Wednesday, March 29, 2006

stupid press releases

March 29

“So when will the CUISINE of Mexico get its due?” a press release asked me today. It’s a strange question in the United States, where Mexican is one of the three most popular “ethnic” cuisines, dwarfing everything but Chinese and Italian.
Dumb press releases come my way often. Very, very often. But usually they’re just badly written or not germane to what I write about. Some really stand out, though. I remember the fax I got some years ago from an animal rights group that said “chickens are people too.” Now, you might believe that chickens deserve the same rights as people, but by definition, chickens are not people.
I got a press release once declaring Providence the most dynamic city in the Northeast. I like Providence a lot, but, I mean, come on. I imagine some people in Newport would question whether Providence is the most dynamic city in Rhode Island.
Some kids put together a press release telling me that the new chef of a restaurant they represented had cooked at five-star Michelin restaurants. Fascinating, since Michelin gives a maximum of three stars.
I was told in a press release that Americans don’t appreciate tomatoes. Since Americans love tomatoes and eat them in most sandwiches and salads, I had to ask the publicist what on earth he was talking about.
I got an e-mail pitching as a “Dish of the Week” osso-buco, which I was told was a very rare Italian dish that was hard to find in restaurants in the U.S. I explained to the poor youngster who sent me that piece of information that, in fact, osso-buco was an extremely common item on Italian menus, but I invited her to pitch something else. She never did.
Today’s stupid press release asked its silly question about Mexican cuisine in the third paragraph. Its first sentence was an often-repeated falsehood, that salsa outsells ketchup in the United States. That was true for a year or so — and if you think about how much more expensive salsa is than ketchup, and how it’s actually used differently, as a dip rather than as a condiment, you realize that you’re comparing not apples and oranges, but mustard and onion dip.
At any rate, after salsa’s year of outselling ketchup, Heinz simply added a few marketing dollars to its budget and ketchup moved to the top again. It was a statistical blip that people just won’t let go.
The press release, about a “contemporary, nouvelle Mexican” restaurant in the Midwest, goes on to talk about Mexican cuisine’s “relative obscurity.” Compared to what?
My favorite press releases tell me exactly what the release’s point is in the first sentence. Then it lists the five Ws and the H. If it’s a release about a restaurant, it includes the whole menu. It provides contact information in case I want something else.
And that’s it.
Hey, I just got another release telling me about an Asian-themed restaurant in San Francisco that serves “Zen-like specialty sake.” What in the world could that mean?


native said...

More to the point is when will Native American Cuisine get recognized

Bret Thorn said...

Native American cuisine is indeed undiscovered territory in the mainstream food world — surely there’s more to it than frybread, cedar plank salmon and succotash (all from different regions of North America, I know). Perhaps you’d like to share your insights with us.