Just make the damn meal


Inspired by this and other NYT hijinks.

Just cook. Just cook dinner. We’re all crunched for time, but please, just cook dinner. It’s never easy to cook. We at the New York Times realize this. You might have a million other things going on in your life. You might have just dragged your ass in from night class that lasts from 6-9:30. Your ass, because it is pregnant, may not even feel like it is attached to your body anymore because you sat in a chair designed for a much less pregnant woman for three hours and tried to thoughtfully participate in class discussion even though oh my god you felt like maybe your midregion was detaching from your body.

We at the Dining and Wine section of The New York Times know. We feel for you and your unborn unorganic child. But nothing is as good as a home-cooked meal. Trust us. Nothing feels as good as a roasted chicken sliding down your gullet, well-oiled with extra-virgin olive oil grown on the terraced olive groves of Sardinia. Free-trade, of course.  Please, please give cooking a try. Quit your classes. Put your fetus in prenatal daycare.  Buy some really good knives.  Please, just make this one meal for us.  Please, make us feel good about ourselves for encouraging middle-class values.

We realize that some days this may be exceedingly difficult. We realize that some days, when you have enough energy, you may go dragging yourself to your fridge, knuckles first, like an ape, and stare blankly into its void, desperately searching for a spatchcocked chicken to appear in front of your eyes like a sub-zero mirage. That chicken will not appear.

Maybe what will appear are some frozen chicken breasts that you forgot to thaw in the morning. Or maybe there will be the soup you made last week. Maybe you will be tempted to feed your husband that. Maybe you will smell it, gingerly. “Still good,” you may say. “Certainly not bacterially safe for me and the baby to eat, but husband should be mostly ok.” Don’t feed your husband that soup. Throw it out. It served you well for six days.But now that soup is done, honey.

We at the New York Times know you’re dreading it, but you will have to procure a spatchcocked chicken.

You will have to drag yourself to the grocery store, yes, after work. We at  Dining and Wine don’t really work – we’ve outsourced that tedious chore to our Micronesian labor butlers- but we understand theoretically it might be hard to come home, change, sit on the couch weeping an anguished, existential cry for fifteen minutes, and then force yourself out in traffic again to go to the grocery store.

How can you hate it, though? We don’t understand that. We at the New York Times work from home in our tiny loft apartments on the Upper West Side, so we’re enthralled by the thought of going out, seeing the masses of society, rubbing shoulders in amongst the tomatoes. Feeling the tomatoes. Just go to the grocery store and feel the tomatoes. We encourage it.

Don’t mind the angry mobs of soccer moms that try to push you out of their way on their path to the kale.

Don’t mind the fact that you have to not only find a chicken with bones in it, but that you then have to go to another person to get those bones taken out. Why not buy boneless chicken breasts to begin with like hundreds of generations of Americans have been doing for the past seventy years? Because it’s not artisinal. It’s not sexy. It’s not spatch. It’s not cocked.

And if you don’t buy the spatchcocked chicken and the unsalted flour, God have mercy on your soul. If you don’t buy the chicken, who knows what you will have for dinner? Frozen food? TAKEOUT? Oh my god, ARE YOU EATING CEREAL FOR DINNER?

And where will that lead you? Down a dark path, a path we are afraid of at Dining and Wine. We have heard of this path, the path of people who don’t have time to make a spatchcocked chicken for dinner. These are sad, scary, miserable people. They work for a living. They go to classes. They have to take work trips. They have children. They have family obligations.  And by the time they come home, they couldn’t care less about spatches or cocks.

They just want to sit down, clear their head from the fact that their day has spun around them, and relax.  For five minutes, they just want to melt into a puddle and not hear about how delightful and romantic home cooking is when they would give their left arm not to have to do anything else for the day.

These are scary, miserable people, and we at Dining and Wine can’t even fathom functioning this way.

Just buy the spatchcocked chicken and gently fry it. Trust us. We know what’s best for you.


Conversations at Facebook

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Summer 2011. 4:40 PM.  Sheryl Sandberg’s open office at Facebook, just inches away from Mark Zuckerberg. Zuck is sitting on a blue yoga ball, staring into his MacBook Air with a furrowed brow.

Sheryl’s translucent glass door is closed, and there are several men in suits and women, around her desk.  They also all sit on blue yoga balls. Sheryl sits in an Aeron chair. Her nails are perfectly manicured and she wears patent leather heels.



Like kryptonite was for Superman, the metric system is my greatest weakness

So, Mr. B and I are going on a vacation.  Sometime soon. Maybe we’re even on vacation as we speak.  But maybe we’re at our house and if you try to rob it I’ll karate-kick you. Surprise!

