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Dec 18, 2012 07:53 AM

Rant: Sick of "Artisanal" and "Curated" food and Wine - Food pretensions that make you gag? Post em here!

When people start talking about making artisinal (pour over as opposed to automatic) drip coffee I've had enough. Seriously you are not hand dying wool with vegetable dyes and knotting a Persian carpet, or hammering out a suit of armor by hand from pig iron. You are pouring hot water over some dark brown powder. No skill involved here unless you have spent your entire life on a couch playing video games and actually doing something in the meat world is novel to you.

And when does one "curate" a list of wine or a selection of salami. You curate a museum, or perhaps the art collection for a billionaire. Picking a decent wine list is not rocket science. Getting folks with excessive disposable income to cough up big $ for fancy wine (sommelier) is still essentially being a service person. Nothing at all wrong with being in a service industry, in the end, essentially every job you have to take care of your boss. But let's not confuse selecting which old masters should be part of the permanent collection at the Louvre with buying wine from a few sales reps, or heaven forbid actually going to a vineyard to make a purchase or two.

I go even more bonkers when a resto talks about their carefully "Curated" selection of cured meats... Oh, you mean the guy who buys the salami; seriously. Food pretension has gotten out of hand.

Here in Boston the ultimate manifestation of this trend is a place called Craigie Street. The chef, admittedly quite talented, is somewhat notorious for being amongst the most pretentious in town. His staff has turned over 100% several times, apparently he treats them like hell, and he disparages his fussy Cambridge MA clientele openly in emails and on-line forums.

Heaven forbid you refer to Craigie's list of charcuterie without using the house approved terminology. Your server will treat you as though you farted out loud in center of the dining room.

Food pretensions that make you gag? Post em here.

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  1. Not sure if this qualifies but I do see a lot of people here (and on other forums) that find that line of demarcation between edible and inedible just ever so slightly south of awesome. Like there's something wrong with a good solid meal nowadays. For some reason a good solid meal is now not worthy of their dog.
    However, if you put the term "Old School" in front of it then they love it.


    6 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Yah, I hear ya, if it isn't locally sourced and coddled by vestal virgins then it ain't chow. How bout a nice meatloaf sandwich.

      And I will say, the whole locavore thing has gotten out of hand t0o. Place near me raises rabbits, but charges $10 a pound for em. So a smallish rabbit is $40 plus. Pulease, I'll just go out in my backyard with a slingshot.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        On the golf course, just over the arroyo from my house, we have hundreds, if not thousands. You are welcome to harvest the little buggers, at you leisure. If not, then the coyotes will eat them, or the red-tailed hawks will nab them. Better to go to you.


      2. re: Davwud

        I am just as tired of the,if it's not a coronation,it must be a lynching.
        Especially when the extremes are tossed around by people who may or not be able to identify an ingredient but are know alls when it comes to menu gimmicks.They just don't know it's a gimmick.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            from Davwud
            edible,solid meal must = coronation for a rave review
            "good solid meal is now not worthy of their dog" is a lynching
            Your rabbit is a good representative of "gimmick",not just the a price issue.

      3. Yep, I'm sick of artisinal and amazing.

        @Davwud, there is apparently a contingent that would prefer going to bed hungry rather than to partake of a meal that is anything less than amazing.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            Oh jeebus- who says that? I either missed it or read it and blocked it from conscious thought. SOMEbody needs to know what real hunger is like.

            1. re: EWSflash

              That wasn't to be taken so literally.


        1. You have made my morning.
          As F&B trade,farmer,trained chef,from a prominent French wine family with a 700 case cellar ............
          the affectation,over the top pretension has disgusted me for a long time.
          I'll be back with something on target and juicy.At this moment the temptation to rant is????

          1. Not quite sure this is what you meant, but referring to "the chef" as simply "chef" drives me bananas. "Chef found some nice greens in the market this morning." UUUGGGHHH.

            No other profession does this! No one says "Vice President will be a little late to the meeting." Or, "Priest will hear your confession now."

            Stop it!

