Be Smug during a weather catastrophe

Smug Scout is very sorry that so many of her loved ones (and some much less loved) are suffering through this hurricane or cyclone or “superstorm” or “Frankenstorm” or whatever bogus made-up word it is called now. However, she is proud that many intrepid Smug scouts in that glowing Smug epicenter, Brooklyn, had their Smug priorities straight while shopping for the best Smug products to get them through days of homebound isolation, days with nary an Apple gadget to keep them company or to connect them with hundreds of indifferent acquaintances across the country. How does she know to be proud? Here is what she read in the New York Times (the only paper worth reading):

“If New Yorkers were reluctant to leave, they showed no reluctance to shop, hitting the stores and emptying shelves of batteries, bottled water and, in the case of the Fairway market in Red Hook, Brooklyn, kale. Multiple Whole Foods Markets were scenes of bedlam.”

Smug Scout understands that emergencies call for kale, though she wishes she knew what kind, even as she knows that people who do not live in California may get cross when she asks that. She feels that Red Russian kale would be the most festive kind to get through an unprecedented weather catastrophe. However, since it is an actual emergency, she would make do with the ordinary curly kind. When the whole East Coast has been so devastated by a storm surge that local farmers are concentrating somewhat more on staying alive than harvesting Smug crops, it is important to remember that kale is kale is kale. 

Anyway, now that you have your kale (and presumably enough red wine and local artisanal spirits to get you through the hurricane as well as a few subsequent nuclear meltdowns), Smug Scout would like to propose that since you also have a great deal of time, no electricity, and a refrigerator full of eggs on the brink of inferior edibility, you will certainly want to make a gigantic kale Caesar salad. Open your cupboard, open your darkened refrigerator, and quickly remove the following staples:

  • Burgundy crimson garlic from that garlic guy in Los Olivos
  • organic stone ground Dijon mustard in the handcrafted pot you brought back from Paris (or Dijon itself, like Smug Scout)
  • raw cold-pressed organic apple cider vinegar
  • homemade mayonnaise or Veganaise (use local eggs from Brooklyn community gardens!)
  • organic California olive oil (unless you New Yorkers have a better idea)
  • hand-ground (by you) hand-harvested (woefully not by you) Guerande sea salt
  • hand-ground Tellicherry pepper from the Malabar coast of India
  • hand-squeezed local Meyer lemon juice
  • sustainably fished anchovy fillets from small community boats off the coast of Sicily

Smug Scout does not know how you prefer to eat your kale Caesar salad, nor does she really know how to make one herself, so just put those ingredients in the bowl in whatever proportion looks good to you. Next, take one of the ten loaves of artisanal hay-smoked multigrain bread you fought with an angry Smug mob to buy before Sandy rudely washed out your emergency shopping trip. Chop it into chunks you would label rustic and place them over your Bodum Fyrkat portable charcoal grill from Denmark until they acquire some attractive charring. Then place them as you see fit on your kale Caesar salad. Finally, grate some Reggiano on the top.

With your kale Caesar salad ready, you should light a candle, open a few bottles of wine, and settle in for an old-fashioned evening unmarred by the tyranny of devices. Smug Scout wishes you the best.

N.B. If you want to read the whole New York Times article quoted above, here it is:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/nyregion/panicked-evacuations-mix-with-nonchalance-in-hurricane-sandys-path.html?pagewanted=all

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/28

Smug Scout figures some of you are growing weary of her relentless references to Portsmouth, NH and especially its legendary farmers’ market. Smug Scout understands. After all, she finds it quite frustrating to live in a city that has almost 100 markets every week all year long and yet not one of them compares to Portsmouth’s single weekly market that barely runs five months (with only about two of those months featuring actual produce). Smug Scout is rooting for her Mar Vista market to move up to a close, rather than a hopelessly distant, second place, and she has found the farm that she believes will spearhead this effort: Jimenez Family Farm. What is the secret to Jimenez Family Farm’s Smugness? It is the use of diverse, handmade baskets to display produce, which is also this week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find.

If the Portsmouth farmers were to write a manual about Smug basket use, these would be their rules:

