I, Too, Have A Bone To Pick With Andrew Zimmern

I know I said yesterday that I was going to talk about my favorite books from 2007. I’ll do that eventually, I suppose, although who really gives a rat’s ass? Right now I’m all worked up about something else, so the book nonsense will just have to get shoved aside for the time being.

I’m not a guy who can easily mask his feelings, and I guess I more or less telegraphed where I’m coming from in that headline up there: along with virtually every one of my Rake colleagues, most of whom I don’t personally know, I have a beef with Andrew Zimmern. And, yes, I know I said earlier that I had a bone to pick, but this being a discussion about food I feel excused in mixing my metaphors, if in fact that’s what I’m doing, or did.

At any rate, what’s my big problem with Zimmern? Where to begin, where to begin?

First of all, I suppose I should admit that I really don’t know who the hell this Zimmern fellow is, and by that I mean I really don’t know who the hell he is, just as, I’m sure, he doesn’t know who the hell I am. I got wind of the recent dust-ups, however, and felt riled and curious enough to search Google images for a picture of the man. I always start there, if possible, because I have no problem at all judging a book by its cover, being as I am a firm believer in that old business about a picture being worth a thousand words (a phrase, incidentally, that was coined by my old colleague at City Pages, Dylan Hicks. Or perhaps it was Paul Demko). At any rate, I spent some time –way too much time, actually– looking at photographs of a man alleged to be Zimmern and quickly concluded that a thousand words were something like 975 words too many; a couple dozen, I should think, would suffice.

From what I’ve seen I can definitely tell you that I don’t like the cut of Zimmern’s jib. I think he eats too much, and given that he apparently spends so much of his time eating, I also think it’s fair to presume that he eats bugs…no, wait, he does, it seems, eat bugs, but what I meant to say was that it’s fair to presume that he talks with his mouth full. I don’t care for that.

I had to dig a little deeper to find out more about this Zimmern character, and mostly what I discovered was that –yes, just as I suspected– he eats too much, and also eats almost entirely at places I’ve never heard of. I’m not a big fan of people who make a habit of eating at places I’ve never heard of, and then proceed to go on and on about how great those places are.

I’m guessing that Zimmern has never in his entire life spent a morning laying drywall and then, with dust all over his hands and under his fingernails, eaten the hell out of a Manwich and a can of Pringles. I’m also guessing that he’s never spent a cold afternoon in the garage skinning muskrats and then driven his truck through the drive-up lane at Arby’s and polished off the 5-for-$5.99 roast beef special all by his lonesome.

Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe Zimmern has, in fact, laid drywall and eaten the hell out of a Manwich and a can of Pringles. Maybe he has skinned muskrats and gone to Arby’s to gorge himself on beef. But I’ll say this: if I’m correct in my suppositions –and I feel confident that I am– then I’m also correct in saying that this is a man who doesn’t know a diddly-damn thing about truly great food and the supreme pleasures and surprises of eating when you’re flat-out hungry as shit.

Answer me these questions, Zimmern, you hot shot:

Have you ever eaten a pie from Beek’s, King of Pizza?

Under the right circumstances (very, very hungry; very, very stoned and/or drunk; etc.) could you rave for hours about the wings at Shorty and Wag’s?

Can you name, with appropriate enthusiasm, a favorite brand of canned chili?

Could you, do you honestly think, tackle the Tremendous Twelve at Perkins?

Have you ever been so fucking hungry that you’ve eaten a microwave hamburger from Super America and felt like you’d died and gone to heaven?

Might you, as I did this very evening, mix together cans of Progresso vegetable beef and beef barley soup and eat the whole damn pot while seated on the kitchen floor?

Have you ever spent hours driving along a freeway praying for the appearance of a Taco John’s?

Do you agree that Tootsie Rolls and pretzels are often as not a perfectly suitable lunch?

If you answered no to even half of these questions, Zimmern, you’re not only a piss-poor food critic, but you’re also a pussy.