I resented the existence of Meyer lemons & anyone who championed them.🍋
March 18, 2015 9:54 AM   Subscribe

"Honestly? I've never had more fun cooking. Or eating. I didn't want to write this piece; it's almost humiliating to hear myself talk this way. But there it is. I'm in Berkeley. I'm lucky to be here. I may stay." Mark Bittman talks about California produce.

Meanwhile, California approves new, statewide restrictions on water use in response to the drought (warning: auto-playing video).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (90 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Meyer lemons are a small miracle, and living in Toronto they are mostly just a distant and barely attainable one. Okay, I'll finish reading TFA.
posted by Evstar at 9:56 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ah, this reminds me of the incredulous joy I felt when I first went grocery shopping out here in West Coast land -- fresh produce! In huge unbruised piles! Lovely fruits and veggies I never saw on an NYC shelf! No cockroaches scuttling about in my peripheral vision! Clean floors! I'll add that the locavore movement and my joining of a food coop has simply increased this delight over the years.

Really, there is nothing like living in NYC and doing grocery shopping there for a few years to help you truly appreciate all the nice things Bittman talks about in this piece. Having said that, I'm glad he's busy praising Berkeley, not my home town, because there are a zillion Bittmanites who doubtless will want to stampede after him westward.
posted by bearwife at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, Monterey Market. I loved living walking-distance from that store. Although now I'm walking distance from Farmer Joe's, which is just as good.

This reminds me to visit my friend with the Meyer lemon tree in her backyard.
posted by suelac at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Meyer lemons come in dwarf citrus forms that sit well in pots for non-citrus friendly climates! I bought the wife one a year ago and brought it inside during the winter and it seems to be doing well.
posted by Karaage at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


The ability to grow citrus in your backyard is the single thing that makes me jealous of Californians.
posted by gwint at 10:03 AM on March 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I pity the locale that does not have a mushroom aisle.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:03 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've lived here since 2001 and I still delight in being able to run down to the backyard and pick a Meyer lemon off the tree when I need one.
posted by rtha at 10:05 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I never thought of frying green onions. I will say that one of the best things about working next to Chez Panisse was reading the menu they posted on their front gate every day. There was pretty little chance of my bothering with the more complicated dishes, but they nearly always had a unique, innovative salad or something I could roughly approximate at home.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:06 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


California. Yeah, Meyer lemons are good, but not godlike to my mind (and I've had them off of trees in California yards). On the other hand, ripe cheap avocados in the markets pretty much all the time ... sigh. That is what I miss not being there.

Also, the drought issue is serious and scary, and I'm not a fan of people building houses on hillsides that never should be built on. Sister in law is a native of L.A. (as in her family goes back to Spanish days and is partly Spanish). Growing up she could go into the hills around L.A., near Pasadena, and there were trees and native wildlife galore. It's all houses clinging to bone dry hills now.
posted by gudrun at 10:07 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don't get me started on dumb building/planting, gudrun! If I could figure out a way to wipe out half the vineyards planted in the last 10 years (on steep hillsides, unterraced, irrigated, pesticides washing into the meager creeks...), I'd do it.

I don't think meyer lemons are godlike either but I do use them all the time (asparagus sauce, when I bother with one, a half meyer/half eureka lemonade or meringue pie...) I think meyers are just one of those things that don't travel well so they end up with a mystique. And they really are everywhere, so people come up with ways to use them.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I will never tire of New Yorkers writing about California.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:18 AM on March 18, 2015 [25 favorites]


Meyer lemons are a small miracle, and living in Toronto they are mostly just a distant and barely attainable one.