  • Do not use two of the same basket or any basket that appears to be machine made. It does not matter if they were made by non-unionized peons in a toxic third world factory as long as they appear to have been handcrafted by birchbark and swamp ash artisans in a local basketry co-op. (Note: if you run out of baskets, you may also use an antique metal baby’s wash basin. Please clean that thing first. You do not want remnants of baby “accidents” re-flavoring your produce.)
  • Do not use large baskets. A small, rustic basket that is not overflowing suggests exclusivity and refined taste. It suggests a limited quantity that intensifies the demand of Smug suckers. Even if you have ten stuffed cardboard boxes hidden in the back, always act like you are about to run out. (Note: this is not a ploy in Portsmouth, where due to miserly crops the farmers really do only have one undersized basket of everything.)
  • Only display officially Smug vegetables in them. This part is surprisingly easy: they are all Smug as long as you know their full name in a foreign language. Never say kale without an Italian component. You may call it “Lacinato kale,” “Tuscan kale,” “cavolo nero,” or, if you want to silence your chatty know-it-all Smug clientele, call it “black Tuscan palm.” Flat beans are “Italian flat beans” or “Romano beans.”
  • Use miniature chalkboards attached to reclaimed wood sticks to list item names and prices. Just watch your spelling; the last thing you want is a stream of Smug customers condescendingly pointing out mistakes. They will not be trying to help you. They will doubt the quality of your produce and expect the prices to go down immediately.
  • Place a folksy tablecloth underneath the baskets. You want those Smug customers to feel as if they are at a rural roadside stand (and that means rural as in Los Olivos, Sonoma, or coastal Connecticut, not some flyover state wasteland where you can find a multi-national array of guns but only one variety of kale).

Why would you put so much effort into this faux backyard display? This should be intuitive: so that you can charge at least one dollar more per pound for whatever Smug vegetable you are selling. Take, for example, the display in the photo at left. Those Romano beans were for sale directly across from Jimenez at the stand belonging to Gloria’s Family Farm. These Romano beans are sustainably farmed, identical in appearance, and just as delicious (according to Smug Scout’s Romano bean taste test). But look at the cheap display! No label and no price, just a disposable cardboard box stuck atop a rat-eaten, half-destroyed golf putting mat. When you ask, which you must do, you will find they are $3 per pound rather than $4.

So Smug Scout buys from both farms. Gloria’s lack of labels is kind of Smug, too. Smug Scout enjoys being able to pick out the wild arugula and heirloom spinach from tables crammed with greens. It is like a test that she gets an A+ on, while others around her cluelessly fail. Smug Scout does not need to buy vegetables from a basket to feel Smug.

 

Smug, Preachy, Semi-literate Granola

As we well know, some Smug products subtly reveal their Smugness. Others display it prominently. Now Smug Scout knows there is a third possibility: strident evangelism. What is this craziness?

It all started when Smug Scout was on the prowl in the Silver Lake Cheese Shop, where she of course encountered a breathtakingly Smug local product: Good Habit Homemade Granola from Thousand Oaks, California, a suburb north of L.A. On the surface, this granola looked like your usual Smug granola: local, homemade, slickly packaged, and appropriately overpriced at $10. As she read the package, she gradually realized that she was dealing with the Joel Osteen of granola.

First sermon: “Our Homemade Granola is made by hand, and loaded with almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. Try it sprinkled on thick yogurt, accompanied by fresh berries, or just eat it on it’s own as a snack.”

Well, other than the disgracefully misplaced comma and apostrophe, Smug Scout can live with this one.  She already eats Bircher Müsli every day, so consider her converted.

Second sermon: “Not all habits have to be bad. You can indulge in something sinfully delicious, that is also good for you!”

Well, other than the disgracefully misplaced comma, Smug Scout is just baffled by this one. She does not know what “sin” something as virtuous as local, vegan, gluten-free granola could possibly be committing. At worst this is like a nun who gets overexcited by her measly sip of communion wine. Frankly, when Smug Scout thinks of “sinfully delicious,” she imagines non-Smug indulgences, such as New York pizza from Totonno’s in Coney Island or deep dish pizza from Pequod’s in Chicago, of course washed down with many chalices of non-communion wine. Smug granola is much more likely to be part of a sober post-gorging penance.

Third sermon: “Other GOOD HABIT’s…….”

  • “Enjoying everything in moderation”
  • “Sharing a meal with friends and family”
  • “Planting a garden (even a small one)”
  • “Cooking with someone you love”
  • “Supporting your local farmers”

Well, Smug Scout has had just about enough of the excessive punctuating and mawkish sermonizing. Now she has her own set of demands for “Good Habit.” She doubts the company will want to read this list, but she wanted to have one ready just in case.

  • Give Smug Scout a house. How can you, you proselytizing granola, expect her to have a garden–“even a small one”–when she lives in an apartment barely bigger than a medieval monk’s cell?
  • Give Smug Scout a big kitchen in that house. Just so you know, she prefers European appliances and reclaimed wood for all surfaces. She would not reject Simon Pearce handblown glassware from Vermont.
  • For that matter, get Smug Scout a gardener. Smug Scout likes the idea of growing unheard of heirloom vegetable varietals, but she is turned off by the yucky reality of kneeling in dirt, burning up in the sun, and most of all wearing Crocs.
  • For God’s sake, learn how to punctuate.
Smug Scout is starting to wonder if she would prefer a granola called Bad Habit. At least it would leave her alone.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/21

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find is a green pumpkin called Marina di Chioggia (center of photo).  In Italian this means “Chioggia sea pumpkin,” but Smug Scout prefers to say “Marina di Chioggia” because it is much more Smug to use an Italian name that is totally unknown to most people. She learned this practice from Smug restaurants that refer to ingredients in the most undecipherable way possible in order to make diners feel like dumb Americans abroad. For example, seasonal local expensive restaurants will never offer something so pedestrian as black kale. It is “cavolo nero.”

