Come’n Git It for real American food writing


I’ve had enough.

My ability to absorb and endure pretense (my own aside) has collapsed.

I’m declaring a moratorium.

On food magazines.

Have you read any of the food magazines available these days? Really read them? (Granted, the herd of print editions is culled on a daily basis, and the size of those that survive shrinks, but they are still out there.)

If you’ve read them, you’re familiar with the source of my problem.

Some of you will agree with my reaction; others might be puzzled by my response.

Those of you who are puzzled are pretentious twits.

Here, let me read a passage for you.

“Sox and Bitsy were sitting at the table in the dining room — a table fashioned from an 16th century oak door removed from Bitsy’s family’s ancestral manse in Northumberland. They finished a fashionably late breakfast of shirred eggs, clotted cream and scones served on a set of plates fashioned for the King of Bhutan. Bitsy gazed wistfully out the twenty-foot high window, watching waves roll ashore along the Malibu coastline. It should have been another perfect day. Sox prepared to leave for work as chief executive at Low Blow Studios where he was overseeing the latest straight-to-video project, when Bitsy sighed loudly. With her work as chairperson for the Committee to Save Abandoned French Bulldogs complete for another year, and the Junior League Ball set two months in the future, Bitsy desperately needed a pick-me-up.

“’Let’s throw a small party, Bits,’ Sox suggested. Always the attentive mate, Sox knew that’s what Bitsy needed to renew her legendary energy: A spring fling at the beach house, for special friends. ‘Don’t forget,’ Bitsy shouted over the throaty roar of Sox’s Lamborghini, ‘ask Leo if he can bring a date.’”

We skip to the captions beneath the photos accompanying the article.

“Bitsy and best pal Hillary sip Gibsons and keep a sharp eye out for migrating whales as Sox prepares the grill for his famous agavé-marinated ahi tuna steaks. Tad and Reynaldo are busy sampling crispy Singapore shrimp wontons with snappy sweet and sour dipping sauce and watching Tad’s son, Flip, ride a rare Cornish mine pony on the beach below the deck.”

I’ve reached my limit; I can’t take this kind of stuff. I ask you, who on earth relates to this nonsense?

Here’s another.

“Skip and Dagmar are known for their casual dinner parties, held in the roof garden next t0 their sumptuous penthouse digs, where guests absorb sweeping views of the San Francisco skyline and the bay beyond. But Skip and Dagmar enjoy their roles as host and hostess even more when the guests are asked to put on their finest duds for a formal dinner party. Dagmar loves to surprise her guests, building each party around a theme. Tonight, the theme is World Peace, and each guest is assigned an identity as a nation. The menu consists of dishes representing each of the countries assigned. Talk about fun! Guests are notified of the theme an hour before the party begins and asked to memorize pertinent facts about their country’s history, politics and economy.”

Here’s a caption from one of the photos.

“Serena (Bosnia) is seated next to Umberto (Croatia) at the dinner table and the two lively minds set to work solving an age-old problem. As do Sissy (Israel) and Blaise (Palestine) across the table. ‘Hey,’ says Sissy as she takes a bite of Dagmar’s notorious Blood Orange tart, ‘another slice of this divine dessert and we’ll have our little tiff solved for good.’ Everyone applauds and agrees a dinner party orchestrated by Skip and Dagmar could be just what the doctor ordered to bring together people who have hated each other for centuries, allowing them to find a way to appreciate each other and live in peace.”

Get the picture?

For twenty years or so, my mother-in-law has purchased a subscription to one of these magazines for me and each issue contains at least one feature weighed down with vapid narrative and adorned with glossy photos of elitist pinheads chowing down on designer foods. They’re invariably holding forth at some place like a summerhouse on the lake, a glamorous Manhattan apartment, an estate in Brentwood, the mountain retreat in Gstaad. The hosts and guests are snappy dressers, the menus extravagant. Everyone smiles.

Even when they eat, they smile.

No one spills their food, there are no violent arguments, no indiscriminate use of edged weapons; no one inhales a chunk of brisket and chokes, no one performs the Heimlich maneuver, no one places a frantic call to 9-1-1.

I don’t recognize these people. I don’t recognize their homes. I don’t know anyone who eats off the emperor’s china (or is that the emporer of China?). The pretense is extraordinary, smothering.

I’ve had enough.

In response, I’ve come up with an idea for a food magazine of my own, one designed to provide balance.

Soon, when you peruse the selections in the magazine rack you will see Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine and other familiar publications. And you will see a copy of the newest entry in the field — Come’n Git It.

Yep — Come’n Git It, the food magazine for real people. With recipes you can afford to make, entertaining ideas you can duplicate. All displayed in settings, and relayed in language, familiar to the average American reader.

I, of course, will be the Executive Editor-in-Chief of Come’n Git It.

In some ways, Come’n Git It will resemble its competitors.

