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12:00 AM





I've been feeling bad that posts have been few and far between for the last couple of weeks but I know most people are off enjoying their holidays. And while we've done some enjoying, we've also taken this short break to put together some big plans for the coming year. Lots of exciting things are coming this year on tastingmenu.com and we're raring to go.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that there were 26 comments on my write-up of my reactions to the book Super Chef. I was even more surprised to see that they were written by one person. One very pissed off person. Nothing like a huge flame to start the year off right.

Basically this person thinks I'm lazy, uninformed, and unqualified. And while on different occasions I have certainly been one or more of the above, It wasn't the case when I read or wrote about Super Chef. I read the book, and I have an opinion that I'd like to share. Isn't that enough? It's fine for my critic to say that they don't like my opinion, or that she doesn't think my opinion is well-founded. But there were a couple of things they said that bugged me:

  1. This person said that I'm "abusing the Internet and all your readers with reviews like this." Abusing the internet? The beauty of the internet is that anyone can express themselves. And some of those expressions will be ones you agree with, and some won't be. To say that it's abuse to express yourself, is kind of wacky. This is the same type of attitude that has kept the right to express oneself locked up for the privileged few - newspapers, magazines, record companies, etc. Many of  the people who are part of the privileged few are pissed off that the rest of us get to express ourselves. My critic sounds like one of them. This person then thinks they've "hoisted me on my own petard" as it were when they quote from my site where I say I have no qualifications. That's the point. I don't need any. Welcome to the internet. I'm not abusing it. I'm showing what's great about it.

  2. The other thing that bothered me was how the critic said that I should ask people in the food industry what they thought of the book as that "would be a real service". I imagine it might be interesting to know what they thought, but I'm not "in the industry" and I suspect that most of the people who read this site are not "in the industry". It's called opinion. Some people have more experience in the subject matter, some people have less. Either way, opinions are valid. Believe me, if I'd gushed about the book, calling it "a seminal work" like my critic did (this seems a little bit over the top to me even if you loved the book), they wouldn't be complaining that I was uninformed or unqualified. I would imagine that as long as my unqualified opinions were positive, they would be valid.

And then in the end the writer admits that they are friends with the author and commands me to re-read the book, re-review the book, and begin my new review with an apology and a recommendation that everyone who reads this site read the book, as well as an apology to the author. Oh yeah, and my critic says that if I don't repost their entire screed then I'm gutless. I may often be gutless but that's not the reason I'm not reposting it. The reason for not reposting is that I'm lazy. Lazy is different than gutless. Cutting and pasting your endless review of my review and then reformatting it so it's readable is simply too much work and I have lots of food to write about. I did start down that path but it got too time consuming. So, since you're all hot on apologies I figured I would write one myself and hope that this makes you happy.

To foodiereader@earthlink.net:

I'm sorry that you didn't like my review. I'm sorry that your seemingly endless self-righteousness caused you to write a response longer than the original review of the book. I'm sorry that you feel my comment service sucks. And finally, I'm sorry that I just don't agree with your characterization of what I wrote. But that's ok. I don't want you to re-read my review, post a retraction, apologize, or even admit who you are (instead of posting your anonymous criticism - which btw is really annoying as it makes it tough when I need to use pronouns). It's your opinion. I'm sure some people agree with it, and some people don't. And the beauty of the internet is that even someone like you gets to post their opinion.


P.S. I wondered if I was alone in that I wasn't a fan of the book. And I found Publishers Weekly's comments on the book. Here are some choice quotes that echo my sentiments:

  • "This plodding group biography..."

  •  "...begins unevenly by failing to define in her introduction what a "super chef" is"

  • "A glossary with definitions of terms like "Fast Food Restaurant" and "Hoisin Sauce" provides a puzzling finish."

  • "Rossant's style is often awkward ( "It was the height of disco, and a few months after his divorce Wolfgang met Barbara Lazaroff at a discotheque")."

  • "...she glosses over unpleasant events"

  • "...never appearing to pass negative judgment."

I noticed you posted your critique of their review as well on Amazon.com (though there you didn't admit you're friends with the author). You asked me if I "work for a living". Yes I do. It appears that your full-time job is writing self-righteous critiques of anyone who comments negatively on your friend's book. If it pays well, I might be interested in myself as I have friends who write books as well.

And finally, I will admit that when I re-read my review before I posted it, it sounded a lot more negative than I felt when I started writing it. And I felt bad. Bad for the author who probably worked hard only to have me say I didn't like it. But then again, I realized that once I'd taken the time to write down what I thought it was really how I felt. So should I lie because I might hurt someone's feelings? Should I lie and tell people who read this site that I liked it? What will they think of me when they read it and have a similar reaction to mine? And while I know the author's friend is trying to defend her, I think the author needs better friends. Friends who aren't so defensive. Friends who understand that the appropriate response to my critique is, "I'm sorry you didn't like the book, I've found that a lot of people do, thanks for your time." This would have been better I think.

Whew! I can't tell if this flame I got was the capper to a fiery 2004, or the beginning to a fiery 2005. Either way, Happy New Year. On to better things.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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