), Daniel Patterson's been on my mind, too.

I thought his article on Alice Waters was wrong-headed and designed to make a name for himself. The reviews of Coi don't entice me to eat there. I guess he's into a lot of foams (?). Between Coi and Chez Panisse, no question where I'd rather go.

I read one article by him in Food & Wine recently that wasn't bad. It was about not slavishly following recipes and learning to experiment in the kitchen (happily he didn't mention foam). I was going to give him a 2nd chance until the Floating Skin Article.

Ditto to fellow commenter comments about the provincialism of NYT Sunday Magazine. I read the NY Times, but I'm wary of its bias. [Old grudges die hard: these are the people who slammed John Steinbeck the day he won the Nobel Prize for literature].

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: I know! Sniff your wrists?

Aw, Jamie: I find it SO hard to be gracious about Steingarten. It's really nice that you can be. (I am really, really censoring myself hard here.) Oh, hell: Writes with exceptional wit and a bleedin' SNOOTful!

Amy: He was way too rude to you. Let's get even.

Suzanne: My feeling is that foams are completely derivative, and here he is talking about stifled creativity?

Glenna said...

Snort! Funny and withering.

kathyF said...

Glad you decided to get bloggy wit it. I totally agree, and I don't have a clue who this guy is. But it's my pet peeve, that people think vegetarian food is bland and just chock full of wheat germ.

Really.

Sort of reminds me of Gordon Ramsey, now that I think about it. They ARE both male.

cookiecrumb said...

Glenna: I'm flattered. Thanks.

KathyF: Not to get all male-bashy, but...
( :} )
Anyway, when I was a kid I thought wheat germ was the Koolest Thing on earth! Came in a jar. I'd beg my mom to buy it.