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Aug 11, 2009 11:01 AM

Jim Leff on MPR Midmorning with Kerri Miller

i wondered who in the world was blithering on about cornflakes with kerri miller. . . then i realized it was jim leff.

1) leff talks more about dieting/weight loss, lurking on bodybuilders' dieting web forums, glycemic index, etc. than food/restaurants in general

2) miller proves herself a cooolinary idiot once again, disparaging tofu, *any* tofu-- and singing the praises of chocolate dipped strawberries as the apex of deliciousness. why don't you stick to culvers, kerri, we all know by now that that's your favorite.

3) miller also keeps referring to this website as "the chowhound"

4) leff endorses national chains, gives zero msp food recs, dismisses local foods trend common in msp restaurants. he's also not heard of or read *any* of the food writers/journalists miller has interviewed/refers to other than m. pollan (whose work he admits to "not examining" thoroughly)--& she's not even vaguely a food specialist. . . (miller mentions: brian wansink, mike steinberger & leff's like "huh?"


perplexing interview--maybe just a bit of a fluff piece? leff's concept of the "7th flavor, wellbeing"--how a diner feels a long time after eating a meal-- might be the most interesting thing in the hour, besides all the omissions. sorry Jim if you read this, we know that you weren't the one asking the questions. . .

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  1. I listened to the main interview and part of the calll-in (I hate call-in radio shows). It was interesting and fun to hear The Man's voice, and a good bit of what was said was what I would expect (the 7th flavor etc). I could not stand the presenter (attempted sultry and simpering are not a good combination) and am very glad indeed that she is not on NYC NPR. It seemed that she was attempting to steer him on to and draw him out on the topic of weight loss and fitness and away from restaurants etc. And the use of "the Chowhound" was truly annoying. The less said the better about the chocolate-dipped strawberries as the ultimate in deliciousness, it's a perfectly dreadful combination. It certainly figures.

    1. Thanks for the link. I too could not take much of Kerri Miller and had to stop listening after several minutes.

      1. the more i thought about it, the more i got ticked off:

        thing is, miller is a general-news host, and she's actually a decent interviewer (with some predictable gaffes & failings). today her program was on the real estate bubble (elizabeth warren & other guests), followed by randy cohen (frequent ethics guest) following his column on the h. l. gates/cambridge police fiasco. tomorrow it will be a historical and literary analysis of "the diary of anne frank." she actually has a rep for doing extensive prep, including reading interviewees' books and other published papers *in their entirety* before a show which is unusual in any mainstream media outlet.

        that said, i absolutely cringe every time miller has a show on food-- i know she'll wind up mentioning how much she loves culver's butterburgers, disparaging common foods that used to be "exotic" 50 years ago (tofu), and generally glossing over any real political ramifications of american food production & culture/society. she's simply from the crowd who couldn't care less about food. i can only imagine how different this interview would have been, had lynne rosetto-casper conducted it, *sigh*-- but otoh leff kinda seemed quite ignorant about the audience here, despite a few callers' pov. he stated that farm to table restaurants number only 30-40 in the entire country-- well shoot, we apparently have most of them here, then! ;-P & so why didn't he talk about alex roberts' alma (supplied by the chef's father's farm), or russo's heartland, or lucia's or any of the other local foods restaurants in msp, rather than writing off the entire local foods movement (which may be a joke in nyc but is alive and well here)? and by endorsing TJ's in msp-- with the most natural foods co-ops in the entire nation-- he did the equivalent of standing in little italy saying that pizza hut pasta bowls are truly great italian food-- so don't patronize independent mom&pops. a major wtf moment that was out of line with everything the man has historically endorsed.

        as dreadful as miller was, it was leff i found to be lacking and uninformed. any local chef would have been a more interesting guest. leff talked about his less-than-interesting personal weight problems and cornflakes, ignored his audience, and called chowhounds "compulsive eaters." a major opportunity missed.

        5 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten

          Not to defend Leff or anything, but a point about food movements and trends.

          One key point about the CH ethos is deliciousness as the sole criteria for deliciousness -- thus whether something is part of a movement or a trend is really not relevant; one decides if something is delicious, not because it was from a local farm to table restaurant, but purely because it's delicious. To decide on deliciousness, it's not important to pay attention to a movement (be it locavore or fancy imported stuff), but it's super important to pay attention to the taste of the food if deliciousness is what we care about, not all the extra "packaging."

          (Of course factors like the environment and sustainable agriculture are super important, but that's a completely separate issue from deliciousness. It's ok and great even, that other factors take precedence over deliciousness, but let's be sure define each factor for what they are and not mistake one factor for another.)

