recortes

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Books


The Virtue of Riches, By Benjamin Friedman

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taco Fiesta


The perfect taco technique

Heat Wave


Tanto escándalo por un poco de calor? Esto es moco y pavo comparado con un verano "tranqui" en Tucumán...

Teta v. fórmula


Fórmula: el nuevo cigarrillo?

iRegulation


Buena columna sobre los problemas legales de Apple en Francia.

Globe-Trotter


Del WSJ de hoy:

Axis of Hugo

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez is on a two-week tour du monde that began with a visit to Che Guevara's boyhood home in Argentina and will, after several stops, reach a climax alongside Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. This is more than just an itinerary; it's a kind of AAA guide through the world's rogue regimes and anti-Americans.

So it was no surprise that in London Mr. Chávez skipped Tony Blair. Instead, he paid a visit to London Mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone, an ostensible progressive who finds common ground with firebrand Islamist clerics. Next up was scenic Belarus, the last full-blown dictatorship in Europe, which Mr. Chávez praised as a "model of a social state." Then on to Moscow, where he plans to squander his country's oil wealth on 30 advanced jet fighters and a license to build Kalashnikov assault rifles back home. Mr. Chávez has publicly fantasized about using the fighters to take out a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Caribbean. That's implausible, given how the U.S. would respond if he tried. But Venezuela's neighbors have plenty to fear from his Kalashnikovs.

As for Iran, this will be Mr. Chávez's fifth visit. Maybe he likes the food. Already Caracas and Tehran have cemented an alliance that goes beyond anti-American posturing and oil politics to include military exchanges, according to press reports. Who knows where the madcap Venezuelan will turn up next, but we'll lay odds that Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea are all high on his 50-dictatorships-to-see-before-I'm-deposed" list.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


PANFRIED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH OREGANO GARLIC BUTTER

Fidel en la Argentina


Insólito tributo a un dictador.


Food: Zucchini

Interesante punto de vista de un columnista del WSJ sobre la situación en el Líbano. Me quedo con esta frase:

For France, the U.S. and the U.K., it would, of course, be tremendously embarrassing to recognize that they made a gigantic error in expelling Syria without having put anything its place, thus leaving a vacuum of power in Lebanon that Hezbollah has exploited. (A new principle of statecraft thus emerges: It is a mistake to follow the French even when they are right.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Gran debate entre liberales cuando de política exterior se trata. Lejos de ser novedoso, éste es un tema que siempre ha dividido a los liberales (libertarios en algunos ámbitos).

Veo dos posturas contrapuestas: idealistas y realistas.

Los idealistas se aferran a los principios con los que estructuran todo su pensamiento político, desconfiando por lo tanto del ser colectivo encarnado en el estado. Los realistas en cambio piensan que en las relaciones entre estados soberanos, al no haber un ordenamiento superior al que pueda recurrirse en busca de justicia (la ONU es un chiste de mal gusto), y al ser la fuerza el factor decisivo en esta relación-fricción, es preferible darle al estado los recursos y el poder necesario para asegurar la preeminencia de su sistema de valores en el orden internacional.

Me cuento entre los realistas. Creo que los idealistas olvidan que el grado de libertad logrado por la civilización occidental no es un regalo de Dios a la civilización europea, sino el resultado de costosas e interminables luchas contra el primitivo instinto de dominación y acumulación de poder.

Friday, July 21, 2006

La diferencia:

Mientras algunos intentan maximizar la cantidad de víctimas civiles...


otros...


Israel continued to drop leaflets warning residents of southern Lebanon to leave their homes.