And they are so prolific! Literally every single person I know with a Meyer lemon tree (including me at one point in history... sigh) has had so many extra lemons they actively work to give them away. It really is a shame they don't have them out east because they really are falling off the trees and rotting on the ground out here, there's so many. Someone should set up big "NEED A LEMON? TAKE A LEMON!" stands at all the airports.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
"Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree."
"Don't put your faith in love, my boy", my father said to me,
"I fear you'll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree."
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat...
posted by Melismata at 10:21 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's actually a big problem for American food culture that so much of our food writing is produced by people in Northern California, because they're just living in a different world than the rest of us. It's awesome that you have a never-ending cornucopia of delicious, affordable produce easily available at all times, but it means that most of the things you say kind of don't apply to the rest of us.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:22 AM on March 18, 2015 [55 favorites]


It reminds me a little bit of growing up in Florida. I often remark that's it's easy to enjoy cooking when "you can find lovely produce anytime of year"-- right now, it's strawberry season, and I always feel a little spoiled, getting the best berries of the year in February and March. Also tomatoes. Mmmm.

We don't have Meyer lemons in everyone's backyard up here, as we're right on the edge of it being too cold for oranges/grapefruit/regular lemons to grow in neighbor's yards. My parents live in South Florida, though, and have pineapple and oranges in their yard, and key limes--I always take a bunch when I go to visit them.

I've promised myself never to take for granted the fact that I live in an area where it's easy to get good local produce year-round.
posted by PearlRose at 10:23 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here in Chicago I'm able to get Meyer lemons pretty much year-round. I would imagine the same is the case in New York. They're not grown in someone's backyard, but still.
posted by me3dia at 10:32 AM on March 18, 2015


California certainly has the right idea when it comes to fresh fruits and veggies, but I still feel it's a far cry from the enormous everyday markets you might encounter in a European city like Paris. I've never seen a farmer's market in the US that's even half the size of, for example, the Marché Bastille. (And the produce is a lot cheaper too, if memory serves me right!)

Having lived all over Europe for about a year now, it's still surprising to me just how cheap US eateries are compared to their European counterparts, but how expensive US produce is compared to European produce. I had to go all the way to Prague to have the same "going out" expenses as I did in the US, and yet practically any outdoor market in any city was cheaper than anything I remember in California. It makes no sense!
posted by archagon at 10:32 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a party the other day, and there we were, 30 people standing in a backyard grilling onions and asparagus. I thought of a time I had done that same thing, in Catalonia, at an annual festival called the Calçotada. To my delight, this was equally unpretentious.

I need a moment. And an interpreter, if one is handy.
posted by Poppa Bear at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2015 [29 favorites]


Oh, Monterey Market. I still have friends from elsewhere that growl a bit at me for talking about it so fondly, and I haven't lived near Berkeley for 7 years.

Yes, it's easier to enjoy fresh produce when you've got the bounty California currently has (not holding my breath for this drought). Locavorism is so much harder when the winter consists of root vegetables.
posted by nat at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I bought some Meyer lemons recently and my husband told me 'There's something wrong with these lemons. I don't like them.'
posted by bq at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Locavorism is so much harder when the winter consists of root vegetables.

While true, I've recently discovered a new joy in jams, pickles, canned products, and the occasional winter fruit. (Blood oranges!) Plus, there's a ton of variety in root veggies, and winter tomatoes taste yucky anyway.
posted by archagon at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


And hey, if you're looking for artisanal pickles, Berkeley's got you covered. (Of course!)
posted by archagon at 10:42 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I need a moment. And an interpreter, if one is handy.

I feel that way about a lot of Bittman's stuff. Is it a New Yorker thing? Someone gave me his How to Cook Everything book and I ended up giving it away because of similar disconnects. It didn't have the things I wanted to cook in it, the recipes that I was familiar with already usually had extra complicated instructions, and often recipes were accompanied by editorial comments on how X food sucks anyway, but if you INSIST on cooking it...

I am curious to know what he's like in real life. Is he a curmudgeon? Does anyone know?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:44 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


This article makes me want cry and/or hurl my half-rotted rutabagas in the general direction of California.

Spring cannot come to the Northeast too soon.
posted by ourobouros at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


gwint: The ability to grow citrus in your backyard is the single thing that makes me jealous of Californians.

