Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hitching a ride on names

For many years, I had heard about Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce recipe: an incredibly simple idea with what looks like not enough ingredients that somehow becomes something magical. Crushed tomatoes, butter and an onion, cooked for about 40 min. That's it.

I've talked before about not following recipes to the letter, but I do like to try them out correctly on the first go, before I decide what I can do to tweak them to my taste. So I made Marcella's recipe as it was written.

Oh. My. God.

There are some creations of masters with which you do not tamper! It was pretty amazing both in its simplicity and it's final complex taste. My only concession is that the end product does not always end up on pasta. I use it on veggies, meats and on occasion, just plain toast.

Heinz - Woman with tomato shap... Digital ID: 1675405. New York Public Library
Mmm...funny shaped tomatoes! via NYPL Digital Gallery

I don't see it as an everyday sauce. (that's a lotta butter for my everyday Streamlined lifestyle!) And sometimes I do want different flavors and textures, but then what I am making is not Marcella's sauce.

And doing a brief search around the internet, you see quite a few photoshopped versions of the sauce, but there's also a few where someone decides to "modernize it just a bit." Perhaps "veganizing" or "paleo-ing" it up. 

And a lot of those "modernizations" usually include substituting butter with olive oil and perhaps adding garlic, basil, hot peppers, etc.

Which means you're making ANOTHER SAUCE!  

There's nothing wrong with making other sauces. I myself love garlic and basil in tomatoes, or chilis, or fish sauce or assorted vinegars and curries, but I can't stretch that to say I'm making a"modified" Marcella sauce. The whole purpose of it is that it really is just those three ingedients. 

And all those other recipe bloggers're just using name recognition to try to get some more attention. I find this ironic as more and more folks are trying to find "food authenticity" and yet you're completely changing something while claiming this provenance. 

Harsh? Yeah, but we see that even more so in the fitness world. Yoga has been reiterated so many ways that it's become impossible to know what is considered that form of exercise. Pilates has gained so many "improvements" that I can only wonder that the canterkerous old boxer would probably smack all these modern practitioners. 

But the biggest shift I see is taking all these exercise regimens and making them more ... comfortable. Basically creating a spa environment for what should probably be just a sweaty time. 

Take this recent article about a new CrossFit studio in NYC. I'm not a huge fan of CrossFit; I have far too many leg and hip injuries and, as I've said before, I'm not too big on team exercise classes or events. So, not putting it down, but it's not for me. And what I do like about it is that it's about movement and exercise taken to a rather basic form. 

But here's a studio looking to "deliver the luxury-level amenities to the CrossFit community" by adding yoga, spa treatments and the like.

So is this still CrossFit? Isn't this really ... a spa & gym? It seems to me that they're just taking the name and using it as a marketing ploy. 

Or is it that people just don't like exercise to be basic and dirty? They need pampering along with a name exercise?

The spa, Central Park. Digital ID: 800960. New York Public Library
Do they have pull up bars at this spa? Or is just hot yoga? via NYPL Digital Gallery
I get that people need a push. This study shows that overweight subjects found exercise less pleasurable the more they had to exert during the exercise. And that, of course, led to less adherence to the exercise regime.

But is claiming a name making it more palatable? I don't think you'll get more intense exercise out of added facials and rubdowns. 

Exercise is still hard. And calling something that it's not is merely pasting glitter on the same idea. Trying to make yourself popular without actually BEING the thing in question is just bad form.

I'll just wait for butter to be included in my pilates workout, then.


Ekkekakis, P., and E. Lind. “Exercise Does Not Feel the Same When You Are Overweight: The Impact of Self-Selected and Imposed Intensity on Affect and Exertion.” International Journal of Obesity 30, no. 4 (2006): 652–60. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052.

“Is ‘CrossFit Chic’ Coming to New York City?” Well+Good NYC. Accessed July 16, 2014.

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