Todavía no me decido en cual lado están los buenos.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Patience is Wearing Thin

Muy buen artículo de Victor Davis Hanson


No se pierdan este articulo. Es increible lo que puede hacer una pastilla. Pensar que hay tanta gente que se automedica con estas cosas todo el tiempo. De terror.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Max Boot sugiere: Let Israel Take Off The Gloves

Arithmetic of Pain

Excelente artículo en la columna de opinión del WSJ de hoy:

Israel has its air force, nuclear facilities and large army bases in locations as remote as anything can be in that country. It is possible for an enemy to attack Israeli military targets without inflicting "collateral damage" on its civilian population. Hezbollah and Hamas, by contrast, deliberately operate military wings out of densely populated areas. They launch antipersonnel missiles with ball-bearing shrapnel, designed by Syria and Iran to maximize civilian casualties, and then hide from retaliation by living among civilians. If Israel decides not to go after them for fear of harming civilians, the terrorists win by continuing to have free rein in attacking civilians with rockets. If Israel does attack, and causes civilian casualties, the terrorists win a propaganda victory: The international community pounces on Israel for its "disproportionate" response. This chorus of condemnation actually encourages the terrorists to operate from civilian areas.

While Israel does everything reasonable to minimize civilian casualties -- not always with success -- Hezbollah and Hamas want to maximize civilian casualties on both sides. Islamic terrorists, a diplomat commented years ago, "have mastered the harsh arithmetic of pain. . . . Palestinian casualties play in their favor and Israeli casualties play in their favor."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall


Recorrida el fin de semana por mi edificio favorito de la ciudad.









Monday, July 17, 2006

Radio


Excelente selección musical de David Byrne aquí (requiere iTunes). Cambia todos los meses, julio es mes de clásicos americanos de las primeras décadas del siglo XX interpretado por una gran variedad de artistas.

World War III?

Comenzó verdaderamente el 11 de setiembre del 2001.
Pero es quizás en estos dias cuando esta materializandose el conflicto armado de gran envergadura. Irán viene demostrando desde hace ya varios meses su voluntad de liderar el bando opuesto a occidente. Israel y Estados Unidos están esperando el "Pearl Harbor" que justifique a ojos del mundo la gran incursión en tierras de los mullahs. Europa, a pesar de sus idas y venidas, es el corazón de occidente y no hay dudas que llegado el momento va a participar activamente del conflicto.
Me pregunto si Argentina habrá aprendido de los errores de la segunda guerra mundial. Me pregunto si esta vez estará del lado de la historia, o si se convertirá en el paraíso que alguna vez fue para los nazis. Sus amigos de hoy no me dan muchas esperanzas. Pero nuestra historia está mas cerca de occidente, y además, dos veces en los noventa hemos vivido en carne propia el terrorismo islamo-fascista. Qué momento, la verdad.

Friday, July 14, 2006

States of Terror


Muy buen articulo en la editorial del WSJ de hoy sobre este nuevo conflicto. Es necesario llegar a la raiz del problema: Siria e Iran.

UPDATE:
Interesante punto de vista en el blog de la revista Foreign Policy:

"Iran, of course, has long bankrolled Hezbollah, and the Israeli government said yesterday it feared the two kidnapped soldiers were being taken to Tehran. But Syria is the nexus of regional instability, giving shelter to several of the most intransigent Palestinian militants, transferring arms to Hezbollah, and undermining Lebanon’s frail sovereignty.

Israel can brutalize Lebanon all it wants, but unless something is done to stop Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from exporting instability to buttress his despotic regime, little will change."

Presidente sensible


Nuestro presidente da claras muestras de sensibilidad. El domingo le tenia pena a los periodistas. Hoy son los radicales los que le dan pena.
Espero que algun dia le de pena la pobreza y la mediocridad que esta generando su regimen.
Es una verguenza este mamarracho de presidente de los argentinos.

Ethanol


Carta abierta de Lula en el WSJ de hoy. Este podria ser un golpe muy duro a nuestros amigos de la edad de piedra en el medio oriente.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Save the Pakistani


This commentary by John Baden nicely sums up the economic way of thinking about global warming. Baden cares more about Pakistanis than we do about polar bears. I suspect many will find the economist's way of thinking peculiar. But it surely is not heartless.