            58 Replies
              1. re: StriperGuy

                Plus, the whole "artisinal" as a word is clearly overdone, as well. Here in Boston, the Ritz opened a restaurant and called it "Artisan Bistro". Really? That's the best they can do? Why not just 'fess up and call it "Nondescript Hotel Restaurant"?

                (I do not mind Artisinal in NY, however, as they named it that soooooo long ago (20 years?), before anyone was using that word.)

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  1. Artis*A*nal!! If you're going to complain about it, at least spell it right. Artisan = artisanal.

                  2. "Curated" simply refers to a carefully selected assortment of stuff. There's a small farmer's market up the road from me that has been mentioned in print as being "well-curated." That is exactly correct. Given the small space, the director has chosen vendors of particularly and consistently fine produce and products. I wish more cheese and salumi boards were better curated, instead of whatever they found at Trader Joe's.

                  3. "Chef says …" Sounds a bit precious? How about "Doctor will be with you shortly," which is how my favorite fang-scraper has referred to her boss for years. I can think of lots of more annoying things … "Chef'" and "Doctor" in both cases are terms of address, not simply titles. No, you won't hear "Priest will be with you shortly," but you might well hear "Father will …" And of course it's capitalized! It's not so much a job description as a rank.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    On point two, sure it may be semantically correct, but the choice of that word in that context is pretentious, in my view. A museum curator usually has a Master's or Ph.d in Art History, but I'm guessing the person responsible for choosing my lardo doesn't have an advanced degree in Meat.

                    I would also say that my doctor is referred to by his staff as "Doctor [INSERT LAST NAME]."

                    1. re: nsenada

                      This is a good point for a farmer's market or charcuterie plate at a restaurant, but then what about wine lists or wine shops? The shops where I would use the word "curated" not only choose which wines they want to feature (as opposed to mass market or poorly made examples), they also look after them or cellar them properly, and oftentimes these passionate folks do have post-graduate education or a Masters of Wine.

                      I stand by the use of the term curation when it comes to wine.

                      1. re: Klunco

                        Honestly, I assure you 99% of the places that use the term "curate" for their wine have noone on staff with a graduate degree in Oenology, and for the VERY short time that wine stays in most retail establishments likely store it in a hot dusty basement.

                        You can like the foofery, but it's mostly still hooey. While there are some serious sommeliers out there that have encyclopedic knowledge and can blind-identify 1,000+ wines they are by far the exception as opposed to the rule.

                        The foofery around wine is marketing. You like it, good for you. A chacun son gout.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          I think you and I are talking about different things here, my own use of curation referring to a store or list vs a restaurant using the term themselves. Truth be told though, I haven't seen many restaurants or even stores use that term.

                          I use the term curate to refer to restaurants or stores that use their passion, education, and knowledge, to curate (ie. to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation) wine. I don't regard those qualities as pretentious. In definition, pretentiousness is the act of pretending to know more about something than one actually does.

                          If you think all of wine is foofery, then you are drinking wine with the wrong people. Heck, I might get the impression beer drinking is foofery if I drank it with certain hipsters. If I drank PBR with them it might also make me think that all beer is marketing. The value just isn't there.

                          Exceptional wine most certainly does not have to be expensive. Thinking that all of wine is marketing and that all wine is expensive is the true definition of pretentious. If you look at wine's history, the majority of wine drinkers drank local table-wine from jugs without labels. Many of us still do. I think the ignorant assumption that all wine drinkers are snobs and all beer drinkers are "salt-of-the-earth" is ridiculous; especially in today's beer culture. I've met way more beer snobs.

                          Wine is a beverage, nothing more nothing less. It can also be a handcrafted one (ie. grapes picked by hands, pressed with a basket press, bottled by hand). These people also work at it over a lifetime, amassing the knowledge to make a quality product. I guess I fail to see the distinction between that being artisanal and a handwoven rug. Sure there are manufactured, factory made wines, but there are also manufactured, factory made rugs.

                          My rant would be towards snobbery in any form; whether it's what happened to you at Craigie OR people assuming anyone who buys any product but the absolute cheapest one is an idiot.