I was in an apartment when I lived in Los Angeles so never had the privilege of backyard citrus, but as a transplant from New England I never got over seeing citrus fruit casually growing everywhere. That and the scent of night-blooming jasmine in our neighborhood provided a heartbreaking glimpse of how lovely the San Fernando Valley must have been before it was completely enveloped in suburban sprawl.
posted by usonian at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've lived in Chicago, Chico (*NorCal* represent), and currently in Auckland.

I love fresh produce. But lemons are lemons.

I use them quite a bit in cooking, but I can't tell the difference between one lemon and another...except price.

Sounds like the Emperor's New Clothes and shit.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:46 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obviously I feel pretty strongly about our local food culture, but... I think part of it is the local obsession with food. Yeah, you can get a reasonably priced vegetable, but people are also willing to pay through the nose for good food supplies. For example, I bet that Artisanal Pickle kraut is about $10 for that little jar if it's like the stuff they sell at Berkeley Bowl, and people buy it like crazy, even though people often make their own, too.

In my job, I look at a lot of people's household budgets, and $300-400 per week is relatively normal in Berkeley for a three person family (one kid) without counting eating out. These aren't rich families- they sacrifice other things to eat that way. So it's a priorities thing, too- not just good produce. In fact, I'd say the good produce was a result of the demand rather than the other way around, because the areas that actually GROW the amazing produce often have less of a selection. (Shopping in Gilroy has not been a great experience for me, for example.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:50 AM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


hal_c_on, you'd know a meyer lemon because they don't taste like lemons.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, non-California people. All of this embarrassment-of-riches humblebrag stuff will feel very silly and far away in 5 years.
posted by bleep at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Don't worry, non-California people. All of this embarrassment-of-riches humblebrag stuff will feel very silly and far away in 5 years.

Don't worry, it already fills me with a sense of dread.
posted by yasaman at 10:52 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I left California for a drier climate, just in time for the drought to come back with a vengeance (we had bad years before, with water rationing, "irrigation police" who tried to prevent people from watering their lawns in the morning, taking short showers in buckets, so we could collect the shower water and use it to flush our toilets, but I don't think it was this bad).

I don't miss the drought, but I do miss the fresh produce, especially when I'm in a grocery store now and see that the produce came from a farm 30 minutes to an hour from where I used to live. My favorite large-scale produce smell is strawberries. Picking up a fresh flat for $6 or less was great. Now I have to check every box to see if they've started to mold already, or if they're all half-green.

And out here where the climate is really dry, oranges and lemons dry up before getting moldy. It's so weird to my California point of reference.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it a New Yorker thing?

Yuppity yup yup yup.

Actually it's more of just a general pretentious liberal thing.
posted by Melismata at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2015


>I think it's actually a big problem for American food culture that so much of our food writing everything is produced by people in Northern California, because they're just living in a different world than the rest of us.

Okay so not everything but so much culture and technology, at least.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Citrus pro-tip: to make sure your oranges or lemons aren't dried out in their skins, compare a few by size and select the heaviest ones.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think Northern California has 1/10th the influence on American culture that Hollywood has.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:56 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bought some Meyer lemons recently and my husband told me 'There's something wrong with these lemons. I don't like them.'

DTMFA
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Spring needs to get the hell over here cause if I have to roast one more parsnip, make one more bean stew, or mash one more squash, I'm going to start hunting people for sport.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


If it makes anyone feel better, our tomatoes don't hold a candle to the ones I had in the midwest. Even our best ones.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am curious to know what he's like in real life. Is he a curmudgeon?

Haven't met him IRL but he has shown up on some cooking shows over the years. He comes across not so much a curmudgeon as a true New Yorker who tends to assume he already knows but is ready (after an argument) to be educated.