          1. re: limster

            i'm not talking about food trends at all, actually, i'm talking about what certain cities/areas/regions do well and are known for. so leff's endorsing a mass-produced chain product over the local offerings. like someone going to seattle and going on the radio talking about how great starbucks is. . . or if they went to maine and endorsed frozen catfish filets over the local lobster. . . or went to beijing and endorsed panda express. . . kind of a slap in the face to the local culture, and the local food culture as well, and all who have worked for decades to develop what has emerged here. the reaction from anyone who lives here, whether they are into food or not, would be about the same as someone in central texas hearing someone on the radio saying; "now, i know you don't have any barbecue here, but there's this great product that comes in a yellow tub in the supermarket". . . it's a wtf moment. like standing on the street in paris exhorting the merits of wonderbread. wtf. a lack of understanding about whom your audience is. i don't know how to say it any more clearly, unfortunately.

            on the deliciousness front, i would have had absolutely no problem with a very fluffy and non-political program based wholly on deliciousness. leff could have gone on and on about local pho or taco or breakfast joints or grocery stores or chocolatiers or ice cream or pizza. he could have gone on and on about new york restaurants. he could have talked about cookbooks, up-and-coming chefs. . . .whatever. what he *did* talk about was his own weight loss, glycemic index etc. he mentioned one example of deliciousness: cornflakes. i understand getting back to basics, but what are people supposed to do with that?

            1. re: soupkitten

              BTW, I think we're making orthogonal points -- I'm not trying defend Leff or argue whether his statements/endorsements were right or wrong. Instead, I want to emphasize the CH credo to eat and think independently, rather than let conventional wisdom drive one's eating habits.

              >>"what certain cities/areas/regions do well and are known for"

              We might have some assumptions about the strengths of local food culture and it is quite likely many would eat very well by following conventional wisdom. But Chowhounding is about not accepting conventional wisdom, it about seeking out deliciousness in whatever form, and thinking and eating critically.

              Thus whether something is local or whether its thought to be the strength of the local area, is not as important a criteria for chowhounding, as going to a place and gaining empirical experience about what's delicious. Often people find unexpected deliciousness that way.

              As an example, most folks going to Seattle might only drink coffee because that's perceived as the local strength, according to conventional wisdom. But there are excellent tea houses there that serve carefully brewed and not so easy to find teas. Or going to the East Bay in the SF Bay Area, but foregoing Chez Panisse for Sichuan cooking of incredible finesse at China Village back in the early 2000s (chef has since left).

              Again I want to re-emphasize that my point has nothing to do with Leff's interview. Because the point came up, I just want to mention the importance of thinking for oneself and rather than following conventional wisdom (be it a movement or the apparent strength of an area) to find delicious food.

              1. re: limster

                no, i think you just perhaps don't get it, Limster-- no offense to you, i must be really bad at expressing myself these days--but listen: leff did not drink tea rather than coffee in seattle. he did not trade chez panisse for another important independent restaurant in sf. this is not little guy vs little guy. this is multinational corporation vs little guy. he endorsed a multinational grocery chain (TJs) over the independent artisan bakeries, the local restaurants, the independent and local small grocery chains (that don't exist outside of this area), as well as the 50 year old network of local cooperative food retailers, distribution centers and local farm networks, that is local here, is completely unique in the nation, and which other folks trying to jump on the local foods bandwagon are now trying to model and emulate. TJs, btw, is trying to buy out and shut down this extremely important system, which will have a crippling affect on how local farm, independent dairy, and artisan foods are distributed within a 6-8 state area. this is beside the issue, but there is a whole hell of a lot of deliciousness that would be lost there (my god, just in cheese alone!!!), and this sure doesn't make any points for leff with any person in the region who's vaguely aware of food. thing is i bet leff has no idea any of this existed, because he never did due diligence/homework before appearing on the radio here-- and i bet you yourself don't have a clue about it either, & you're operating on assumptions just as he did. no harm in you not knowing this-- but you're not going on the radio talking to the local audience about food tomorrow, either. if you were, i'd hope you'd have something more substantial than cornflakes to talk about :-P

