RANT: California

I really freakin’ hate California.

The other day Miss Lisa was watching Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. There’s a running argument between Lisa and myself over whether Michael Chiarello is gay (my position) or whether he’s just “from California” (Lisa’s position). But for some reason, I just kept getting more and more angry as I watched his show last Sunday. Why does California have to ruin everything? Why would someone in California take something as magnificent and glorious as the New York pizza and think “Hmmmmm.. what this needs is goat cheese, Thai-flavored chicken and organic Crimini mushrooms!” Blech! And why would they take something as unhealthy for you (yet delicious) as French fries and coat them with “a fine, light extra virgin olive oil” and bake them? Dude, newsflash: French fries are supposed to be bad for you. The rest of us still rue the day that McDonalds stopped cooking their fries in beef tallow… ‘cos that’s what made them so damn tasty!

Sure, Michael Chiarello’s lisp and smugness are annoying. Sure, his hoity-toity “rent-a-friends” annoy me with their smug chuckles and extensive knowledge of Napa Valley wines. And yes, the episodes of Easy Entertaining featuring Michael’s “wife” are uncomfortable for all of us. But I’m not here to pick on just poor ol’ Michael. He’s but the symptom of a greater disease called “California cuisine”. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with a good term for what I think California Cuisine is. For lack of something better, I think I’ll call it “culinary pedophilia, mixed in with some culinary inbreeding”. Sure, “fusion” is (in principle) a good thing. But when so many chefs begin to seek fusion strictly for the fusion’s sake, something’s wrong. Yes, I like pizza. Yes, I like pad thai. But I don’t want fucking pad thai on my pizza, OK? And, as Gordon Ramsay (God bless him!) would say, don’t make food complex just for the sake of complexity. “Sage Creamed Corn Bruschetta with Prosciutto”? “Fresh Cran-Apple Crostata”? Please.

But although cuisine is one reason to hate the state, it’s hardly the only reason. It’s a nanny state too. The city of Calabasas recently banned smoking in almost every public place imaginable. You can’t smoke on a sidewalk, in a park, or damn near anywhere else. The state banned the production and sale of foie gras back in 2004, so apparently epicureans have to leave the state to eat goose liver. Proposition 65, passed in 1986, mandates warnings “when people are exposed to known carcinogens or chemicals that cause birth defects”. The only problem with that is that almost everything is a carcinogen or “chemical that can cause birth defects” in quantity, so that now “Prop 65 Warnings” appear on most buildings and offices, as well as such common items as lighter fluid, nail polish, beer, fruits and vegetables, nuts and fish. Assaults are currently underway in the Nanny State against fast food and soda, as lawmakers desperately try to get warning labels on these products too. And not only that, California lawmakers are trying to pass laws that would ban teens from using tanning beds. This, following up on West Hollywood’s banning of cosmetic surgery… for pets. Oh, and God forbid you actually try to defend yourself in that state… but you knew that one already, right?

Of course, Calfornia laws don’t apply here on the east coast, but that doesn’t mean that the east coast is immune to the peccadilloes of the Left Coast. Almost every drug craze has started in California and moved east. LSD? Yep. Crack? Yep. Crystal meth? Yep. So thanks for that, California… and all the goddamn hippies, too!

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