OT: I have a bone to pick…

I was walking through the living room yesterday and caught a segment on Access Hollywood featuring Rocco DiSpirito, a name which is probably well known among foodies.  For those who don’t know him, DiSpirito is a chef of some fame from NYC.  It’s struck me before that although he’s had a fair amount of culinary success and numerous best selling cook books, what DiSpirito really seems to crave, or at least it appears that way to me,  is a ranking among the best known celebrity chefs…people like Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray perhaps.  Evidently, Rocco DiSpirito, who made a name for himself  in Italian cuisine, has taken a page from Jamie Oliver’s book and is now on the healthy food path.  In addition to his new book, The Pound a Day Diet, DiSpirito is a regular contributor on the reality TV show Extreme Weight Loss.  I’m not even going to touch the practical problems with gimicky diet books and unscripted (obviously scripted) “reality” TV….just Google the book or the TV show, and you’ll get an eyeful of caveats about these issues.

HT_rocco_dispirito_book_jef_140109_16x9_608

The fact of the matter is that a lot of people, including me, could certainly make healthier food choices, and in theory,  I’m not opposed to assistance from the culinary world in that vein.  What bugs me is the preachy tone that is so often employed.  In this case, I couldn’t get past one insanely stupid remark that DiSpirito makes in the Access Hollywood segment:

Really…I think you might want to rephrase that Rocco.

Starting at 2:06 the demonstration turns to a healthy alternative to the usual Memorial Day Weekend fare…a healthy burger.  This burger features 96% lean grass fed (most likely organic) ground beef.  OK fine, most experts agree that grass fed beef is healthier than the corn fed alternative, but when the host questions the cost DiSpirito deflects saying, “how expensive is heart disease or diabetes.”  Oh, touché Rocco…you’re right of course – the long term costs of chronic, diet impacted illness can become astronomical, but could you possibly be more hyperbolic?!  I did a quick search and it seems that 96% lean grass fed beef runs upwards of $9-10 per pound.  $9-10 per pound for ground beef?    

At a time when almost 50 million people in the US live at or below the poverty level, I find this kind of insensitivity to economic reality ridiculous.  Millions of people don’t have the luxury of thinking about the long term effects of their diet when they are struggling to put something, anything at all on their tables.  So Mr. DiSpirito, how about instead of moralizing how you are going to “bust the myth that eating healthy costs too much” you present people with healthy alternatives using ingredients that they don’t need to locate an organic butcher and empty out their wallets to prepare.  Barring that, re-title your book…I don’t know, maybe something like,

The Pound A Day Diet

Lose up to five pounds in five days…unless you’re poor, then you’re screwed

End Rant.

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54 comments on “OT: I have a bone to pick…

  1. jazzbaby1 says:

    Don’t hold back, dude, tell us how you really feel. 😉

  2. guylty says:

    Don’t know this DiSpirito guy, but I think that kind of criticism can be levelled at almost all of the “health preacher” celebrity chefs. Instead of going on about organic beef and hand-reared carrots, they should put more emphasis on cooking without massive amounts of fat – butter, cream, oil – the like, or focus on the side dishes, too. But hey, I am a self-confessed non-cook. What do I know…

    • obscura says:

      Maybe that’s my new calling – “Cook healthier on no budget” He’s definitely not the only one…just the one that came into my cross hairs this week! 🙂

      • guylty says:

        Well, I don’t want them to go to the other extreme, either. How to cook tripe and offal and stuff *ugh*. A little bit of realism would be nice though. Or even teaching us all to cut back on meat a bit and make healthy meals without meat a few days a week. Or fish!! More fish, please.

        • obscura says:

          Oh you elitist island dweller 🙂 There are so many alternatives to the preaching from on high model…this really trips my STFU switch.

          • guylty says:

            LOL – is it the fish that has you up in arms? Or the V-word? 😀

          • obscura says:

            vagina? I don’t really know why that is what popped into my head in this context! Vegetables? I have no issues with veggies..fish are a tougher sell mostly because of location for me. Very few people outside of landlocked areas have a clue what to do with lake fish. Most of the recipes I see are for salt water varieties that are very pricey in this area.

          • guylty says:

            rofl. VEGETARIAN, of course!!! *tuttuttut*
            And re. fish: Not popular on my little island on the Western fringes of Europe, either. Fish is for poor people. Tastes boring. Smells bad. But I will admit that I am not familiar with lake fish, either. Anyhow, I better stop riling you now.

          • obscura says:

            You didn’t rile me…that was Rocco 🙂

          • Servetus says:

            I found out last summer that a lot of the trend recipes don’t work with fresh water whitefish — they have a parasite that requires regular cooking. (No ceviche.) You can still bake or steam instead of frying, of course, the way we usually do.