                conventional wisdom (leff) tells us that TJ's *everything* is the bee's knees. my independent thinking tells me that no way is their mass produced frozen-thawed never touched by human hands ww-bread-like-dreck better than the products of our scads of real live bakeries, run by real live bakers. many of whom have been baking in the abovementioned retail system for a dozen-twenty years, many of whom have split off from it to start their own independent artisan bakeries (rustica, for example--steve baked at the wedge for years before they could open their own shop--- just as *so many* of our local food artisans are connected with the co-ops or were at one time). heck, i would *way* sooner pick up some freshly made injera at a co-op than touch TJ's ww-like mass-produced bread, and i'd bet that nutritionally (which was leff's main criteria--and glycemic index, lest we forget--*not* deliciousness) the injera would whip butt all over the TJ's product. as would a product from dozens of local bakeries and other establishments where beautiful and delicious bread is crafted by hand. my profound disappointment with the interview, which leads me to my questions is: 1) when did leff so thoroughly embrace conventional wisdom as to start endorsing the walmarts, aldis, and multinationals over the little guys? 2) why would he not learn something, anything-- about where he finds himself when he visits another region of the country? why would he not attempt to figure out this "empirical evidence" as you put it? it's called walking around and talking to people, or doing a basic browse on a chowhound board. apparently mr. leff would now walk--wait, why walk, why bike-- drive on by mississippi market on his way to get his "sure thing" at TJs. and he'd miss *everything* within that store and others on his way to get the mass-produced dreck. this constitutes an absolutely stupendous irony to me(!), but i think i must be the only person paying attention. meanwhile if people listen to the conventional wisdom (leff), we'll lose everything two-three generations of people have painstakingly built, we'll lose all our independent restaurants, stores and bakeries, and we'll all shop at TJs. . .

                1. re: soupkitten

                  It sounds like I'm not getting it because I was talking about tangential issues that were raised but otherwise unrelated to your core statements about the radio show. I am clueless about the quality of various foods in MSP and the environs, which is why I have not commented on it at all, and my points have nothing to do specifically with MSP or the radio show.

                  Once again - I'm starting a tangent and the key point I want to make is "how we should find delicious food and decide that it is delicious" -- this is not MSP-specific, this is a general approach as a chowhound to eating anywhere.

                  I was trying to say that if one wants delicious food, one should decide on deliciousness. Ultimately, other factors (whether the it's generally thought to be the local strength, whether the places are local or multinational, independent or corporate, artisan or mass produced) are irrelevant.

                  (And all that is separate from other very important social/economic issues, some of which may make us willingly sacrifice deliciousness, but once again very separate issue.)

                  If someone said that a local independent historical place that makes bread by hand is delicious, it would be a whole lot less convincing than describing the taste and texture of the bread. It's about sensations and level of delight we get when eating the bread -- not about how it was made, or how old the place that made it was, or whether it was made a few steps away from shipped in from across the world. Let's pare it down to one key criteria -- deliciousness.

                  Statement 1 - "It's delicious because its delicious."
                  Statement 2 - "It's delicious because it's handmade by artisan cooks using local ingredients in a historical place."

                  I would trust statement 1 way more than statement 2, because deliciousness is perfectly correlated to delicious (by definition). Whereas deliciousness has a very imperfect correlation with all these other factors in statement 2.

                  I have a very easy time believing that there are places better than TJ etc. But the reason that I believe they're better (will find out when I actually try it), is because I believe the food they make tastes better. Not because they are local or artisan etc...

                  To give a concrete empirical example, I like the imported Chocovic chocolates at TJ's more than a lot of handmade artisan chocolate in the US (back when I lived in the US). But I like the artisan handmade stuff from Pierre Marcolini even more than Chocovic. In this example, whether something was artisan or handmade or local or independent had no correlation to the how delicious I found it. Some artisan handmade stuff was better than TJ's, others were not.

                  Sometimes the little guys are better sometimes the multinationals are better when it comes to deliciousness. (Other more important issues may trump that, but that's a separate issue.)

        2. I listened to the radio piece via Jim's slog and came away with this: anyone can change and grow their own perspective on deliciousness. Even a founder of CH. Is Jim suppose to be THE voice of CH forever? With no room to grow? That would suck.

          But, I would enjoy hearing what Jim thought of the interview.

          20 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            okay i get the "rude, disrespectful soupkitten, how dare she diss on our sainted chowhound founder" element here. . .but i guess i'd expect anyone who wants to be taken as a serious american food writer would have heard of mike steinberger andor read "the botany of desire". . . and that anyone who's been on a diet would have heard of brian wansink or at least be familiar with the bottomless bowl experiment. i was totally shocked that leff professed complete unfamiliarity-- how then does he expect to be taken seriously as a food expert?

            the pre-cnet, (as i understand it) "old school" take on leff as the sainted CH founder is interesting to me, as i've only been here 3 years or so. yes i know leff went into his own pocket, and went through great self-sacrifice to keep the early versions of this site alive, as will be published in the latest edition of the new CHOW testament, yadda yadda. . . but do/did people really consider leff "THE voice of CH," when here he is publicly saying that the average poster on chowhound has a behavioral disorder? cuz that, to me, would indicate that the man has certainly moved on, and no longer considers himself to be in that role, just sayin'.

            but i get that i'm probably not going to get anywhere with my comments about the sainted founder. nevermind, sorry to stir up trouble.

