Saturday, July 25, 2009

Threats and Liquid Smoke

Let me tell you a little something about liquid smoke. I do not like it; it is weird to me. Generally, I am a fan of artifice--in many of its delicious varieties and forms. I love masks and costumes, word-play and badinage, clever lies and earnest endearments--I live for that shit.

But a body must have its categories--and I admit that I do have some. Mostly they have to do with zombies, rhetorics of history/expertise, and varying degrees of friendship (performative and constructive) which I will be more than happy to tell you about (possibly honestly, possibly artificially) at some later date. Right now, though, I want to tell you a little something about my categories of flavor.

I have spent the last few days in Manhattan, meeting up with dear friends. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at MOMA with this hot Israeli and a young Gordon Gekko. That was an intriguing combination of people in and of itself, but the main goal of this story is to set up the smoke-flavor-screen: On Friday nights, MOMA lets people in for free. And I mean aLOT of people. I am not the biggest fan of crowds, but I must say that it warmed my heart to see so many different faces leaning in to study the paint scrapes of our Abstract expressionists and the tintinnabulations of our Surrealist buddies. It was overwhelming, and I must go back when there are not so many folks leaning. Anyway, back to "Artifice: Good/Bad/Indifferent?"

On the sixth floor is a special exhibit by this crazy Belgian named James Ensor. Dude. You need to go see it. He starts out with some poxy images of ponds and rainbows, but then he gets into some really awesome stuff. Weird satires and super-unsettling masques, sharp political critiques and shady-looking skeletons leaning up against credenzas. It was luscious. And just my kind of artifice. Over the top, obvious, and critical--without being bossy or sneaky. He uses the artifical to call attention to the false--not the other way around--which leads me to LIQUID SMOKE and THURSDAY NIGHT AT DALLAS BBQ* IN TIMES SQUARE.

Talk about crowds. Sheesh. My Long Island friend and I went into the city Thursday night to drink martinis and catch up. We met at the Apartment in Grand Central--verrrrry swanky. Lawyers abounded. Then, after some conversation with a fellow Episcopalian (who went to Sewannee and Duke! Will wonders never cease?), we were hungry, so we made our way to Dallas BBQ--the 42nd St. location. And there was liquid smoke. All in the sauce. The chicken was alright (I got the dark meat because that is inevitably juicier). And the Texas-sized pina colada was, indeed, ridiculously large--so, thumbs up, there. But The Sauce! And The Gigantic Neon Sign That Kept Flashing! And The Crowds of Tourists Who Are Most Likely From the South So They Should Know Better!

I figured out that my main problems with the Dallas BBQ at Times Square center mostly on liquid smoke, and I will tell you why:

A) It's apparently pretty bad for you because it is MADE FROM SMOKE.
B) I am a good Southerner. I have never been crazy for barbecue, but I recognize good barbecue when I taste it. Because I am an East Coast girl, I prefer sauces (sorry, dear Texas), but I won't kick a good dry rub out of bed for lack of juice. :) Liquid smoke contains a false-ness, a pretense, of smoking procedures that just fits nowhere in my categories of the good. It does not taste like barbecue, it tastes like sauce disguised.
C) Neon makes food taste weird. It is the visual equivalent of liquid smoke. And it. is. everywhere. at that place.
D) If barbecue does not taste de-damn-licious after one martini and two glasses of wine, then I don't know what to tell you. That can't be a good sign.

*An addendum--I am not a hater. I have had good barbecue in New York at a place called Rub BBQ. Good title, good brisket, not-so-good-fried-green-tomatoes... but you gotta love em for trying. And I so do.