          • obscura says:

            Yeah…I’m cool with fish, but the kind that doesn’t taste like fish if you know what I mean 🙂

      • Servetus says:

        the Guardian has a new food blogger, a woman who was forced by a combination of circumstances to eat on, I think GBP 10 a week for a year. Jack Monroe is her name. Some of her stuff is a little strange but I’ve definitely learned something from reading her recipes.

        Tripe / offal are in style now, so they’re probably a little more expensive …

        • obscura says:

          There was another British show that I stumbled across that was cooking on WWII rations…It was fascinating what they could make out of the oddest combination of stuff.

          • Servetus says:

            Plugging a colleague’s project, American Food Roots is going to have a web series this summer on economy cooking during WWI (centennial of the outbreak this year) in the US. What people made on “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” and recipies that were popular a hundred years ago.

          • obscura says:

            That sounds cool…I will definitely look that up.

          • Servetus says:

            ExSO’s mom had her mother’s handwritten WWII cookbook, and it was the wildest thing. “Recipe for a cake when you have no eggs,” that kind of thing. Extremely depressing to read.

          • obscura says:

            It’s a fascinating kind of time capsule isn’t it?

          • Servetus says:

            Totally. The other thing that fascinated me, although I’m not sure why, since it’s totally obvious, was how people functioned without kitchen tools that we just assume. “Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients and beat for 40 min.” That would seriously put me off making a cake!

          • obscura says:

            but onto svelte arms right? 🙂 Another reason not to bake!

          • Servetus says:

            for sure!

          • jazzbaby1 says:

            My sisters and I still make our great-grandmother’s Wacky Cake (wacky because you don’t use eggs) when we get together.

          • obscura says:

            what’s the binder?

          • jazzbaby1 says:

            The sugar carmelizing plus the reaction of the baking soda with vinegar.

          • obscura says:

            Ugh…baking is so much like chemistry. *flash back to 7th period 12th grade!*

  3. Servetus says:

    how about — no meat at all? That would be a lot cheaper. If the choice is between organic grass fed beef and nothing, one could just go straight to vegetable protein.

    • obscura says:

      I think his premise is that you can still have the foods you love (this burger also has a bunch of filler in it, so the amount of beef is probably negligible, so why is the super lean, super expensive stuff necessary?) so if you love meat…

      • Servetus says:

        IMO another huge issue in the US the amount and portion sizes of meat we expect to eat. I mean, 4 oz is the recommended single serving of beef but most people would eat more than that at a single meal.

  4. Perry says:

    And, here it is http://www.accesshollywood.com/rocco-dispiritos-low-calorie-memorial-day-menu_video_2174237 – he’s “decided to bust the myth that healthy is more expensive than unhealthy”. BTW – his burger includes hummus and avocado instead of mayo. When I left NY, avocados were over $1.00 apiece in most stores and prepared hummus is about $ 4.00 a container. That probably ups the cost a bit as well.

      • obscura says:

        avocados have looked really bad the past few weeks – over-ripe most of the time.

      • Perry says:

        I love both, but together, it’s not doing it for me. He’s not going to adjust his approach if people like Whoopie Goldberg and such are on the diet. I say, go with a turkey burger or have a smaller burger. He got famous, you know, because of his mother’s meatballs. That’s how he got his start. With a low cost, plain Italian American, casual restaurant of which, most critics only touted the meatballs.

        • obscura says:

          that’s what I thought …this whole attitude smells suspiciously self aggrandizing to me.

          • Perry says:

            He also a higher scale failed restaurant that was the subject of a realty show – built on the concept and prep of getting the new restaurant up and running. In the middle of the season, his backer backed out. A bit of a scandal. But that book is a best seller.

          • obscura says:

            Yes, I remember that show. It was the first I’d heard of him. Would it be correct to say that his celebrity was mostly confined to NYC before that?

          • Perry says:

            perhaps even just one neighborhood in NY.

          • obscura says:

            Yeah, that was pretty much the impression that I got from the show, and since. Honestly, he’s welcome to whatever celebrity he can carve out for himself, but he could stand to be less obnoxious along the way.

      • Perry says:

        Maybe that’s why they’re already so expensive. And small.

    • obscura says:

      For whatever reason, that link would not come in as a video, so thanks for linking it in.

      I vaguely remember the avocado and hummus bit…I was so gobsmacked by the whole cost idiocy. Hopefully, he adjusts his approach a bit to include reality for a wider audience.