            1. re: soupkitten

              I'm with you on this to a degree. I've been on CH for quite a few years, but some of the latest Jim Leff pronouncements here have been a bit unusual - raves for a Keebler cornbread cracker - which I slavishly tried and didn't like btw - and for a Taiwanese winter melon drink, which was said to taste of the essence of cookies. This is the kind of thing I have been known to come up with under certain circumstances, but I wouldn't post on it. The weight-loss disquisition - and the behavioral disorder quip - were more than a little difficult to swallow (reminiscent of one's smug and tedious dieter friends, oh my God I ate the whole cookie, I'm so bad, you know you really shouldn't eat that...bla bla). The interview was not quite what I expected. So I'm very grateful to Mr Leff for starting this, but I don't find his interests to be the be-all and end-all of CH. The voice of CH is the collective voice of all posters, a choir.

              1. re: buttertart

                buttertart, I agree completely that CH/CHOW is a collective but I was referring to a founder perspective. That's all.

                1. re: buttertart

                  buttertart, I'm with you. I remember the Keebler cornbread cracker thread. I responded to it when it was new and even pointed Jim Leff to a store finder so he could check them out. I do like those crackers (I like anything that tastes like cornbread), but never did hear back from Jim as to whether they tasted like the ultimate cookies for which he pined (they were supposed to be very similar, if you recall). It was kind of funny, really. ;)

                  I am happy to be singing along in the choir along with you and so many other Chownounds--and learning new tunes as well! LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

                2. re: soupkitten

                  soupkitten, I don't believe I called you rude or disrespectful and I didn't mean to even imply it. When I used the, the in THE voice I meant Founder/co-founder. Origin of idea. Which I respect, as I do believe you have. What struck me was the disappointment in a small radio piece. How well do any of us know Mr. Leff? I don't know him or know what motivated him then (CH origin) or now. What I accept is that his voice was invited on a radio program. What followed is open to intrepretation. And you soupk and I may just have diff. intrepretations.


                  1. re: HillJ

                    sorry for my reading HJ-- didn't mean to imply that you were implying and i was certainly reading in. to be clear, i absolutely have respect for mr. leff's role as ch founder and champion over these many years. perhaps i had too high expectations of his expertise and i was let down by this interview. no biggie.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Jim Leff has left the building.

                      He no longer owns Chowhound or officially speaks for Chowhound or has anything to do with it in any way other than being a poster just like you.

                      I think for all his past effort in setting up this great resourse ... let him retire in peace. Don't pick at the bones.

                      However ... and there's always a "however" with me ... you forced me to listen to that interview. You and others have misrepresented what was said.

                      That often happens when someone tries to restate what they heard based on their understanding. It just happens.

                      How often does even the most serious of the mainstream press slant a story based on their perception. For example, watching an entire Obama press conference is different than listening to the selected sound bites on the evening news.

                      As an example of the inaccuracy of your perception, here's the exact quote from Leff about 30 - 40 great restaurants growing their own produce. When asked by the interviewer "Doesn’t that contribute to deliciousness?"

                      Leff: "You bet, That’s an awesome thing. But how many percentages of restaurants in this country do that? Maybe .001 percent? And of them, how many are good? Just because you are growing your own produce doesn’t mean you really care about how you prepare it. I mean it just could be a marketing hook. So really we’re talking about 30 or 40 great places. "

                      That is a different than your take on it. IMO, it is true and this is from someone from California in the capital of "we have our own garden for produce"

                      Here's some not too researched fact checking

                      There are maybe at least around 10,000 restaurants in the SF Bay Area. Of those maybe 50 ... that's a high number ... have their own gardens. So that .001 percent might even be high and optomistic.

                      For some of those who grow their own, could it be just a marketing hook?

                      You betcha.

                      I just went to a fancy new spa/restaurant in Napa making big noise about their own garden. The food was average at best. In fact, the only outstanding dish was tomatoes they did NOT grow.

                      Just because they have a garden, that doesn't mean who is tending that garden has the insight of how to grow greatness like that tomato farmer who dedicated his life to those perfect tomatoes.

                      I always thought Chez Panisse had it right. Be a good shopper. Buy the best and glorify others expertise.

                      Of the restaurants that do have the gardens, from what I've tried maybe a handful at most achieve sheer blow-your-mind deliciousness and greatness.

                      So I'd say ... yeah ... that estimate of 30-40 restuarants nationwide is on spot.

                      Let me use another analogy. There are lots of French restaurants in the US. Some are very good ... but great? I'll bet the numbers would break down similarily.

                      A brief comment on TJ's. You do realize that TJ's buys from local artisans and packages it under their own brand. In the SF Bay Area that would mean Straus dairy products, Acme bread and such.

                      IMO, anything that gives an artisan another outlet to make some bucks ... thus ensuring the charming historical original bakery stays in business ... is a good thing.

                      If you are not recognizing some of those artisan products at your TJ's, maybe in a blind test they aren't that good after all.