Los paises mas felices del planeta


De "La Gaceta" de Tucuman

La Gaceta, el diario mas mediocre que uno puede imaginar, reproduce esta nota de Reuters. Este diario, que de vez en cuando reporta otras cosas ademas de la vida de Britney Spears, elige esta de miles de noticias para su tapa hoy.
Y vaya una mencion especial a los horrores gramaticales ("los ciudadanos... son los mas contentos") Muchacho, a colgar el cartel "Ce nezecitan heditores"

El país más feliz del planeta es una isla del Pacífico

Según un estudio que mide el bienestar, los habitantes de Vanuatu son los más contentos en la tierra. Argentina ocupa el puesto número 46.

Un índice que mide la felicidad de los habitantes en 178 países reveló que varias islas tropicales están entre las naciones más felices del planeta.

El Indice de Planeta Feliz, que contempla los niveles de consumo, expectativa de vida y felicidad, señaló que los ciudadanos de la pequeña isla de Vanuatu (en el Océano Pacífico) son los más contentos en la tierra.

El estudio -adelantado por el centro de investigación New Economics Foundation- mostró a Colombia en el segundo lugar y a varias otras naciones latinoamericanas en los primeros peldaños.

La nación más feliz de la tierra, según este índice, tiene una población de 209.000 personas y su economía gira alrededor de la agricultura a pequeña escala y el turismo.

Nic Marks, uno de los autores del estudio, sostuvo que el objetivo del trabajo es que el buen vivir no dedería estar conectado con los altos niveles de consumo.

Para Marks, el estudio reveló cómo podemos lograr vidas largas y felices para todos al tiempo que respetamos el medio ambiente.

Entre los primeros diez países del índice se ubican 7 naciones latinoamericanas (Colombia, Costa Rica, Panamá, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador) y dos naciones del Caribe angloparlante (Dominica y San Vicente y las Granadinas).

Vanuatu es el único país de esa pequeña lista que no se ubica en el Hemisferio Occidental.

Según el índice, los países de alto consumo no aparecen muy arriba en la lista de naciones felices.

Por el contrario, muchas de las naciones más desarrolladas aparecen en puestos inferiores en la lista de 178 naciones, como Alemania en el puesto 81, Japón en el 95, y Estados Unidos en el puesto 150.

En ese sentido, Simon Bullock, coordinador económico de la organización no gubernamental británica Friends of the Earth, sostuvo que el informe probaba que la felicidad no tenía que ser lograda al costo del deterioro ambiental.

"La economía británica absorbe grandes cantidades de los recursos escasos del mundo, pero los ciudadanos británicos no son más felices que los colombianos, quienes usan muchos menos recursos", aseguró Bullock. (Télam)


Hace falta agregar algo a este absurdo total? Colombia numero 2?
Alguien por favor vaya a parar a los cubanos que se tiran en un neumatico al oceano, que sepan de este articulo. Y espero que las autoridades de los paises felices actuen con prudencia y pongan limites antes que las embajadas latinoamericanas esten abarrotadas de yanquis y europeos trantando de conseguir una visa al paraiso.

Why Do They Hate Us?


Luis Opinador nos remite a este excelente articulo de Sowell. Muy vigente hoy mas que nunca, cuando el medio oriente es una caldera a punto de explotar.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Private Foreign Aid



The LATimes has a superb set of articles on remittances, it focuses not just on remittances from the U.S. to Mexico but also from Japan to the Phillipines, Italy to Kenya and Florida to Haiti.

An Easier Way to Send Large Email Attachments


An Easier Way to Send Large Email Attachments

Free Application Helps To Avoid Clogging Inboxes; Speeds Still Might Vary

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants



Review del gran Jonathan Gold

The Immigration Equation


Excelente articulo en el NYT del domingo sobre inmigracion:

All things being equal, more foreigners and indeed more people of any stripe do not mean either lower wages or higher unemployment. If they did, every time a baby was born, every time a newly minted graduate entered the work force, it would be bad news for the labor market. But it isn't. Those babies eat baby food; those graduates drive automobiles.