    • obscura says:

      Recently, at the advice of a Lebanese friend, I’ve used garbanzo been “flour” to make hummus. Rehydrate it with stock or water, add seasoning and it comes out beautifully smooth without the need for the food processor.

      • Perry says:

        That’s a lot easier than cooking beans or ven using the canned ones. I’ve never made it, but I have a friend who does. This sounds ingenious. But you still add tahini, right? Actually, one of my criticisms of a lot of hummus is that it has too strong of a sesame taste. If I want sesame, I’ll eat Halvah? ( Heard of it?)
        Here is Mexico street vendors sells roasted chick peas in the shells. I’m not sure how you eat them.

        • obscura says:

          I use tahini if I have it…can also use natural peanut butter. Halvah…oh yes…very popular in Greece. Not a big fan myself. The Mediterranean peoples do live the sesame…there are ubiquitous sweets rolled in sesame seeds that I affectionately refer to as birdseed bars 🙂

          Roasted chick peas…take of the husk and eat them like nuts? IDK

  5. Perry says:

    No, it’s not a you tube. it’s from a tweet from Good Morning America, and the tweet leads you to the video. If you really want to rant – that tweet is a good place to start. https://twitter.com/roccodispirito/status/469776385150423041

  6. Perry says:

    Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:
    Read the comments here – you’d better hurry up if you like guacamole, and here is the best way to make it – it gets rave reviews:
    2 avocados, mashed, leave it a little chunky, half as much chopped ( not quite minced) tomatoes as avocado, the same amount of chopped onion ( red if you have it) as tomatoes, chopped the same size, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, 2 tsps finely chopped jalapeño, no seeds, or if you can take it, serrano chile, juice of about one lime, liberal kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, if you like it ( I hate it) 1/4 C chopped cilantro. I use parsley or nothing.

  7. katie70 says:

    Diet books seem to be a dime a dozen, now if they where that cheap. Never heard of this guy.

    How about this for a healthy burger chickpea or black bean, they are cheaper that $9.00 to 10.00 ground beef or maybe higher up in the north. I also have another veggie burger in the freezer that I made and I have found is really good. I do still eat some meat just not a lot these days.

    I have made Wacky Cake and it is really good. Made a WWII chocolate cake for son2’s birthday one year that everyone really liked. The one thing I like about cooking is that science comes alive for me and I get it better than I ever did in school.

    • obscura says:

      I was thinking that too…how great would it be to have a fee, open source cookbook of “healthy options” for people working on a tight budget. Something like this probably already exists…I will have to look around a bit.

      • katie70 says:

        If you know what you are looking for there are places online that you can get recipes for different dishes for free. I have found some great recipes that way, if fact Mr 70 just found a recipe for Beer Battered Onion Rings that he is making tonight. Nothing to do with healthy at all but once in awhile a treat is good. I also have yet to check but with ebooks I would think that you could get something cheaper. I have yet to try out ibooks yet on my computer, that is what this summer will be for.

        • Perry says:

          Katie, you can get just about any recipe on line these days, even ones you think you know from a cookbook you once saw. The Food Network, Epicurious.com, and someone’s Bazaar – can’t recall the name, have hundreds and hundred of recipes. The recipes are downloadable. Many sites have reviews of the recipes by home cooks, who alter, explain – really helpful. I think cookbooks are going to be obsolete, although I must say, I’ll miss them.

        • obscura says:

          oh definitely…it woull just be really nice to have an easy to access database of recipes and tips. Like allrrecipes.com – allhealthyrecipes.com. 🙂

  8. Leigh says:

    I find most of these so-called celebrity chefs are ludicrously bad. I can do better with Escoffier and Constance Spry, with tried-and-true Italian and American recipes, and with recipes I learned from my friends’ grandmothers. A proper burger has good beef, no filler, about four to five ounces before cooking. The flavour comes from the seasonings, the beef, and the way you cook it. It’s not a high-fat food. If you want some kind of diet or veggie thing, fine, but don’t pretend it’s USDA choice naturally raised beef and then gussy it up with a lot of fancy stuff.

    • obscura says:

      I know what you mean. After I thought about it a while longer, it seemed so foolish to me…meat that lean does not do well on a grill…it dries out too fast. It will either be almost raw or completely dries out.

      The burger seems like such and odd place to make a stand…even with 80/20 ground chuck, If you grill it, the bulk of the fat is lost in cooking, so it’s not really the meat that’s the issue, it’s the multitude of cheese and other toppings that hike the caloric content.

      Like most other aspects of life, I find this to be a moderation thing. An occasional loaded burger is not the central issue of healthy eating, approaching all food choices with moderation. I haven’t read this book, but if that point is not made, I think the author is missing a big piece of the equation in favor of trendy foodie recipes.

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