                      Artisan does not automatically = delicious. Nor does single-owned mom and pop. There's a lot of dreck there that gets elevated due to hype.

                      Putting all your effort, care and love into a dish doesn't mean greatness either. Those are the saddest cases. You want to love an indie because of the soul that is there, but the food is just bad.

                      No matter where it comes from ... even Walmart ... and they do bake a nice challah ... as Limster said "It's delicious because its delicious.".

                      Anyway, people should listen to the interview if they want to for accuracy (or their perception) and make up their own minds.

                      And how useful is this. As is often stated, isn't it better to get back to disussing deliciousness?

                      1. re: rworange

                        i don't really follow your logic re: TJ's. why would someone go to TJ's and buy a "local artisan" product that's repackaged as the TJ's brand? presumably this product is either seconds/not good enough for the local artisan's own brand-- or else it's an identical product, just marked up with more money going to the middleman (TJ's/aldi) rather than the artisan. . . why would the consumer not go to the non-multinational-chain store and buy the artisan's branded product there, & thereby give the bucks to the artisan and the local economy?

                        TJ's is among the worst grocery stores in the metro, and i hope that no more than the current (2) stores move into the area. i don't shop there for a variety of reasons. on the deliciousness front: i simply don't care about a great selection of flavored snack mixes and frozen-tray foods--since that isn't how i eat, i prefer our local stores which have much better (fresh) offerings.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          >>> presumably this product is either seconds/not good enough for the local artisan's own brand-- or else it's an identical product, just marked up with more money going to the middleman (TJ's/aldi) rather than the artisan. . . why would the consumer not go to the non-multinational-chain store and buy the artisan's branded product there, & thereby give the bucks to the artisan and the local economy? <<<

                          First of all, I'm not a TJ's fan in general, but learning more about it over the years i've gained a certian respect for it. It is nice to go into a store that doesn't have chemical lists on the labels ... that being said, TJ's is not my thing.

                          1. The bread, etc is not seconds, is fresh and is identical to the orginal product usually.

                          Why TJs does it the way it does, I have no clue. It is part of the supermarket business in general. That supermarket brand of canned corn or whatever is often some relabled name brand.

                          2. People work. People have families. Not everyone has time to run around to cooperatives or stop by bakery shops week. Many people like to do one stop shopping.

                          3. The more an artisan shop sells, the more likely it is going to stay in business. I don't get why you think this is a bad thing. If they are getting business from people who either can not or will not go to their store ... seems win-win to me.

                          I guess I don't get all the strong feelings about TJ's. Unless I missed something, Jim just said one sentence about TJ's in a one hour interview. He just said there was some sort of brown bread there that met his current diet criteria. I don't even think he named the brand.

                          I guess I would appreciate the exact quote you found so objectionable.

                          While the show was local, it was not a show about local food. Jim wasn't even there. He phoned in from NY which the announcer said at the beginning of the show.

                          The title of the show says it all. "A restaurant critic on what's best to eat at home"

                          He was talking about his diet and cooking his own food. It wasn't a show about restaurants. Why should he do all that local research you suggested since that wasn't the topic? Obviously he couldn't talk to the locals because he wasn't there.

                          Another show that week was talking about Mr. Gates, the professor arrested in Cambridge. Should the person being interviewed in Massachuesetts know what your local police department is like. That isn't the story. Local restaurants was not the what Jim's interview was about. It was about diet.

                          As to promoting national chains ... for all the talk about how great he was feeling and his new eating habits ... when he really lit up was talking not about his new found well being but artisan eating.

                          The brief TJ mention was in a conversational tone. However, the absolute glee in his voice talking about the artisan tofu maker near him ... well, not to go all Slum Dog Millianaire on anyone ... finding deliciousness seems to be his destiny ... his real passion.

                          When someone called in about the sad state of AYCE buffets closing down, Jim's suggestion was for the guy to make is own buffet ... stop by those little businesses that person passed every day. Buy a dish here, buy a dish there ... that said to me eat local.

                          And for all the ragging on the interviewer, she probably asked him a question no one else asked him before. Jim was talking about how he liked lasagna and still eats it occasionally, etc, etc, etc ... and the interviewer asks him if he knew a meal was going to be his last ... what would it be ... lasagna?

                          He paused for quite a while since I don't think anyone ever asked that. Given he wouldn't have the less than healthy feeling afterward he said sure ... lasagna with potato chips on top. So good question.