We are or will be, or were in Europe. You guys know by now that I am a connoisseur of culture and love everything international I’ve done everything from Indian Classical Dance to the Saudi Arabian embassy to the Cochin Jews to West Philly. I got like 5 shots in preparation to go to India, and I have eaten squid. I also admire  Science.


I have realized I am a very proud ignorant American.


Because this makes absolutely no sense to me:

I physically cannot convert metric to American in my mind.  Thanks to the American school system, I’ve encountered my own personal Waterloo.

I keep imagining these scenarios where Mr. B is taken hostage and to rescue him I have to be able to understand Metric details.  So some Eurotrash guy with a Liam  Neeson accent will call me and will be like, “We have your husband, V.  You can give us the ransom money. Meet us on a day outside of Bruges when the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius, 500 meters away from the train station.  Oh, and you’re not allowed to use Google.” And they’ll hang up.

Let’s see, minus10 degrees Celsius.  If you take the 7, divide by two, multiply by 45, OHMYGOD. There is no way I, as an American (let’s conveniently ignore the fact that I’m not technically one), can be expected to understand this system.  Bye, Mr. B.  So sorry. So stupid.

The American measurement system represents freedom.  It represents apple pie.  It represents 2-ply toilet paper.  It represents a country that pisses off the rest of the free world and doesn’t care about any consequences.  This is the America I know and love.

It represents that moment when Mr. B and I landed on a late flight from Israel and, starving, we walked into a Wendy’s.  It was the most disgusting Wendy’s of my life.  The greasiest fries.  The palest chicken nuggets.  But as we were greedily scarfing down the liquid pools of fat and dousing them in honey mustard, I kid you not, the Star-Spangled Banner started playing right there in that Wendy’s at 12 o’clock in the morning, I cried. Because, God Bless America. God Bless Wendy’s. And God Bless whoever thought up measurement independence from Europe.

I am a proud member of a nation of 300 million standard morons.  (130.5 million morons metric)


P.S. Friday Links 

1.  Evernote: if you don’t already have it, you should.  (Can you spot the Jews and the Russians in the story?)

2.  Culture Beat jamz


3.  The Slavic section in the New York Public Library

4.  Don’t have sex with William Faulkner (100% SFW)


Anna Schwartz Schools Bernanke

Cross-posted on Swifteconomics.

Do you have a very sassy New York-born Jewish grandma?  Chances are, she is exactly like Anna Schwartz.  Except in addition to being sassy, Anna Schwartz is also a noted and very knowledgeable American economist, collaborating with Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman on their seminal work about the Great Depression, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867 – 1960.   The book is very detailed and criticizes government intervention during the Great Depression and its aftermath.   You can  read parts of it as a Google Book here.  This book changed the way many people thought about monetary policy and shifted the viewpoint that looking at money activity was not important to how the economy worked.


Please make me some matzah ball soup. Then school the Fed.

(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Anna Schwartz is often not mentioned in lieu of Milton Friedman, but she contributed in equal parts to the research they conducted together.  You can see another piece they wrote, specifically focusing on the Great Depression, here. That was in 1963.  Schwartz, at 93,  is still working full-time at the National Bureau of Economic Research where she started her career in 1941.  Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal recently interviewed her on her thoughts about the Fed’s handling of the current economic crisis.

She brings up some great points, on the transparency of the Fed:

The market is just bewildered. Bernanke came into office insisting that the Fed would be much more transparent than it had been in the past. But I don’t believe that it’s lived up to that. If the market understood what the Fed was planning in each case, and could see a design, then I think the market would have reacted much more positively.

I remember when we went to the Federal Reserve as part of a field trip with my university Economics Club (where I was the Vice President.  Don’t laugh at me,) and I got to sit in Greenspan’s chair as one of the Federal Reserve governors told us about the Reserve’s plans to become more transparent, primarily by releasing the minutes of their meetings to the public, earlier.  I remember then I was impressed, and defended the Fed’s plans toward transparency all the way to the end.  But, like Schwartz tells it, this isn’t happening.


Ballin' hard in Greenspan's chair

As many economists know, transparency is key to free market functionality, and essentially, the big problem that brought down credit default swaps: no one knew what was going on with them, hence, they couldn’t be valued correctly.

She also is not happy at all with what Bernanke is doing:

Ryssdal: It sounds like you’re frustrated with Chairman Bernanke and the White House, that they maybe haven’t learned the lessons of history that you and Milton Friedman wrote about.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I think that that’s a fair statement. Considering Bernanke’s background, you would have expected a much more, should I say a tidy kind of performance by the Federal Reserve. Seemed to be something that was ad hoc and introduced without considering all the implications.

It’s one thing when TV pundits that don’t know much about economic policy criticize or praise government actions to reverse the recession.  It’s another when you are schooled by someone who could be your grandma, if your grandma had a Ph.D. in economics and was one of the foremost monetary policy analysts in the world.