No to Nostalgia

July 12th, 2013 § 2 comments

HG/BSK watched a World War Two propaganda movie (set in an improbable Poland) with perky Ida Lupino and stiff Paul Henreid. Excruciating. Terrible acting. Moronic plot. Next night watched Detective Story, the film adaptation of Sidney Kingsley’s Broadway hit play of the same name. When it was released the film was lauded for its realism. Hmmm…Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker are the stars and the deliver stagey, scenery-chewing performances. William Bendix, in a supporting role, is the only actor in the film who seems to have a grasp on naturalist performing. HG/BSK agreed: Today’s movie actors are infinitely better than yesterday’s. Yes, there were interesting personalities in the past (Cagney, Bogart, Gable, etc.) but few actors with the abilities of today’s stars. No one with the range of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and many others. Now, how does this relate to HG’s main focus, food? Well, HG may get nostalgic, and rightfully so, about long closed classic New York restaurants like Gage & Tollner, Luchow’s and Christ Cella; also, HG may get a bit wistful recalling the hearty blue collar eats of a New York that simply does not exist anymore. But, the reality is that today’s restaurant cooking is much better than that of the past. There is more emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and less use of butter, cream and heavy sauces. Greater use of a wide range of international ingredients. HG/BSK thought about this while enjoying imaginative dishes at 3 Petit Bouchons, a charming Montreal bistro. Grilled octopus with grilled potatoes. Cod with fiddlehead ferns and asparagus. Duck confit on Waldorf salad. Unusual sauces. A light touch. Dishes that would never have appeared on a menu 40 years ago. Also, because of changes in immigration patterns and disruptions in Asia and the Middle East, today’s restaurant diner (especially in New York) can taste extraordinary (and often very inexpensive) dishes from many parts of China as well as Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, India, etc. And, excellent Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish food abounds. The exposure to these diverse cuisines and the availability of the ingredients to prepare them has been one of the great boons to our restaurant culture — expanding palates and influencing chefs in the most positive way. To give you an idea of how insular cuisine was (even in New York) the big town in the 1950’s had only one Mexican restaurant — Xochitl. And, that was quite ordinary and Americanized.


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§ 2 Responses to No to Nostalgia"

  • Bob Judd says:

    Wait a minute. What about Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Peter Ustinov, Montgomery Clift, Fred Astair, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, William Holden, Barbara Stanwick, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, James Dean, Kim Novak, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, Laurence Olivier, James Stewart, Humphry Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Le Pavillon, The (old) Russian Tea Room, Lutece, L’etoile, and that great fish restaurant on the second floor next to the Fulton Street Fish Market (also gone) . OK the restaurants are much better, but great actors from Lee Stasberg on, had range and could move you to tears and stiffies in ways that today’s boys (diCaprio, Pitt, Tobey McGuire, and Keanu Reeves) and girls (Silverstone, Aniston, Adams, Charlize Theron) can’t.
    Of course it’s a bogus argument with thousands of exceptions. Still, I agree, the golden haze we throw over the past is just that, a fog that blurs reality.
    May your days be clear and gold.

    • Gerry says:

      Kim Novak? Lauren Bacall? Doubtful. Olivier, Brando, Fonda, Stewart had some chops. And, yes the old Russian Tea Room was outstanding (ah, those blini with red caviar and karsky shashlik of yesteryear). The seafood restaurant you refer to as Sweet’s. Very old restaurant. Very old waiters. Fresh, perfect fish and oysters.

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