                          One thing about your posts that didn't strike me as hilarious until after the fact is saying "how dare she diss on our sainted chowhound founder"

                          Jim has been called a lot of things on Chowhound ... sainted has never been one of them

                          1. re: rworange

                            hey, glad i could provide a chuckle on the "sainted founder" comment-- like i said, i haven't been here since the beginning of time, and i'm not a poster who's local to mr. leff. so i *do* see leff as a poster just like me or any other (albeit with a few more shiny chow ribbons for time served and battles fought)-- but for all i know, some posters see leff as some hierophant of chow, and i didn't want to come across as some disrespectful a-hole by expressing how disappointed i was in this interview. i'm not trying to take anything away from leff's founding of the site or his work in the nyc area-- just point out a few inconsistencies that point to changes in his food philosophy, which might interest people in a broad sense, and draw attention to some things he said that really surprised me, personally. maybe some of these concerns are directed more at folks on my home board, but we all get to share the "food media and news" board, which opens up this whole can of worms with people who don't have any problem with TJ's/aldi/walmart, and other chains who follow their models, because that's what's available in their own area.

                            to the points of your post:
                            1) TJ's repackages food products under its own house brand for several reasons-- part of the TJ's/aldi model is to have something like >60% house brands on the floor. once a local company begins working as a commissary for a multinational corp like TJ's/aldi, it gives up a certain controls over the products it makes for that corporation. TJ's can begin to put the squeeze on the local company, saying "we'd like to pay $0.10 less per unit on this product this year." "we want this product to be made with different ingredients/certified, without change to pricing--you figure it out" etc. large corps who use small companies as commissaries frequently attempt to muscle more and more product for less and less profit for the small company, which actually hurts the small company in the long run and can stunt its growth and development in the short run.

                            2. <<People work. People have families. Not everyone has time to run around to cooperatives or stop by bakery shops week. Many people like to do one stop shopping.>>

                            setting aside for a moment whether or not i myself work, whether i have a family, or whether i am "people": i think you're operating under some of the same assumptions that leff was in this interview, which is what i (reasonably, or unreasonably) take exception to.

                            i think it's important to realize that nyc and sf and london and minneapolis and topeka and gary and winnipeg and austin and new orleans and shanghai and cairo are different places with different histories, different food traditions, different economic models, different food availability. how the billions of people on this planet eat has everything to do with their local system of availability(first) and their choices within that system(second). it's all well and good to talk about grocery item x or chain food y, but not every person on the planet will have access to that item, or choose to eat it even if they do. a local radio conversation in sf that featured someone talking about 5 guys but didn't mention anything local would annoy people. an nyc radio conversation about in & out burgers would have the same limited appeal. in a london radio show, if the guest talked about mcdonalds but failed to mention any of the city's local food offerings, i doubt very much that there wouldn't be criticism of it (& yes i know you can get a big mac in london). . .

                            okay so again-- msp is a different place with more independent, more co-op, more local chain, less multinational corp, less national chain, grocery stores. the history of the natural/local foods co-ops, as i've mentioned, is very long and very interesting here. did you know that the first "second wave" co-op here opened the same year as chez panisse, and its mission was to provide *everyone* regular grocery staples. . . ooh, but maybe this is for another thread though, not trying to bore everyone.

                            back on topic--there are, in total, 2 TJ's in msp-- one in st paul, one in the western suburbs. wait, i think there is one in the st. paul northern suburbs-- okay there may be 3. point is, they are not conveniently located for most folks, and are a hassle to shop at. once you've bought your mixed nuts and frozen dinners at TJ's, you need to go to a second grocery store for produce, so they aren't a "one stop" shop at all. there are 8 co-ops in msp proper and 4 more in the near-burbs, not counting places like fresh & natural (3 stores). so, "people," and their busy families, in msp, will trip over a co-op before they get to TJs, and the co-op has produce, so it IS a one-stop shop, unlike TJ's. as is lunds/byerly's (21 stores metro), kowalskis (9 stores), and other stores like cub and rainbow and wfm, and the independent ethnic supermarkets, and the other regional chain grocers. i think there are 2 aldis in minneapolis and 2 in the burbs. so: not much access to TJ's, much, much more access to other alternatives here.

                            even though msp is small compared to the sf area, let's take your example of straus and acme products (under the TJ's label) being sold at TJ's stores throughout your area. for the local msp area let's use cedar summit & hope creamery as straus analogues, and rustica/various bakeries for acme. i think you misinterpreted my post above when i said <<why would the consumer not go to the non-multinational-chain store and buy the artisan's branded product there, & thereby give the bucks to the artisan and the local economy?>> note that i said "go to the . . .store"-- not "go to the artisan's shop"-- because the local artisan products are available at the co-ops, lunds/byerly's, etc, under the artisan's own brand. so again, if the artisan can sell **her/his own product/brand** at 30-40 stores locally, why should s/he elect to act as a commissary for TJ's in order to sell at 3 stores, and give up control/autonomy over those products and make less money, and why would a customer go to the hassle of shlepping to a TJ's to buy the same product they can get at another store that is more convenient to them and offers so much more?