Texto completo aqui:

Por lo menos, asi lo vi yo...

Final del mundial. Ultimo post sobre el tema: el balance.



Mejor equipo: Francia.



Mejor jugador: Zidane.



Mejor partido: España - Francia.



Mejor gol: Segundo gol de Argentina a Serbia y Montenegro.


Mayor decepcion: Inglaterra.

Lo peor: la reticencia de la FIFA al uso de la tecnologia en jugadas dudosas.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ataque a los medios: corriendo el eje del debate



Por Roberto Cachanosky
En lugar de poner el foco en lo importante y discutir la constitucionalidad y la legitimidad de los Decretos de Necesidad y Urgencia, esta semana los argentinos nos distrajimos con las diatribas del presidente y su mujer hacia los periodistas y los medios de comunicación.

Los productores de carne deben estar contentos porque las diatribas del presidente contra la supuesta oligarquía vacuna quedaron, por el momento, en la historia. Es que luego de embestir contra los productores de carne, Néstor Kirchner se lanzó contra los militares, los que ahora parecen tener un pequeño respiro porque el que sigue en la fila es el periodismo, mientras Tabaré Vázquez también tiene ya una semanas de vacaciones de las agresiones del gobierno argentino.

Ir cambiando de enemigo parece ser una cuestión central en el gobierno de Kirchner para no aburrir a la gente. En realidad, aburre con tanta pelea, aunque trata de hacer menos monótona su letanía cambiando permanentemente de adversario. Al igual que en los casos anteriores, la ausencia de una sólida formación intelectual en la pareja presidencial (al igual que en muchos otros dirigentes políticos) determinó que resultara verdaderamente patético escuchar al presidente hablar de la libertad de prensa. Dijo Kirchner hablándole a los periodistas: “Si tiene que haber libertad de prensa, ejerzan la libertad de prensa, independientemente de lo que piense el dueño del medio en el que trabajan”. Realmente es curiosa la propuesta de Kirchner a los periodistas porque la independencia que les reclama no se condice con su propia intolerancia hacia quienes lo acompañan en su gestión. No veo cómo puede Kirchner hacer compatible esta exigencia de que los periodistas digan lo que quieran independientemente de lo que piense el dueño del medio que los emplea con sus sanciones a todos aquellos funcionarios que se apartan del discurso oficial.A su compañero de fórmula Daniel Scioli lo crucificó públicamente cuando éste dio su libre opinión sobre las tarifas de los servicios públicos. A Roberto Lavagna le pidió la renuncia cuando el ex ministro habló de sobreprecios en las obras públicas y fue a una reunión de IDEA sin la autorización presidencial. A una diputada de su partido, el Frente por la Victoria, la removió de la presidencia de una comisión en la Cámara de Diputados cuando ésta no estuvo de acuerdo con la política ganadera que aplica el Gobierno. Y ni qué hablar de los resonados casos de José “Pepe” Eliaschev y otros periodistas que trabajaban en medios de comunicación estatales.

Si el comportamiento de Kirchner no coincide con sus expresiones sobre la libertad de expresión que él reclama, más grave aún es el hecho de que reniegue del hecho de que los dueños de los medios de comunicación son los que arriesgan sus capitales para llevar a cabo un proyecto y tienen derecho a establecer una línea editorial determinada. Nada le impide a un periodista que trabaja en un medio privado irse de ese medio si no coincide con la línea editorial y arriesgar su propio capital para defender las ideas que sustenta. En otras palabras, no se le puede pedir al dueño de un medio de comunicación que arriesgue su capital, administre la empresa y la mantenga viva para que sus periodistas digan lo que quieran, incluso contrariando los ideales que pueden defender los dueños de un medio. Por lo tanto, Kirchner confunde libertad de expresión con financiamiento de esa libertad de expresión. Todo el mundo tiene que tener el derecho a expresar sus ideas sin censura previa, pero nadie tiene derecho a que otro ponga su propia plata para que él diga lo que le venga en gana. Nadie tiene derecho a exigirle a un tercero que le financie gratis la difusión de sus ideas, máxime si esas ideas no coinciden con las del dueño del medio.

