Sunday, July 12, 2020

We can’t fly; we can’t hug; at least let us grin

     This grew surprisingly unpleasant. Someone at the paper saw a story Thursday about this COVID-shaped snack, and asked if I would weigh in. I had just finished my Friday column but, stout soldier that I am, I happily cobbled  together what I thought was a light take. The central challenge was getting the photo at right from Alinea, since being a newspaper, we couldn't just pluck the art off Instagram the way a web site could. 
     Friday, the guy originally complaining about this cursed canapé then wrote to complain some more about how his complaints were mishandled. 
     I tried to be charming and soothing, but the more I tried, the uglier the conversation grew. So into the filter he went. I considered posting the exchange here, but honestly, it was just depressing, all this angst about an amuse-bouche.
     Then the folks at the local news site which broke the story picked up the complaint itch, complaining on Twitter that I had shat on their news gathering skills with my less-than-reverent reference to their reportage. The shock of it—I thought I was giving them a grinning shout-out—must have stunned me senseless, because I defended myself on Twitter, alway a mistake. I felt like a mastodon stuck in a tar pit, attacked by raptors.
    So I blocked all involved, vented to a few actual friends in the living world, was soothed by their response, so rare on social media: human kindness. Then I moved on, which is one of my superpowers.  

     When my boss asked me to gather thoughts on Alinea’s new novel coronavirus-shaped canapé, conscientious newsman that I am, I suggested heading over right away to try the tidbit. To comment intelligently, I had to first sample the purplish sphere of coconut custard with Szechuan peppercorn, dotted with freeze-dried raspberries that caused some on Instagram to grouse that lives lost to COVID-19 are being mocked by a confection.
     Shoe-leather reporting. Direct experience. Can’t beat it.
     Alas, time is of the essence. So all I could do is acquaint myself with the thorough treatment by Block Club Chicago, which sadly chose to quote one, count ’em, one disgruntled person by name, complaining on Instagram. “This isn’t ok ... this isn’t ‘cute.’ This is shameful,” wrote the irked individual, whose identity we’ve decided to shield, out of an excess of kindness.
     No, what’s shameful is Donald Trump insisting America’s schools reopen in the fall, pandemic be damned. As are the same people who are willing to sacrifice Grandma to stay behind him now tossing Junior onto the pyre as well. Our nation marinates in humiliation like Hawaiian chicken.
     This is ... well, wry. Artsy. Maybe a little decadent. Much like Alinea itself, though I hasten to note that the custard with the controversial shape was not served at Grant Achatz’s 3-Michelin star Lincoln Park shrine, but at AIR — Alinea in Residence — a West Loop rooftop pop-up. It’s offered after prospective diners have had their temperature checked and are given a mask: if anything, the treat is a commentary on where we are at this awkward moment.

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  1. Some people have no sense of humor.

    And Grizz: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Not that it matters, but to try to avert confusion -- if those exclamation points are a reference to the joke about you using exclamation points in your comments a few days ago, that was me, not Grizz...

      If they're not, or if I'm misconstruing them... Carry on! : )

    2. Sorry, I thought it was Grizz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3. ????????????????????????????????????????
      I seldom, if ever, use exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. With all of the things to get angry about and actually decide to devote time and energy to correct (for the benefit of ?????), surely there has to be something that rises above a desert at a restaurant. Maybe 100 degree temperatures in the arctic is a more pressing cause......

  3. Hang in there, NS. They are ridiculous and sometimes you can't win either way. Keep on going...

  4. I somehow missed this particular kerfuffle. Must have been out. But it does bring to mind something I read about high society during the French Revolution. It became popular during the the height of the Terror for ladies of fashion, even those at highest risk, to enhance their comely long neck's with a comely ribbon of red silk.


  5. Read your review of the Corona pudding in the Sun Times. True that art, even food art, is supposed to evoke emotion, some type of response. The pudding definitely did that! The Twitter response doesn’t surprise me. Neither does the subsequent ghosting. There are folks who LIVE for griping and are not happy unless there is something to gripe about. I tend to be an upbeat, optimistic individual. I’ve had people upset with me because I was not angry about something the way they were! It basically pissed them off because I was calm, cool, and collected. I guess that’s a character flaw to the curmudgeons out there! As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time — and that’s okay!

  6. I suppose I should qualify my remarks by saying that yes, I do know a COVID-19 victim, my brother-in-law's best friend Alvin Elton, who had the unpleasant distinction of being the third person to die from it in Illinois, back on that fourth weekend in March when we suddenly realized that we should be taking this seriously.

    I'm not sure that the current outrage comes from the delicacy itself, but the Marie-Antoinette level of cuisine in which it resides. Unless I missed it, I did not notice any similar outrage a few months back when supermarket bakeries started producing joke birthday cakes in the shape of toilet paper rolls.

    I myself am usually not bothered by anyone's attempt to comment on the crisis in whatever form; cooking is just one avenue, and definitely not a major one. I only get annoyed if I have to listen to someone who simply, factually, doesn't know what he's talking about, and this food doesn't rise to that level.

    (Okay, I do have one complaint: I am sick to death of seeing that same B-roll footage of Corona virus graphics, which begins with what looks like a plastic Lego model of the virus and segues into a grainy microscope image, followed by footage of lab testers filling pipettes and sqirting them into test tubes. In long news reports, that loop can repeat multiple times. Enough already. Find some fresh footage, will ya?)

    The risk of poking fun at something boils down to how offended someone else will be about it, and in this case I think we have nowhere near enough avenues to relieve the pressure, hence one small thing can unleash a torrent if the right button is pressed. Don't we need a bit of humor to relieve the relentless reality? Here, for example, are the six headlines chosen by the Sun-Times to immediately follow at the bottom of Neil's on-line column today:

    - 35 shot, 5 fatally, so far this weekend
    - Robberies reported in Englewood: police
    - Man killed in Humboldt Park shooting: police
    - Madigan might be wise to step down — but, first, shame on ComEd
    - 2 shot on I-57 near Posen; NB lanes closed at 147th
    - Man killed, 4 wounded in Lawndale shooting

    So, yeah...


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