I too don't find his cookbooks enlightening but I think his goal -- besides the obvious commercial one -- is to be helpful and to help others cook healthfully and tastily.
posted by bearwife at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aside from marmalades another great tip for Meyer lemons is to preserve them. How I do it is cut them in quarters, juice a couple of them, then stuff in a mason jar with the juice and lots of coarse sea salt. When you need one, just rinse under water and discard the lemon part, mince and presto - tasty preserved lemon. They last forever. Still using a batch that's been sitting on the counter for three years. I cook with the all the time.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dwarf myer lemon tree is a constant little joy in my house with fragrent blooms, or budding fruit to anticipate, or lemons for the holidays, or often all 3 at once. Keep it inside in the winter, outdoors in the summer. Mine is 5 years old and not so "dwarf" anymore, so moving day is a production..
posted by joeyh at 11:07 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know, I know- never read the comments. But the comments! Do people feel more virtuous if they insist on telling people not enjoy things?

Oh, you're enjoying it now, but did you know they killed kittens to get you that Meyer lemon? WELL DID YOU?!

tl;dr: you should feel bad for appreciating anything.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Crocuses are starting to bloom in the DC area, East Coasters, so there is hope for spring, and spring produce! (we are usually about 2 weeks ahead of NYC).
(Melismata - now this is stuck in my head.)
posted by gudrun at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I never thought I'd like living in Florida, and mostly I still don't, but I have an avocado tree in my backyard and that makes up for a lot.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Do people feel more virtuous if they insist on telling people not enjoy things?

There will always be those who act wounded when others write about food. Growing it, buying it, preparing it, eating it: doesn't matter. Write an article about food, and some people will find a way to accuse you of judging them.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:39 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


tl;dr: you should feel bad for appreciating anything.

Telling people this is very nearly the entire point of the internet.
posted by aramaic at 11:44 AM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


"These days, cannabis is more socially acceptable than gluten."--Cracked.com
posted by Melismata at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I miss good farmer's markets. Even the ones we had growing up in Michigan ... at least in summer ... were far better than anything I see now.

But it does seem that what ever is 'normal' in a place like Berkley can become a cult-item and overly fetishized in other foodie cities. And Meyer lemons are the perfect example. I have a tree in my yard, and so I use them all the time. But: it's just the citrus I have. I would probably be equally happy with a Ka`u orange or a regular grapefruit or anything, really, that I could just go outside and pick.

And as an aside: I'm a fan of Bitman's. I tend to make cooking too complicated, and so his writing is a good counterbalance, and a reminder to myself that there is a skill in keeping things simple.
posted by kanewai at 11:51 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I resented the existence of Meyer lemons & anyone who championed them

I had the same annoyance at a recipe that called for green garlic, because who the hell can find green garlic? Who the hell cooks with green garlic? Then I moved to Northern California and it's ridiculously easy to find green garlic and it would therefore be silly not to cook with green garlic.
posted by jaguar at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


And with that, a mighty cheer went up from the heroes of Shelbyville. They had banished the awful lemon tree forever, because it was haunted. Now let's all celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice
posted by bitteroldman at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fruit should be sold the way God intended it: Frozen, in bags, and puréed to prevent identification!
posted by blue_beetle at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aside from marmalades another great tip for Meyer lemons is to preserve them. How I do it is cut them in quarters, juice a couple of them, then stuff in a mason jar with the juice and lots of coarse sea salt. When you need one, just rinse under water and discard the lemon part, mince and presto - tasty preserved lemon. They last forever. Still using a batch that's been sitting on the counter for three years. I cook with the all the time.

Which part is "the lemon part"?

All this talk of Meyer Lemons is relevant to my interests, because I bought some for some recipe 2 winters ago, and now have a little tree in a pot waiting for it to warm up so it can go outside.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2015


Grew up in the Bay Area, lived for a time at the top of the San Fernando Valley. There is no comparison as to the produce. The Calabasas Farmer's Market spoiled me, but good. Course, the flip side is that the kiddo acquired his taste preferences on raw vegetables. Still loves them.
posted by emmet at 12:21 PM on March 18, 2015


Which part is "the lemon part"?

