Give me "limp grass" over E. coli and downer cows any day.

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Currently on my reading list is Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary, among other titles. I’m about halfway through the 30 essays, and it’s a fairly interesting collection – all by women writers – reflecting on the juggernaut that is Hillary Clinton. There are a few pieces I don’t agree wholeheartedly with, but nothing patently offensive. That is, until I stumbled upon this throwaway bit of anti-veg*n sentiment. Or maybe it’s just culinary ignorance. Either way, it annoyed the craps outta me.

In “How Hungry is Hillary?: Reading the Culinary Cues,” Mimi Sheraton tries to nail down the “real Hillary” based on her food choices. Maybe it’s a silly exercise, but no less fluffy than Susan Orlean’s attempt to define Hillary vis-à-vis her choice of pets companion animals in child- and adulthood (“Political Animals: Is Hillary a Cat Person or a Dog Person?”). Some of the essays are like that. Anyway, it’s all fun and games until she hates on Boca Burgers.

Next I interviewed Walter Scheib, who worked as the White House chef for the Clintons (and, briefly, for the second Bushes). Scheib recently published a cookbook memoir, White House Chef, which offers many clues to Hillary’s preferences. Had she ever asked for an olive burger or a Hillary burger, I asked?

“No, but I always kept Boca Burgers in the freezer,” he said, referring to a brand of soy protein patties. “She liked them for snacking.” When I obtained some Boca Burgers and pan-grilled them, as directed, they turned out to be miserably limp, grassy-tasting little disks that might be produced by Rubbermaid. Asked what he thought of them, Scheib replied, “I and my cooks figured they’d be okay if you added lots of cheese and bacon.” Not to mention a half-bottle of ketchup and maybe a soupçon of Dijon.

OK, firstly, I love how she feels the need to explain what a Boca Burger is, as though it’s some weird new pseudo-product à la Hufu. I mean, I thought that surely “Boca Burgers” had entered the American lexicon years ago, along with Tofurky, soy milk and the like. And then there’s the whole matter of hunting them down, as though they’re not available, um, everywhere. Seriously, we buy econo-packs at Sam’s Club, ferchrissakes!

Finally, the criticism: miserably limp, grassy-tasting little disks that might be produced by Rubbermaid. Unless she’s rubbing defrosted Boca Burgers on her lawn, ain’t no way they come out tasting like grass. As for the so-called “limpness,” the only time I’ve cooked up a limp Boca Burger is by over- or under-cooking it in the microwave. Grilling and pan-frying them, not so much.

And, erm, do I really need to point out how counterproductive it is to garnish Boca Burgers with bacon and cheese? St00pid.

Then again, Sheraton later quotes Ann Althouse in an approving manner, so I really shouldn’t be all that surprised.

In short, if you find yourself reading Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary, particularly Mimi Sheraton’s “How Hungry is Hillary?: Reading the Culinary Cues,” do not believe the omni talking points! Boca Burgers are awesomely yummy, life-sustaining foodstuffs. They protect against global warming, antibiotic resistance, BSE, E. coli, cancer, heart disease, human cruelty and indifference, and deforestation. They are peace on a plate and I love them, usually to the tune of one a day.

Did I also mention that I am a super-lazy cook?

Boca Burgers don’t judge, either.