So now that you have your Marina di Chioggia, what do you do with it? Of course you could spend hours turning these lumpy rocks into gnocchi or some street food from the Adriatic coast. Good luck with that. Smug Scout approves of the Smug recasting  and overcomplicating of unfussy peasant dishes, but she simply does not have an electric chainsaw to cut her Marina di Chioggia. Perhaps you are better with knives than Smug Scout, but Smug Scout knows exactly what would happen if she tried to cut it with even her sharpest knife: she would come close to severing half her fingers while the recalcitrant pumpkin would sail across the room and most certainly crash into her full wine glass. No.

Instead, Smug Scout believes you should use your Marina di Chioggia for an arts and crafts project. Now as you probably know, Smug Scout does not spend a lot of time on arts and crafts. She likes the idea of crafting Smug artisanal products, but a pesky obstacle called her grueling full-time job gets in the way of this ambition. Today, however, she has an easy project to propose to you: a Smug fall harvest tableau.

Materials required:

  1. One large Marina di Chioggia
  2. One small table

Instructions:

  1. Pick up large Marina di Chioggia
  2. Place on small table

Smug Scout saw this Smug fall harvest tableau at one of Santa Monica’s Smug epicenters, a cafe called Huckleberry. She will review it in a future post, but in the meantime you can replicate its Smug fall harvest tableau in your own home. Just do not let any rude visitors insult it. Here is a sample dialogue to follow in case anyone does.

  • Rude Visitor: So where’s the so-called “Smug fall harvest tableau”?
  • Smug Scout: Right in front of you!
  • Rude Visitor: You mean that ugly green pumpkin on the table? How could you possibly call that a “tableau”? You must think “tableau” means table in French!
  • Smug Scout: Please forgive me. It seems I have insulted you.
  • Rude Visitor: What?
  • Smug Scout: Obviously the bumpy skin of my local organic Marina di Chioggia reminds you of the cystic acne that plagued you all through high school. Probably college, too.
  • Rude Visitor: I did not have cystic acne!
  • Smug Scout: Fine, call it an accident with battery acid. Look, just go get some cheap plastic tableau from Target. You must think that is American for Tar-ZHAY.
Remember: you are not Smug if you prefer vapid beauty in your vegetables.

Guest Post: Clay’s Minnesota Smug Sighting

For better or worse, Smug Scout is not the only Smug scout. In fact, she is grateful to her Smug compatriots in flyover states and other inhospitable territory for both locating Smug epicenters and photographing local Smug iconography. Smug Scout is starting to think that Minneapolis is a previously unsung Smug epicenter. Please take a look at Clay’s fine work and judge for yourself.

N.B. An undercover Smug scout named Celia decoded the pictograms underneath the Outback logo. Here is her report, apparently from left to right: “1st Subaru, either 100 or 200K miles driven, support for music/arts, environmental awareness, diversity awareness, and bicycling.” Smug Scout finds herself quite bewildered by the cryptic symbols that unlock a Smug world that she never knew a thing about. It may as well be Brigadoon.  Who are all these Smug flyover state residents? How does one sift through all the flat accents, frumpy ice fishing gear, and comatose misogynist Michele Bachmann acolytes to find the Smug underbelly? Smug Scout is on the case!

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/14

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find, Hawaiian eggplant, comes not from the usual Sunday Mar Vista market but rather the Saturday Silver Lake market. Smug Scout was excited to visit a market in L.A.’s Smug epicenter but then was a bit dismayed to find that it was not all that Smug and has no chance of knocking the Portsmouth FM from its throne.  Smug Scout is sure that Smug Portsmouth residents will feel righteous pleasure at the thought that the state of New Hampshire, despite its short fertile season (July), hardscrabble land (thin and rocky soil, scoured by glaciers), limited produce options (mostly flowers and greens), and homogenous farmers (a diverse mix of tenth generation Northern Europeans), offers a market much more Smug than anything in California, the country’s agricultural center and home to more FMs than anywhere in the world. You lose, Cali!

So how exactly did this Silver Lake market lose? Well, aside from Smug Scout’s Smug Eastside friend (pictured), many of the other shoppers did not look either affluent or its local variant, affluent in poor backwoods communist clothing. In fact, if Smug Scout were asked to free-associate, she would use words such as “slovenly,” “cretinous,” and “ghoulish” to describe many of the characters she observed. Seeing them walking on pavement painted like an all green Twister board did not help.