When using preserved lemons I only use the peel, so you're cleaning out the interior of the fruit and seeds when you rinse.
posted by misterpatrick at 12:28 PM on March 18, 2015


When did Bittman start writing for Gwyneth Paltrow?

This is so 1 percent it can't even see the next number.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


This reminds me to visit my friend with the Meyer lemon tree in her backyard.

The first time I saw a lemon tree in person it looked fake to me, like something from Willy Wonka. I'm not sure what I expected but as an east coaster, I'd never really thought about were lemons came from. It really looked like someone had just twist-tied lemons to a bush.
posted by octothorpe at 12:48 PM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Having lived all over Europe for about a year now, it's still surprising to me just how cheap US eateries are compared to their European counterparts, but how expensive US produce is compared to European produce. I had to go all the way to Prague to have the same "going out" expenses as I did in the US, and yet practically any outdoor market in any city was cheaper than anything I remember in California. It makes no sense!

(Comparatively) decent wages, especially for waiting staff who are not dependent on tips in the way that I understand to be customary in the US.
posted by Dysk at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think Mark Bittman's cooking videos for the NYT are funny. I've only bought one of his books--the Vegan Before 6 one, but he seems much more interested in describing a method and elaborating on a philosophy than giving specific instructions for cooking. I appreciate also his challenge to "Big Food."
posted by feste at 1:22 PM on March 18, 2015


"…Berkeley, where people leave boxes of Meyer lemons on the sidewalk because they have too many."

Reminds me of the uniquely Berkeley disappointment of seeing a FREE LEMONS sign in the distance, then realizing that it actually reads FREE LEONARD as I approach, salivating.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


God, I hate that "Free Leonard" dude.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


HOWEVER, it's next to impossible to get sour cherries in California.

(Also, I'm surprised that Mr. "How to Cook Everything" didn't know that fava greens could be eaten.)
posted by kenko at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


My first reaction, long ago: "Lemons have brand names now?"
posted by kurumi at 2:50 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


HOWEVER, it's next to impossible to get sour cherries in California.

I won't deny the window is extremely short, but I have seen them in ethnic groceries in Southern California.
posted by yasaman at 3:24 PM on March 18, 2015


Yeah, it's mostly just bings and Rainier cherries here; I've never seen a sour cherry outside a jar or a pie.

Although living in a place where we can get really good stone fruit for months? Heavenly. (Three years ago I decided I would perfect a peach pie. And I did.)
posted by suelac at 3:34 PM on March 18, 2015


Apropos of nothing just wanted to say how much I love the meyer lemon depiction on the front page with this post. Yes, it is true (eponysterically of course) that joseph conrad is fully awesome.
posted by bearwife at 3:36 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm still kind of amazed at the varieties of citrus that are locally available here. Sweet limes. Buddha's hands. And having grown up on the East Coast, I don't think I'll ever get blase about the presence of the Meyer lemon tree in the backyard.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:39 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sour cherries and proper sweet corn are two things I miss. But I wouldn't trade everything else for them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2015


I just arrived in Northern California for a visit and the local food is amazing. I bought a pint of this at a local deli on a whim and was shocked when it was the best ice cream I've ever had in my life. Seriously. Next I'm going to try their candy cap mushroom flavor, because I figure you wouldn't make something like that if it wasn't delicious.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:44 PM on March 18, 2015


Don't worry, non-California people. All of this embarrassment-of-riches humblebrag stuff will feel very silly and far away in 5 years.

Where do you think your food comes from, smart guy? We have plenty of water here to grow food for ourselves. Just not for the entire rest of the country.
posted by danny the boy at 4:50 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think Northern California has 1/10th the influence on American culture that Hollywood has.

Although (like many East Bay residents) I would gladly raze every building in Silicon Valley and then salt the earth beneath it, I nevertheless think that it's been at least ten or fifteen years since your statement above was last true.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:06 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Where do you think your food comes from, smart guy?

