Friday, August 1, 2014
July 28, 2014 Issue
Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s amusing account of her family’s “experience in Stone Age eating” (“Stone Soup,” in this week’s issue), I inwardly cheered when she finally delivered her dismissal of the kooky “pre-agricultural” diet: “From an environmental standpoint, paleo’s ‘Let them eat steak’ approach is a disaster.” “Yes!” I wanted to shout. And it’s a disaster from another, more basic standpoint, too – the pleasure of good eating. Kolbert quotes David Perlmutter as saying that “sandwiches are not just hard on the digestive system; they wreak havoc on the mind.” I read that it disbelief. Just the words “Schwartz’s smoked meat on rye” make me drool like a Saint Bernard. I love sandwiches. And I love reading about people who love sandwiches. See, for example, Calvin Trillin’s delectable “New Grub Streets” (The New Yorker, September 3, 2001):
It was on the way home from one of those rambles that I stopped my bike on East Broadway and Forsyth, where street vendors were selling several unfamiliar items. What caught my eye was a sandwich, tightly wrapped in clear plastic. It consisted of an ordinary Western-style bun – what I assume the Chinese would refer to with some word that translates literally as “the sort of bread foreign devils eat” – and something green peeking out of the middle. I risked a dollar for a taste. Inside the bun was a chopped vegetable that have been bok choy or mustard greens, flavored with something that tasted like horseradish. I loved it. Whenever I was in Chinatown during the next few weeks, I’d pick up a few greens sandwiches and hand them out when I got back to the Village, like trophies from an adventure abroad. When a recipient of my largesse gobbled up the sandwich with great enthusiasm, I beamed with pride. When someone took a couple of bites, thanked me with elaborate courtesy, and carefully folded the plastic around the remains, I made an instantaneous diagnosis: wooden palate syndrome. It turns out that you don’t have to known what’s in a sandwich to feel proprietary about it.
Wooden palate syndrome – a perfect diagnosis for David Perlmutter.