Monday, January 29, 2007

The Angry Enchilada

Man, if something makes my blood boil is when people write about subjects they are supposed to illuminate for readers and they get it all wrong. To wit, the appalling Mark Bittman from The New York Times, who made me so angry, I wrote a letter to the editor. It appears here below as an exclusive for the readers of this distinguished blog.
Dear Sir:

It is beyond me how Mark Bittman got a job at your esteemed newspaper writing about food. He has got to be the most ignorant and sloppy food commentator to ever write in your paper. He already unleashed a storm of internet protests for his treatment of tacos a few months ago. His ignorance about Mexican food is appalling.
In just one article, I detected the following mistakes:
• He claims he ate tacos de carbon, which means he ate charcoal tacos (I wish). He surely meant tacos AL carbon: grilled tacos. Tacos al carbon are quite common in the US, so there is really no excuse.
• It's not tostados, it's tostadas.
• It's not chapilines, it's chapulines and they are not merely insects, they are grasshoppers. I'm sure people care to know what kind of insect they are putting into their mouths.
• Chilaquiles are not made with taco chips, but with tortilla chips.
• Panuchos de cazón, not panuchos cazón, deserve a bit more explanation than "essentially a shark sandwich". It's not like it's a tuna fish salad sandwich.
• El Cardenal didn't use to be in a poor neighborhood in Mexico City, it was and the original still is, right in the historic center of the city.
If you are going to let Mr. Bittman loose, you would do well to have a good fact checker and a spell checker to pick up after his mess.
Still the worst offense is the lazy writing, which seems to have been produced under what in Spanish we call the law of least effort, and which no fact checker, though perhaps a working editor, may be able to improve.


Not my nom de plume.

Mark Bittman is so dreadful: consider this opening sentence:

THOUGH the regions of Mexico retain their very distinct cuisines, Mexico City acts like a food processor, puréeing ingredients until you can't tell what went into the final mix.

WHAT? What kind of idiotic metaphor is this? What does this sentence mean, besides being completely untrue? You will never find more regional specificity in Mexican cooking than in Mexico City, unless you decide to visit each Mexican state. And while it is true that most Mexican restaurants in DF offer foods from several regions, nobody complains, because they do it well.

For the life of me, I don't understand how publications like the Times, and other local reputable pubs, always get the Mexican names of things wrong. It's not like they can't possibly find one Mexican person (and I once wrote to Mr. Remnick of the New Yorker to volunteer my services) that can tell them how to spell tostadas, for fuck's sake. The sloppiness belies a certain disrespect, or a comfortable kind of ignorance that drives me nuts (as you can tell). I bet they triple check the spelling when it comes to French or Italian food.

1 comment:

  1. Sleeping Giant6:54 PM

    You tell 'em, G.E.!! Is it my imagination or has the Times gotten sloppier since the advent of the internet? It's like they're producing more product than they have resources to polish and vet.

    I do hope they acknowledge their errors in the article, and if/when they do, that you note it in your blog.