                            so to your point #3, see above. definitely not win-win to sell thru TJ's, especially when there is a supportive local marketplace that is interested in an artisan's individual product/brand; and some of that artisan's weirder, soupkitten-like customers might have a problem with TJ's for some odd reason. . .

                            believe it or not, this is my short answer ;-P i gotta go now!

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              Well, all of this TJ's passion would be better spent on the Chains board where the topic is discussed ad nausium. A one sentence mention in the interview hardly seems to warrant all this.

                              What you are not understanding is Chowhound ... from the first post in 1998 was about finding deliciousness. It is irrelevant ... for this forum .. whether that deliciousness is from a chain or politically incorrect source. The Chowhound guides published before the sale give a nod to Popey's fried chicken which at the time quite a lot of Chowhounds liked.

                              Anyway, the whole interview wasn't about restaurants ... local or otherwise ... or chowhounding. It was about diet.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Which is rather unfortunate in itself, rather like having Ron Jeremy on to discuss abstinence.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  "like having Ron Jeremy on to discuss abstinence "


                                  Actually, I've lost nearly 40 pounds (painfully slowly; morbid obesity runs in my family, so it was harder for me than for most people), and now fit into my high school pants....and pretty much radiate good health. When I left CNET (especially after that massive Chow Tour), I was very overweight, with high blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

                                  I've lost the weight and fixed my health while continuing to eat hyperdeliciously. It involved devising ways of cooking that give my body what it needs while leaving me feeling utterly satisfied. I'll never go back to my old way of eating. Even just aesthetically, I prefer this way.

                                  So we spent an hour discussing how I did it. The phone banks were completely tied up the whole time, we got GREAT callers, and droves of listeners have emailed to tell me that they really enjoyed it and appreciated the info. But you obviously can't please everyone.

                                  I'm not really sure what this poster's going on and on about, but since she's got so many issues and agendas, I can only suggest she get her own radio time.

                                  Oh, and host Kerri Miller is the bee's knees. She really listens, she doesn't panic when things take unexpected turns, and she's not a show-off. I've done lots of radio, and there are few hosts out there like her.

                                2. re: rworange

                                  we're on the "food media and news" board-- so there are other areas to talk about tasty dumplings if you want-- nobody's trapping you here. whether we like it or not, our food choices affect our own lives and others', and some folks like to talk about food/diet and politics, or food/diet and health, including this forum's founder. i'm discussing the interview, and i'm discussing *diet*. i'm discussing where people buy their food, where it comes from, what brand name it's sold under, how it's distributed and how it gets to the store where they buy it. you're the one telling me how TJ's isn't half bad, with using smaller businesses to produce its house brands and so forth, but there is another side to that, and i'm trying to point that out. i don't recall using any colorful language-- or at least not as colorful as i'm capable of ;-P

                                  some places in the world are built around a TJ's or a walmart, others are not. hereabouts we don't have "TJ's culture" but we sure as heck have a "co-op culture" after 2-3 generations. my point was that the TJ's endorsement by leff was a clueless and misguided attempt to offer a suggestion to a population that 1) thankfully, has little access to the place he endorses, 2) already has great options along the same lines-- only better. a little like a well-intentioned person telling folks in nyc to do their daily shopping at walmart, (cuz it's so great and you can get huge quantities of everything preprocessed and prepackaged for your family of 18) or getting on the radio in houston and trying to sell some cincinatti chili. no disrespect to cincinatti, but this type of stunt will get you some interesting reactions in texas.

                                  i also am interested in what it means when some folks want to tell other folks how to eat at home. what qualifies someone to tell others where and how to shop for their grocery staples? are there things they should know about the group of folks they are addressing? are there books and papers we should expect them to have read prior to making pronouncements about how others should eat in their own homes? does a "good" or "bad" glycemic index of a food, for example, outweigh other factors such as deliciousness or cultural tradition?

                                  as you note, eating at home is really different from eating in restaurants. a restaurant rec really does just require the "is it delicious? how delicious is it? will you crave it later?" knee-jerk palate response. telling people how to eat at home is more tricky--it's a bit. . . paternalistic, no? do we/have we told populations in the southwest u.s. not to eat traditional wild desert foods, and instead eat refined starches from supermarkets? do we tell traditionally vegetarian communities to eat fewer legumes and more animal based products? do we tell new immigrants that eating american fast food makes them fit in better? *who* does this, & whom do we expect people to listen to (restaurant critics, doctors, pro athletes, cultural leaders?)? at the end, whose guidelines do we ourselves go by, and at what point do communities say: "thanks but no thanks, you can't tell us how to eat in our own homes. . ."