Furthermore, unlike in Portsmouth, this market really is just a place to buy produce, not one to “see and be seen” (at least Smug Scout fervently hopes that is the case). There was no entertainment for the Smug under five set unless you count a JonBenét Ramsey wanna-be (probably aside from the getting murdered part) who was singing and dancing in a way most of us would call obscenely mature. Her only audience was her agent (who may have also been her mother), an oily photographer (who did not appear to work for any legal publication), and a dog (who according to market rules should not have been there in the first place). Smug Scout does not believe this “entertainment” would be wholesome enough, let alone sufficiently law-abiding, to take place in Portsmouth.

But finally one of the crucial reasons this market is not that Smug is its prices. They are simply too low. The produce quality and variety would qualify for Smug status everywhere else in the world, but here the gorgeous vegetables and fruit are tastelessly displayed on synthetic golf putting mats. The prices match these cheap and unsightly tableaux. And this brings Smug Scout back to the beginning, back to the Hawaiian eggplant. She got a gigantic bag of those sexy bi-color phallic nightshades for one dollar.

Ultimately Smug Scout is sold on the Silver Lake FM and her delightful Hawaiian eggplant. She got that eggplant, multicultural organic heirloom tomatoes, puffy sugar snap peas, and beautifully deformed bell peppers with parasitic attachments–all for the price of one shrunken head of conventionally grown lettuce in Portsmouth.

Still, whatever money Smug Scout may have saved on vegetables she then immediately spent in triplicate at an outrageously Smug lunch spot called Forage. “Forage” is about as Smug a restaurant name as anyone could craft. Can you beat that, Portsmouth?

Smug Yogurt Fail

Smug Scout was recently shopping at her favorite Smug amusement park, one of her six local Whole Foods stores, when she saw a Smug product she first discovered in San Francisco: Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Plain Lowfat Yogurt. Products with such wordy gobbledygook names are automatically Smug, but the fact that this is the “creamery” (Sonoma County does not have plebeian dairies) used by Bi-Rite for its ice cream is all Smug Scout needs to know (see Smug Scout’s post on Bi-Rite Market and Creamery, an epicenter within an epicenter within THE epicenter) . The container provides further information about this yogurt’s sterling Smug credentials:

  • “European Style” tells us that Straus (please pronounce with a German accent) rejects “American Style,” which means sour and flavorless.
  • The container sports hand-drawn looking pictures of cows and grass and spoons along with faux handwritten text.
  • The back of the container boasts “organic, local, & sustainable from field to spoon” which suggests pampered vegan cows, Marxist farmers and no evil corporate middlemen.
  • The yogurt is made in what Smug Scout believes to be a dazzlingly artisanal way: “incubated” in stainless steel vats, of course in small batches that take “over ten hours to make.” Wow. It is not made; it is born.

So clearly this yogurt passes Smug muster, and Smug Scout could end her post here were it not for the fact that this yogurt is driving her insane. As you should already know, Smug Scout eats yogurt every day with granola and local, organic fruit. When she first opened her Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Plain Lowfat Yogurt, she was shocked by how runny it was. She did not need a spoon. She just poured it into her reusable plastic Bircher Müsli container. Then she tasted it. It did not taste either European or European style. It tasted like sour mass market American yogurt. Smug Scout has eaten a lot of yogurt, if not yoghurt, in Europe, and she has never felt that “American Style” sour shock in her mouth.

To make matters more irritating, Smug Scout cannot seem to use up this runny, sour non-European style yogurt. After over a week of non-European tasting Bircher Müsli, she was shocked to see how much was left in this gargantuan 32 ounce container. It seems like a bottomless container. It seems like every time Smug Scout eats some, the remaining quantity doubles. It is a yogurt version of that ancient Greek monster called the Hydra. Smug Scout will not throw it out either, because she refuses to waste things. She does not even dispose of moldy cheese. She grates off the outer layer and rather than throwing out those unappetizing blue shavings, she simply adds them to some Smug version of macaroni and cheese (she prefers the German version, Käsespätzle) and calls it “sharp.”

Last night, in an attempt to get closer to the bottom of this bottomless yogurt container, Smug Scout prepared an extremely spicy Indian dish (Tofu Vindaloo with local, seasonal, organic vegetables, if you must know) just so that she would need a large portion of raita. She even threw in multiple jalapeños with all of their seeds to make her mouth so inflamed that she would not care about sour, runny, or fraudulent “European Style” yogurt.

But this morning Smug Scout became quite cross when she saw how much yogurt is still left. She supposes she will dump it in the blender with some local, organic fruit. She supposes that will make approximately ten smoothies.

Next time she will get Fage again. She will gladly pay the extra three dollars. Anyway, she probably gets “billions of beneficial bacteria” in all the moldy cheese she eats.