*ahem* you might want to check bleep's profile page.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:51 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I tried Meyer lemons for the first time recently and was pretty disappointed. They were not lemony enough! They tasted like they were trying to be oranges. Maybe for something like marmalade or a dessert they would be great, but as a sour squeeze over fish or in a cocktail, they just didn't do it. MAKE UP YOUR MIND LEMONS AND STOP TRYING TO BE A DESSERT
posted by lollusc at 7:20 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is a tree in Los Angeles with the BEST Meyer Lemons. Neighbors fight over this tree and steal it's fruit in the middle of the night. I dream of being able to graft off of that tree. If I can get near it. I'm no longer formally welcome on the property.

No. You can not have the address. I still have hopes. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 7:33 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to have a Meyer Lemon tree in my yard in Silverlake. It produced huge lemons at least three inches in diameter, and when you cut them open the rind was an inch thick so you were left with a little one inch lemony center, which tasted bitter and was full of seeds. I always wondered what the hell was wrong with that tree.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:53 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mark Bittman's article on Jim Lahey's no-knead bread got me into baking at 18, which got me working into a bakery, which got me started cooking, then butchering, then cooking more, and baking, et cetera. I don't even read him that regularly but I like his voice and he uses it well. I was fortunate to meet him one evening, when I was cooking and he sat at the chef's table of the restaurant where I worked. He was gracious and affable as I fawned over him while trying my best not to seem like I was fawning over him. He didn't act pretentious.
posted by Evstar at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's actually a big problem for American food culture that so much of our food writing is produced by people in Northern California, because they're just living in a different world than the rest of us. It's awesome that you have a never-ending cornucopia of delicious, affordable produce easily available at all times, but it means that most of the things you say kind of don't apply to the rest of us.

This is me. When I moved abroad I remember standing stunned in the supermarket here in New Zealand going, "What do you mean you don't have any ripe avocados? Or strawberries? I know it's the middle of winter. Why do limes cost like $3 a piece? Why is it going to cost $20 bucks to make guacamole? What do you mean you don't have jalapenos? Why is there only like two kinds of lettuce? How have you never heard of an heirloom tomato? IS THIS SOVIET RUSSIA?!"

To this day my family, who still live in Norcal, take enormous glee in sending me pics of produce and how much it costs to torment me.
posted by supercrayon at 8:17 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always wondered what the hell was wrong with that tree.

Assuming the tree was being watered adequately, some combination of too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus.
posted by jamaro at 9:41 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was in an apartment when I lived in Los Angeles so never had the privilege of backyard citrus, but as a transplant from New England I never got over seeing citrus fruit casually growing everywhere. That and the scent of night-blooming jasmine in our neighborhood provided a heartbreaking glimpse of how lovely the San Fernando Valley must have been before it was completely enveloped in suburban sprawl.

This is me right now: a Northeast transplant living in an apartment in the SFV, amazed by all the fruit trees and the scent of jasmine in the springtime, even in a highly urbanized environment (the sprawl is really densely packed for what many people consider a "suburb").

I really try not to take all the great produce here for granted, even though people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I don't like avocados. I'll easily drop a twenty when I wake up early enough to get to the farmer's market!
posted by mirepoix at 10:14 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


charlie don't surf: I used to have a Meyer Lemon tree in my yard in Silverlake. It produced huge lemons at least three inches in diameter, and when you cut them open the rind was an inch thick so you were left with a little one inch lemony center, which tasted bitter and was full of seeds. I always wondered what the hell was wrong with that tree.

Probably someone told you that a Ponderosa lemon tree was a Meyer lemon tree. Happened to me when I bought a house out here.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 10:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is so 1 percent it can't even see the next number.

The store he's talking about is significantly cheaper for in season produce than any but the cheapest of Mexican markets, and the quality is amazing. Same with Berkeley Bowl which he also name checks, which gets an incredible cross section of class and society shopping at it. It's not 1 percent, it's living in a food paradise.
posted by aspo at 11:34 PM on March 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


hal_c_on, you'd know a meyer lemon because they don't taste like lemons.