Each issue of a standard food magazine has a theme: Summer Delights, Comfort Foods, Holiday Entertaining, Scintillating Seders, Fresh and Fabulous, and the like.

Come’n Git It’s premiere issue will have a theme — Welcome Home — with articles centering on what to do when a relative is granted parole and returns home from the Big House.

I have a list of ideas for articles and I am busy farming them out to freelance writers.

We will create a piece for our Travel section in which the reader is transported via the magic of language and photos along the highways and byways leading from the federal penitentiary to home base, stopping along the way at fast food joints, gun shops, greasy spoons, convenience stores, to purchase tools of the trade and sample the unique regional recipes available to a newly-sprung ex-con.

There’ll be an article providing readers with favorite recipes from the pen, including several entrees that require liberal amounts of saltpeter.

There’ll be a fascinating article about the prison barter system, with information concerning how many cartons of cigarettes are required to complete a trade for a navel orange or a cupcake. Just to hype your interest, I can tell you it takes two navel oranges and ten cartons of Camels to procure a tattoo (done with straight pin and ball point pen) including an affirmation of 2nd amendment rights and the image of a weeping, unclothed woman holding an AK-47.

In our Technology section, we’ll deal with the use of outdated microwave ovens, detailing how to cover broken door seals with duct tape and providing a list of the best places to have the kids treated for radiation burns.

The Spirits column will feature a taste test of 3.2 beers and the Tools section will evaluate plastic utensils and drink cups in terms of their ability to stand up to repeated use.

I’ve already written most of the copy for the feature on the homecoming. See if I’m not right on the money.

“Trixie and Plug’s place sits a fur piece off County Road 950, near the wastewater treatment plant. This coosome twosome has planned a party to welcome Plug’s brother, Delbert Gene, home after six years in prison on trumped up charges of armed robbery and kidnapping.

“Trixie and Plug are also celebrating their anniversary. The get-together is like a reunion; everyone on the guest list is family, since Trixie and Plug are also cousins.

“Trixie is cookin’ up a storm at the main house — the 1952 Airstream trailer she and Plug and their six kids call home.

“Delbert Gene, is staying in the guest house — a camper shell Plug put in a hole in the ground he originally dug for a septic tank. Plug never tires of telling visitors ‘That dirt’s pure unsulation.’ What a card!

“Trixie has the Fry Baby set up outside the Airstream (the last time she used it inside the trailer, she set fire to the indoor-outdoor carpet) and she’s crisping up some store-bought jalapeno poppers. As soon as the poppers are cooked, in go the frozen Buffalo chicken wings and meatballs. Finally, when the grease is fully flavored, Trixie will make her specialty for the assembled guests: Corn Dogs Supremo Mexicano.

“As she cooks, Trixie keeps guests on the edges of their folding chairs with her encyclopedic knowledge of all things corn dog — from its creation at the 1942 Texas State Fair, to more than a hundred batter recipes. Today she pulls out all the stops: a batter made of one part corn meal to two parts flour, some oil, a bit of brown sugar and dry mustard, salt, pepper, milk and eggs. She skewers the dogs, dusts them with flour, dips ’em in batter, and slides them into the hot oil. Oh, mercy, add a wiggle of yellow mustard and that’s good eaten’.

“But, hold the phone: These are Corn Dogs Supremo Mexicano. Don’t let the corn dog cool down before you dip it in that Crock Pot full of melted Velveeta, zipped up with a can of tomatoes and hot green chiles. Whoooweeee!

“While Trixie tends to the vittles, Plug ferries the guests to the party on his ATV. There’s no getting up that driveway in a car since Plug’s boy, Rattler, blew up the culvert with dynamite.”

Riveting material, eh?

Let’s skip to a photo caption.

“Here’s Plug next to the outhouse with his pal, Bobby Ray, drinking beers and discussing the subtleties of NASCAR competition. Bobby Ray’s sons, Billy Ray and Bradley Ray, are breaking bottles against the side of the outhouse. This is some kind of party!”

Here’s another caption.

“Trixie and her half-sister, Charity Belle (also her first cousin), discuss the relative merits of ordinary paper plates versus Chinette while they chow down on a second helping of a special casserole containing Beenie Weenies and Spaghetti O’s. As the sun sets over the wastewater treatment plant, Charity Belle’s daughter, Waydene, takes a shot at a feral cat with her trusty .22. Life doesn’t get any better!”

Now this is food writing we can all relate to, don’t you agree?

Pretense? Not a speck.

I’m thrilled about the progress I’m making with the new magazine; it’s a breath of fresh air.

It’s time to reverse a noxious trend, to battle the foodies and return genuine, down-to-earth American tastes and customs to center stage.

It’s time to knock the Dagmars and Bitsys of the world down a notch or two, crack open a 3.2 beer, heat up the deep fat fryer and Come’n Git It.

At better newsstands soon.