                          1. re: Klunco

                            I'm fairly sure the OP is taking issue with establishments and individuals you use the term in lieu of "select" for the sole purpose of sounding cool. Here is a particularly hilarious use of the term:


                            Note appearance of "curator" and "Budwiser Made in America music festival" in the same sentance.

                            1. re: Klunco

                              I am actually more of a wine drinker than a beer drinker. PBR hipsterism can be just as silly as "Curating" a selection of salamis in my book.

                              As passionate as I am about food, I can't use the same word, or even consider it in the same realm as curating, say the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Coopting that word to the world of food and wine to me is just silly.

                              When my Italian in-laws come to the US they are horrified at how silly, pretentious, and snobbish Americans get about their wine.

                              When my father-in-law wants to bring me a few bottles he calls a friend who owns a modest winery and brings me a few modest bottles. These are not Super Tuscan's at $180 a bottle, but nice solid reds meant for every day drinking. Quite fluent in English he would guffaw at the foolishness of using the word "Curate" in referrence to a selection of wines.

                              I agree with your statement that wine is a beverage. But wine is not high art, in the end, again it is a beverage. Putting it on some silly "Curated" pedestal just takes it further from the every day and turns it into something elitist and yes silly.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                I guess I see wine and art as one in the same. But then again, what is art? Why is "museum-art" intrinsically more important or worth more than wine? There are pieces of high art that are just as ephemeral as a beverage. There are pieces of high art that were made in a much shorter time than a bottle of wine. I fail to find a distinction between a sculptor and a great wine maker.

                                How do you justify high-art's prices, ie. $65million for a Rauschenberg but call a $20 bottle of wine elitist? Isn't high art the epitome of "marketing," things being put on pedestals, and fawning over essentially worth-less items (plus lots of foofooery)?

                                Further, where is the line drawn for curation? Is it reserved only for museums like the Louvre, the Rijks, the Met? What about a one room toilet paper museum? My local coffee shop? It does have paintings (art!) on its walls. Is the manager a curator because the object he is curating is a medium commonly associated with the word art? Is the person who works there more of a curator than a wine store owner or a sommelier at a high end restaurant that cellars their wines for years?

                                On the other hand, articles like the NYT one above sound ridiculous and I agree that not too many places qualify for my definition of curation. Nevertheless, I'm still going to use the word when appropriate.

                                1. re: Klunco

                                  I understand your point.

                                  I guess we draw the line in different places. For me art is one thing, and food, though one of my greatest passions another. I would drive an hour (or three) for both, but food is NECESSARY for every day life, art is something apart, and different and in some way special.

                                  Strictly my opinion, but I don't care how good a wine maker you are, for me wine is still not art.

                                  The tiniest, hole in the wall gallery, with 3-4 unknown artists could be well curated with exquisite works. For me, food/wine is of this earth, part of life, not rising above it in a way that only art can and for me, the selection and care of that deserves its own special term, that really should not be applied to salami.

                                  Ars longa vita brevis. You can't say that about a bottle of wine.

                                  1. re: Klunco

                                    Must confess I am obsessing about this one a bit...

                                    There is a difference between making great art and making great wine.

                                    No wine will ever rise to the level of a Sistine Chapel, or any of countless masterworks old and new. You can debate endlessly whether a particular work is a master piece or not, but only the most provocative troll would suggest that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel not a great work of Western art and a nearly immortal contribution to the world of art...

                                    Ya just can't say that about ANY bottle of wine.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      As has been noted many times, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Personally, though I make my living through the creation of art, I prefer experience to accumulation. Thus, I equate beholding a masterpiece painting to savoring a masterpiece wine. I have no true interest in possessing either for long.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        I agree. While I am far from being an oenophile, a truly fine bottle of Dom Perignon or Château Lafitte can be equated to a work by Monet or Renoir.

                                      2. re: StriperGuy

                                        Trying to define what is art is a fascinating topic and it's fun to think about it and try to make "rules" that define it.