Oh yeah. I love oranges
posted by hal_c_on at 1:16 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am curious to know what he's like in real life. Is he a curmudgeon?
This is so 1 percent it can't even see the next number.


I think it's dangerous to decide who Mark Bittman is based on a piece written in the New York Times. I first found him via a show he had on PBS and the whole point of the show was lack of pretension: he'd visit great chefs, have them prepare an amazing dish and then he'd make a home-cook equivalent. It was a great way to learn about flavor and how to adapt on the fly and make a meal out of what is available. I also love him for suggesting rather than buying a $300 piece of German or Japanese steel for a chef's knife and then babying it for the rest of your life you go to a restaurant supply store and buy a cheap chef's knife and then buy a new one when it wears out. I'm on #2 and I'm out all of $34 so far.

I think Bittman simply writes to his expected audience and the NYT style/ food/ tech sections seem to be for aspirationals looking to take a vacation from their couch.
posted by yerfatma at 6:53 AM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]



Apropos of nothing just wanted to say how much I love the meyer lemon depiction on the front page with this post. Yes, it is true (eponysterically of course) that joseph conrad is fully awesome.

You mean joseph conrad is fully awesome is fully awesome.

Sorryhadto. It's true though!
posted by zutalors! at 8:26 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Bittman simply writes to his expected audience and the NYT style/ food/ tech sections seem to be for aspirationals looking to take a vacation from their couch.

That's precisely what skews it towards the 1% though. I can't imagine Alice Waters writing an article with the same sociopolitical undertones.
posted by polymodus at 11:38 AM on March 19, 2015


I love fresh produce. But lemons are lemons.

I use them quite a bit in cooking, but I can't tell the difference between one lemon and another...except price.

Sounds like the Emperor's New Clothes and shit.


Unless your idea of fresh produce is limited to red delicious apples, beefsteak tomatoes, Idaho potatoes and iceberg lettuce, why wouldn't different lemons be different?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:27 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's precisely what skews it towards the 1% though. I can't imagine Alice Waters writing an article with the same sociopolitical undertones.

Every single article I've read by or about Waters makes it seem like she assumes everyone in the US has easy access to cheap organic produce like meyer lemons and green garlic and heirloom tomatoes. The comment above about how food writers in Northern California tend to assume that every place in the US is like Berkeley is what I've found most infuriating about Waters' food-policy ideas.
posted by jaguar at 1:18 PM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: When did Bittman start writing for Gwyneth Paltrow? This is so 1 percent it can't even see the next number.

Maybe after that road trip they took...
posted by sweetmarie at 10:03 AM on March 20, 2015


I like how this article from The Toast is meant to gently mock Bittman's piece, but the comments there have a lot of "ok, yeah, but this is kind of what it actually feels like to escape winter's clutches in favor of a Californian paradise of no seasons." Happy first day of spring, rest of the country?

This bit definitely led to some slightly hysterical, desperate laughter:

Later on some of my new neighbors came over and we grilled a lot of vegetables. I explained to them how our bagels were better because of our water and they explained to me how in a year they were all going to die in a massive drought. I said if that did indeed come to pass I would come and rescue their beautiful tomatoes, and they all seemed very grateful.
posted by yasaman at 10:40 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


>This is so 1 percent it can't even see the next number.

Pshaw. I am not ashamed to admit my family lived in a dirt-poor trailer park in California for a time in my youth, and in the park grew peppercorn trees, olive trees, plum trees, and strawberries. I still think about the wonderful summer snacks we made of wild-growing fruits, and we were a bit away from the 1%.
posted by JLovebomb at 2:13 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did you brine your own olives growing up? I've only tried it once but they were GROSS!

They were those ones that fall all over the sidewalks and make a big, purple mess. We used to use them to draw things on the sidewalks (getting stained purple in the process).
posted by small_ruminant at 9:33 PM on March 23, 2015


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