Pork Bellies

In the latest example of how many “trends” speak only to the stupidity of those dumb enough to pay money to follow them (from TMQ by Gregg Easterbrook on ESPN.com: Page 2)

Wacky Food of the Week: According to this scary article http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/07/dining/07PORK.html, the latest “in” dish at Manhattan’s most expensive super-restaurants is – fat. The hip, $100-a-head restaurant WD-50, is serving “the best high-end pork belly in town, with turnips and spicy-sweet gingerbread-inspired garnish.” The best pork belly in town! And not just any old pork belly but “high-end” pork belly. According to the scary article, the dish consists of a large slab of fat. “Celebrity chef Wylie Dufresne” becomes upset if diners do not finish the slab of fat.

Meanwhile, Manhattan’s high-fashion Le Cirque 2000 now serves “lardo.” Lardo is pure pork fat, though at Le Cirque 2000 it is “shaved into thin slices and draped on warm toast.” The ultra-trendy Jean-George’s 66 of downtown Manhattan is offering “lacquered pork, a blatantly fatty dish napped in a sickly-sweet marmalade.” Yum – fat in sickly-sweet marmalade! Jeeves, ring up Bertie Wooster and we’ll head over to Jean-Georges.

All this may sound like some “Magic Christian”-class parody of the absurd things the rich can be tricked into. But men and women are entering New York City restaurants and, of their own free will, paying top dollar to swallow slabs of fat. When will saut?ed coffee grounds and deep-fried post-consumer paperboard become status foods?

TMQ won’t even pause to point out that pure fat is awful for your health, or that pork belly traditionally has been cheap because no one who has any choice in the matter wants to eat it. The African-American playwright August Wilson once gave a moving speech about how, through history, blacks have gotten only the fat of the pig while whites dined on the ham. Attention August Wilson! The role reversal you dreamed of has come to pass. Head on over to Le Cirque, order healthful grilled fish and have a good chortle as rich white idiots wolf down slabs of fat.

TMQ Thought for the Day: How exactly does one become a “celebrity chef” – by joining the National Association of Celebrity Chefs?