                                        Anyway, I agree with your above statement. I would say this: the two are not equal ie. a piece of artwork can have a larger and perhaps longer impact on the world than a bottle of wine. BUT, I also believe that there is overlap at all but the highest level. Wine is a medium of art to me (just like performance is) and there is overlap where a bottle of wine can be better (can any art truly be better except in the eye of the beholder) or more moving than a painting or sculpture. That is to say, I don't believe that art, which in this context we are defining as painting/sculpture, is always more important, more moving etc. than wine, but I do think it has the potential to be.

                                        Hopefully that wasn't too confusing. Interesting topic to be sure, although now I'm thinking about painting/sculpture vs architecture as art. We need a place to live ie. the way we need food, but architecture can most certainly be art. Dance? Theatre? Music? Are these art? I define them as such, and I define a forest as art as well. It's all personal.

                                        1. re: Klunco

                                          Just like the famous Supreme Court case... Art is very hard to define, "but I know it when I see it."

                                          I totally agree that architecture, dance, theater, and music can all be art. For me what it really boils down to is does the form have the ability to go beyond the day to day and become something larger, universal, transcendent, and yes perhaps immortal.

                                          I also totally agree that it is highly personal.

                                          You certainly are entitled to feel that wine, food, etc meet your definition of art.

                                          For me it does not.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            <<You certainly are entitled to feel that wine, food, etc meet your definition of art.

                                            For me it does not.>>

                                            What are you doing here, then? I don't necessarily disagree with you, but this is a weird place to make such a declaration.

                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              I was replying to Klunco.

                                              And it all ties back to the use of the word curate.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                "[I]t all ties back to the use of the word curate."

                                                So, just to be clear, unless the word is being used as a noun to label an English parish priest, it's objectionable. I respect your dedication to prescriptivism, but not all of us share it.

                                2. re: Will Owen

                                  I did realize I had mis-spelled artisanal in the header to this thread but it was too late to edit.

                                  To use the word curate for selecting the vendors in a farmer's market is the type of pretentious nonsense I despise.

                                  But I guess it works for you. If it looks like a duck...

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    If you'd like something changed after your editing period has passed, you can ask the moderators to do it. (Click on the red "flag" at the bottom of your post.)
                                    If it makes other posts nonsensical though (as it might it this case) they might not do what you ask.

                                    1. re: blue room

                                      Thanks, nothing major, just mis-spelled Artisanal in the header.

                                  2. re: Will Owen

                                    The curate will check if Father is available.

                                    A curate is an assistant to a parish priest or other clergy. Neither my OED or Webster give any other definiton. "Curate" does not exist as a verb.

                                    On the other hand "curator" is listed in Merriam Webster online as "one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially : one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit" and OED also includes one who looks after a minor.

                                    You're dead right about "artisan", Will. But, the word ain't all it's cracked up to be when it comes to lending cachet to an item. My Concise OED dismisses an artisan as a "mechanic; handcraftsman" - admittedly it's an old edition. Webster is kinder, adding further, "one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods", but notice that even here the impersonal "that" rather than "who" is used. Both publishers obviously perspired rather than sweated.

                                    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a stickler - I believe in the evolution of the language - notice my use of "ain't" above. We need more and better words - lots of them - even if we need to bend existing ones beyond recognition to get where we need to be because we are incapable of finding the right ones from existing stock.

                                    There is another form of pretension I can't get enough of - the "intent chefs" on TV. It's the physical pretension when plating a dish or at some stage of presentation.

                                    Chef - the chef? bends right down close to the board with his head cocked, good eye down, and elbows stuck out like a chicken mime as he grimaces intently with fingers or hands going like a pianist. At the end the head and torso are snapped erect, arms at side and a smile to acknowledge any applause. Love it.

                                    1. re: DockPotato

                                      Somehow "pretension" and "plating" belong together.

                                        1. re: DuchessNukem

                                          Thank you, Duchess. The Merriam Webster reference shows the first use of curate as a verb in 1909.

                                          Neither the online resource nor my print version of the OED lists the verb. That's not to say that it's not included in later versions.

                                          1. re: DockPotato

                                            Not a prob. My home M-W is what Mom sent me off to college with (somewhere around 1890 lol).

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        LOL I read it as a play on words "arti*SIN*al

                                  3. re: Alcachofa

                                    Even better: capitalized, as in, "I am not worthy of licking your clogs, Chef."