                                  i did get the sense from you, with your statement: "People work. People have families. Not everyone has time to run around to cooperatives or stop by bakery shops week. Many people like to do one stop shopping." --that you may think that choosing to shop at a co-op makes someone less of, or a different kind of, person. co-ops did/do get a lot of flak from conservative communites that aren't open to them, but in some areas of the country co-op farmer's unions, health providers/insurers, co-op housing, etc. have been normal for a century or so, so co-op groceries aren't that big of a deal, and all kinds of "people" shop at them, not just commie-pinko-hippies, or whatever it is folks are afraid of these days.

                                  sure, a co-op may just be a leed-building "people" whiz by, on their way to work. . . and to lots of my neighbors it's just a place to pick up some peanut butter or a bahn mi--like any other grocery store, except of course you don't have to worry about reading the label-- but the co-ops in msp have been around for so long and are so well established and successful that if you stand back, you can really see how they've shaped the local food culture over time.

                                  okay, now msp is leeetle, teeeeny, again, but let's just imagine for a minute: 8 stores in sf, or in any other city in the country. 8 *nonprofit* grocery stores that sell local foods, organic foods, natural foods. they employ 1000-2000 people. together, they sell more than $100 million yearly, and *each year* they donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to local sustainability and environmental projects/nonprofits. they give community classes. when weather-related catastrophes strike sustainable small local farms, the co-ops step in and help the farmers financially. the local farms get stronger and produce more food, more successfully, in greater variety. over time, a local distribution system forms to serve the co-ops, and it brings in small-scale farms' products for sale locally, freeing the farmers from trucking their own product and enabling them to sell all over a multi-state region. the co-op customers get healthy, additive-free food, they get to buy local artisan products and farmstead and wild-foraged foods, they get discounts and member benefits, they get a check at the end of the year reflecting the co-op's profit, based on how much they spent. at the grocery store, where they were going anyway, to get food. to eat at home. as part of their diet.

                                  i don't know if you can imagine any part of this, maybe you have to watch it happen, gain momentum, and grow over some years, but a lot of people can't figure out why msp has so many local and sustainable restaurants and so much great local/sustainable food *in general*, and erroneously think it's a new development w/in the last 10 years or so. it's the *distribution* of food that's important.

                                  you state above:
                                  <<I always thought Chez Panisse had it right. Be a good shopper. Buy the best and glorify others expertise. >>
                                  if i may be so bold as to ask you to consider: how would your own ideas about how/where you get your food change, if the grocery store where you do your shopping owned its own local farm, closing the supply chain and sowing/growing/selling directly for/to you, the customer?

                                  my second question to you is: "what if alice didn't need to shop?" what if she could just pick up the phone and order a case of schultz eggs, a case of harmony valley spinach, some gardens of eagen broccoli, pastureland butter, white earth wild rice, etc. . . what if all of the chefs in town could concentrate on *cooking* ingredients, rather than shopping/obtaining them? how would your own restaurant scene be different? what if true changes in how whole populations eat come not from the "trickle down" after a few elites meet to eat at chez panisse, but from the "welling up" of lots of regular ol' folks going to their neighborhood grocery store?

                                  so yeah, okay, & now back to doughnuts, i guess.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    Whatever topic it is you are talking about, I'd be happy to discuss it on the appropriate board. If you start a post, please link there.

                                    However, this has nothing to do with Jim's interview. Since he posted in this thread, I don't have anything to add about the interview since I can't say it better than the person who was interviewed.

                    2. re: soupkitten

                      Sorry, but is Mike Steingarten the same person as Jeffrey Steingarten? I enjoy the latter's writing, although I don't really consider him a cultural icon like, say, Calvin Trillin. But I've never heard of the former. Enlighten me.

                      1. re: PSZaas

                        hey, mike steinBERGER is the wine critic currently at slate. did i type his name wrong somewhere? sorry for the confusion, if i did. the wiki links to some of his writings.


                          1. re: PSZaas

                            lmao. so guess whom kerri miller interviewed this morning? apparently mike steinberger has a new book: "au revoir to all that: food, wine and the end of france"-- about the decline and fall of french gastronomy. so here's a link to *that* mpr interview ***about which i have absolutely no comment***, other than i found it to be more interesting and entertaining. :)


                  2. So I finally bit the gullet and listened to the interview. Miller is like more than a few egocentric NPR/PBS interviewers who enjoy talking about themselves ( "My husband and I....") and speak in sonorous yet omnipresent tones. Ten minutes google prep time would have done her a world of radio good. I wonder why Leff was even featured. He seemed uniformed about the work of Michael Pollan and speciously claims there are only 30-40 great restaurants in the USA that feature their own farm-to-fork food, that Manhattan has no great Jewish delis or pizza and that the "flowering treasure of food" occurred only between 1995 to 2005. The world's best fried chicken is to be found in a shack in the middle of a tobacco field in North Carolina and this was knowable after one, and only one bite. If he had mentioned the word glycemic one more time I was going to hit the escape key.