Francis Mallmann and Seven Fires

As Gourmay readers are aware, I am an avid follower of “Mind of a Chef” which airs on PBS at the bizarre hour of 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. The program lasts only 20 minutes, but contains some of the best educational cooking footage from leading chefs around the world: David Chang, Sean Brock and René Redzepi to name just a few. I am rarely disappointed.

Last week, Mind of a Chef featured a lovely interview with Francis Mallmann, an iconic outdoorsman who cooks with wood-burning fires in the southern regions of Argentina. Mallmann, best known for his book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, has recently released Mallmann on Fire which features Mallmann’s love affair for cooking with wood fires. PBS has not yet realized the full version of Mallmann’s superb interview with chef Ed Lee, but you can catch the trailer by CLICKING HERE!

For those who who want to see Mallmann in action (Spanish speaking) cooking wild trout and Polenta in Argentina, watch the video below. Please note that you are likely to work up a hearty appetite if you plan on doing anything remotely similar to eat fresh trout, but Argentines are noted for their theatrics as well as their appetites. Enjoy!

Verdi’s Macbeth

Just saw the HD presentation of Verdi’s Macbeth with the incomparable Anna Netrebko.  Not only can she sing, but she projects herself into the role of Lady Macbeth in a manner that few actors would be able to accomplish.  Her first two arias at the beginning of the opera are undeniably brilliant.  There is still an opportunity to see the rebroadcast, so do yourself a favor and catch this memorable performance. The encore (rebroadcast of today’s live matinee) is scheduled for October 15th at a theater near you.  Don’t miss it.


And by the way, Zeijko Lucic (as Macbeth), René Pape (Banquo) and Joseph Callejas (Macduff) give equally brilliant performances, but are dwarfed by the range of emotions and artistry of Netrebko. What a performance!

Ebola, Discrimination and All That Jazz

It was only a matter of  time before the “shock jockeys” of public media would begin to spin their conspiracy theories on Ebola.   Rush Limbaugh argued that President Obama was bringing Ebola to the United States to “get even” over slavery.  Not to be outdone, Reverend Jessie Jackson suggested that “discrimination” might a motive for the sloppy treatment the late Mr. Duncan received at a Dallas hospital.   Most sane people would argue that “the truth” is totally missing from either of these biased and irrational points of view, which is probably a good reason why politics and politicians are held in such low regard by the American public.

Regardless of the antics of these spin-Meisters, it is next to impossible to be unmoved by the New York Times story of a Liberian mother who can’t pick up her crying child for fear of contracting Ebola. While I share this parent’s “worst nightmare,” I don’t feel any better knowing that many other parents can also be sharing this same “nightmare” if we don’t get a handle on this epidemic or more accurately: pandemic.

As far as I know, the only way to stop an epidemic from becoming pandemic is “isolation” or “containment” and we ought to drop this silly pretense of “civil liberties” and “American values” until we can control this deadly virus that is currently ravaging West Africa – and now other countries.  Simply read one of the many plague chronicles (A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman comes to mind) to get an idea of the horrible consequences of pandemics.  It certainly isn’t a pleasant chapter in the annals of human evolution.

I Am PilgrimI would like to be reassured by the CDC and our political leaders that they know what they are doing, but deploying U.S. military troops to West Africa to combat “epidemics” doesn’t seem to me to be an “appropriate” mission for men and women who normally carry weapons rather than porta-potties.   It strikes me that a boatload of doctors and nurses with syringes is a far more effective response.  (Editor’s Note:  I guess “boots on the ground” in Africa plays better to the American public than “boots on the ground” in the Middle East.)

For those who have read that international best-seller “I Am Pilgrim,” the risk of a pandemic is no idle treat whether terrorist-related or simply a case of bureaucratic incompetence.

I have no idea how the Ebola crisis will play out, but the more “sweet talk” I hear from political leaders, the more concerned I become.   As Ebola spreads and cases begin to appear in other countries outside West Africa (latest in Spain), I suspect that widespread panic will soon manifest itself.   For those political leaders who love to promote  Twitter “democracy,” please don’t tweet “mea culpa” when you get skewered by Twitter “outrage.”

In yet another pathetic response to dealing with this pandemic, the U.S. will pass out questionnaires and take the temperature of passengers returning from West Africa.   Seriously??  It is like applying a bandaid to a bleeding artery.

In the words of the immortal John Lennon’s Imagine:  “Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”  Hopefully, that world doesn’t include the Ebola virus.

Editor’s Note:  I am saddened to report that Excalibur – the dog owned by the Spanish nurse stricken with Ebola – has been euthanized to prevent the spread of Ebola.  Predictably, it drew 325,000 protests from animal right’s activists.