                                    What a great topic!

                                    1. re: Alcachofa

                                      Doctors' office staff do that too - "Doctor is running a little late, please be patient." Drives me nuts when they do it because I feel like I'm being treated like a 5-year old. Worse with chefs.

                                      1. re: Alcachofa

                                        The first episode of "Portlandia" had a couple inquiring about the provenance of the free-range chicken they were about to order. They were shown a binder with pictures of the farm and the chickens, each of whom had a name. IIRC, the dialog was something like "And that's Wally, he'll be your entree tonight." Hilarious and right on target.

                                          1. re: judybird

                                            I believe the bird's name was Trevor.

                                              1. re: Prav

                                                I think you are right. Certainly not a Wally though. How gauche.

                                          2. re: Alcachofa

                                            Thing is, to the wait staff, Chef is not a job nor is it simply a title, it is a name. It is very likely that is how they address the chef - as Chef. When they say "Chef" you both know who they are talking about. If they said "Ed found some nice greens this morning." who knows who the hell Ed is?

                                            It is just like in the theater saying 'Sparky found a red screen.' All light guys are 'sparkys" and they get called Sparky and everybody knows who is meant.

                                            I guess you were driven bananas by Gilligan calling Jonas Grumby "Skipper".

                                            1. re: FrankJBN


                                              They should say "The chef found some nice greens." Everyone knows who they are talking about then.

                                              And I'm aware that some wait staff sometimes call the chef, "Chef". They are also caught in the pretentiousness and are guilty themselves of not challenging that particular bit of silliness.

                                              Skipper was a nickname. Not the same thing. Sorry.

                                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                                Sorry, agree with Alchachofa, your comparison is apples to oranges, and referring to The Chef as "Chef" to clientelle is pretentious hipster twaddle.

                                                They can call the chef "Chef" to his face if that is the tradition in that particular restaurant (though even in that scenario I find it a contrivance) but to a patron it should be The Chef.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  So you guys are saying Skipper wasn't the skipper of the Minnow?

                                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                                    The point is Gilligan would never say "Skipper is working on the rudder of the minnow".
                                                    He'd say "THE Skipper is working on the rudder of the minnow".
                                                    Now, he might call him "Skipper" when talking to him, as in "Hey Skipper, doesn't Ginger look hot today?"

                                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                                      Let's say the Minnow was a small cruise ship with 300 passengers, the crew all called the captain "Skipper."

                                                      One of the passengers asks the first mate (who all the crew just happens to call "Matey,") "what's the next port of call?"

                                                      The appropriate response from the first mate is not "Skipper says..." The appropriate response is "The Captain says we will be arriving in Aruba at 11:00 am tomorrow." Thus not making the foolish assumption that the patron
                                                      A) knows who "Skipper" is
                                                      B) want's to use a silly, and slightly contrived monicker that they staff happens to use for their boss.

                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                        Thank you.

                                                        I will add though, that yes, I can picture a scenario where "Chef" truly becomes the chef's nickname. "Yo, chef, whattup!" But that's still not how the wait person should refer to him/her to the customer.

                                                  2. re: FrankJBN

                                                    The use of 'Chef' isn't a pretentious, in my opinion, as it's being described. When I worked in a kitchen, everyone including the waitstaff referred to the chef as 'Chef'. As in 'Chef, is the pork locally sourced tonight'? So I can see that translating into 'Let me check with Chef'.

                                                  3. re: Alcachofa

                                                    Isn't that just a Britishism that's crept into the language here? I think the first time I heard it was from Sybil on Fawlty Towers. They tend to say things in that manner, such as going to hospital instead of going to the hospital. I haven't noticed going to hospital showing up in American usage yet, but the one that bugs me that I've been hearing on American television shows lately is "Do you want to come with?" instead of "Do you want to come with me(or us)?"

                                                    1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                      That's very much a Chicago thing! Saying "do you want to go with?" or "do you want to come with?"

                                                      Or, to be more precise -

                                                      "Dja wanna come with?"


                                                    2. re: Alcachofa

                                                      Great observation and comment! I'm for ya!

