April 2008 Archives

ASSIMILATION BLUES

This week in New York City, the Mitzvah Tanks are out in full force. They’re RVs tricked out by the Chabad-Lubabitch Hasidim to function as mobile synagogues and places where lapsed Jewish-Americans can reconnect with traditional, felt-hatted Judaism. As a child, I remember being traumatized when, walking down the main street of my small town in New Jersey, I was ambushed by two Hasids in the full regalia, who said “Hey! Hey! Sonny! Does your mother kindle the Sabbath lights on Friday nights?” It sounded like a lewd come-on.

But now, I have to say I appreciate the comedy of the Mitzvah Tank hustle. Yesterday I was walking past a convoy of Tanks parked along 42nd Steet, wearing the most English thing I own–a pinstriped suit made by Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row–when a Hasid started walking in lockstep with me, saying “’Scuse me? ’Scuse me? You Jewish? You gotta be Jewish! You look too Jewish!”

April 17, 2008  Link  General Posts  Share/Bookmark

FUN WITH MICHAEL RUHLMAN, HIS KITCHEN, AND HIS HAIR

Writer and acclaimed food-person Michael Ruhlman has for the last five months featured an elegantly composed homepage photo on his Web site that hits many of the marks of Food Snobbery as portrayed in the humor book I wrote with Marion Rosenfeld, The Food Snob’s Dictionary. We have definitions in the book for some of the things pictured–the chinois strainer, the Le Creuset pot, the All-Clad pot–and we only wish that the copper pots in Ruhlman’s kitchen had been picked up by him during a trip to E. Dehillerin, the renowned Paris kitchenware shop, because we have a definition for that, too. (The copper pots, alas, came from someone’s house in Florida.)

Anyway, for New York magazine’s Grub Street blog, I thought it would be fun to do an annotated version of Ruhlman’s kitchen (and hair-care secrets) that readers could scroll over for his comments. Michael, a genial fellow, was happy to oblige.

I only wish that some of his blog’s fervent commenters, unfamiliar with the Snob’s Dictionary series of books (and, evidently, with humor itself), were as easygoing and chill as Michael. They’ve taken offense at the term “Food Snob,” as if some sort of grave accusation were being leveled, and assured Ruhlman that, really, he is not a snob. (One reader even reassures Michael, earnestly, that he is “a man of the people.”)

Michael, I’m sorry that our bit of fun turned into a serious referendum on your snobbiness-versus-populism. You snob.

April 10, 2008  Link  General Posts  Share/Bookmark

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