                                                      1. re: Alcachofa

                                                        If you believe no other profession does that, I assume you have never been in the military. Not an attack just an observation.

                                                        1. re: Alcachofa

                                                          Yes, you're so right. It probably derives from the use of Chef tout court in direct address ("Oui, Chef"), which "Kitchen Confidential" brought into the mainstream, if it wasn't already there. Direct address is one thing, third-person use is, as you say, ridiculous.

                                                          And I would add another use of "chef" that bugs me. It is the loss of the distinction between an actual chef de cuisine, who has earned his/her position after years of study and experience, and any other kind of cook.

                                                          1. re: Alcachofa

                                                            "No other profession does this!"

                                                            Sensi and Maestro wish to disagree. Rabbi isn't sure if he should join them, and is going to discuss it with Father - who may also be undecided.

                                                            1. re: NE_Wombat

                                                              The Doctor is on call and The Senator abstains.

                                                            2. re: Alcachofa

                                                              This just reminded me of the Seinfeld episode, where everyone had to call the guy "Maestro". Which I guess proves your point!

                                                              1. re: Cachetes

                                                                Maestro is like chef, in that it is correct without the article in direct address: "Do you want a crescendo here, Maestro?" But, at least in Italian, and it's an Italian word, you would say "il maestro wants a crescendo in bar 34 ..."

                                                                There is a certain subculture of doctor's office lingo that uses doctor without the article, but it is normal to say, How long have I got, doctor? (i.e., direct address). And "The doctor says to quit smoking" (third person). Father, for a priest, is a different case. In the third person it is properly used with surname: Father Brown says ... . But alone, it is more for direct address, and is used alone in a rather intimate, affectionate way, never formally.

                                                            3. For me it's the combination of the guilt-inducing glorification of "nose to tail" eating. I get it in principle, but for the vast majority of people who are only able to afford CAFO meat, they should not feel as though they're not "honoring" the animal by not retching down the offal which would otherwise be processed and/or added to pet food.

                                                              One blogger (who will be unnamed) in particular makes me crazy with his holier-than-though writing on this subject. I admire Fergus Henderson and his ilk, I really do, and for those who enjoy organ meats and so forth, go wild! I think that there are far larger ethical fish to fry in terms of animal husbandry than the eating of offal though, and I wish the discussion could be more all-encompassing than the glorification of the eating of tripe and other assorted innards.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: SherBel

                                                                This is an interesting perspective, and one I hadn't really thought of before. The market already takes care of a huge number of waste issues -- pink slime wasn't being made out of strip loins, after all. So even if we aren't (knowingly) eating it, it doesn't follow that it's going to waste.

                                                                I think a lot of chefs just appreciate the challenge of trying to take off-cuts and make them into something spectacular. Anyone can make a filet tender, but doing the same thing with an ear takes more skill.

                                                                  1. re: SherBel

                                                                    Agree; nose-to-tail is not only pretentious but so overused that it's lost all impact. Same with locally-sourced. (I'd have used quotes but it might push Prav over the edge.)

                                                                    1. re: Niblet

                                                                      In the South we've been doing nose to tail long before it became chic. But in Southernese it is called "Eating everything but the oink".

                                                                    2. re: SherBel

                                                                      Right - I'm sure someday soon I'll be sneered at as unadventurous, eco-unfriendly, and un-hip for not enjoying pig whisker and snot terrine.

                                                                      1. re: SherBel

                                                                        they should not feel as though they're not "honoring" the animal by not retching down the offal which would otherwise be processed and/or added to pet food.


                                                                        Thank you!

                                                                        I come from a farming (beef and chicken) and hunting family. Our closest friends are multi-generational butchers. Let me tell you, no one in either of these families, the three generations I have had the honor of knowing would eat offal by choice.

                                                                        My BFF mother (of the butcher family) is still scratching her head at why I would spend the better part of the a Saturday struggling with short ribs.

                                                                        1. re: cleobeach

                                                                          "My BFF mother (of the butcher family) is still scratching her head at why I would spend the better part of the a Saturday struggling with short ribs."

                                                                          Thats why they were butchers and not cooks!