En el caso particular de Kirchner, la situación es mucho peor, porque, como decía antes, el dueño de un medio de comunicación tiene todo el derecho a establecer la línea editorial que desea para su medio porque él es el que arriesga su capital. En cambio, Kirchner practica la intolerancia en la libertad de expresión utilizando un instrumento del cual no es el dueño, o no debería comportarse como si lo fuera. Me estoy refiriendo al Estado. Los medios de comunicación estatales no son propiedad del gobierno de turno, sin embargo, sus seguidores los utilizan como si fueran tales. Y no olvidemos los fondos públicos (que provienen de los impuestos que pagan los contribuyentes) y son utilizados arbitrariamente por el Gobierno para hacer publicidad oficial en los medios que son complacientes con su política.

De todas maneras, si algo han logrado Kirchner y su esposa en esta semana, fue correr el eje del debate. La realidad es que en vez de estar discutiendo la constitucionalidad y la legitimidad de los Decretos de Necesidad y Urgencia (DNU) y los superpoderes, se terminó discutiendo la libertad de expresión y los ataques del matrimonio Kirchner a los medios de comunicación.

Que el Congreso le otorgue poderes dictatoriales a Kirchner es tanto o más grave que su intolerancia contra los medios de comunicación. Con la cortina de humo de este tema, Kirchner logra esconder el fondo del debate, que es la destrucción del sistema republicano y la clara amenaza a la libertad de votar.

Si uno analiza la línea de argumentación para exigir poderes dictatoriales expresamente prohibidos por la Constitución, se va a encontrar con argumentos intelectualmente tan pobres como el de sostener que otros presidentes los utilizaron o, incluso, que algunos gobernadores hicieron uso de ellos. Esto no es debatir las ventajes o desventajas de los DNU, esto es sostener que si el otro lo hizo –aunque haya hecho mal las cosas– yo también tengo derecho a hacerlo. Hasta ahora, no ha sido demostrado que la suma de dos males sea igual a un bien.

La pobreza intelectual que impera en el Gobierno quedó, asimismo, en evidencia cuando sus funcionarios sostuvieron que necesitan los superpoderes para poder administrar eficientemente, como si la arbitrariedad en el manejo de los fondos públicos fuera sinónimo de eficiencia.

En definitiva, detrás de todo este barullo hay un claro debate que se está planteando: república vs. dictadura. El gobierno de Kirchner ha dado acabadas muestras de su desprecio por la idea de un gobierno limitado y sujeto a la ley, y lo que en última instancia está intentando es tratar de justificar su deseo de establecer un gobierno autoritario. Inventar permanentemente supuestos enemigos termina siendo funcional a su reclamo de poderes absolutos. Encolumnar a la gente detrás de él en la lucha contra el mal no es más que una vieja táctica de los gobiernos autoritarios para conseguir el apoyo incondicional de la población en el proceso de destrucción de la república. Para ello, necesitan promover proyectos destructivos en vez de proyectos constructivos, y sólo los intelectualmente mediocres o aquellos que no tienen los más mínimos principios morales están dispuestos a justificar y defender cualquier disparate contra el sistema republicano de gobierno.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mi pronostico (y deseo) para manana...



Llega el final del mes que tanto espere. Fue un mundial maravilloso.
Para mi no hay dudas que llegan a Berlin los dos mejores equipos del mundial.

Que gane el mejor.

Si tengo que arriesgar un resultado, aqui va: creo que Francia va a llevarse la copa. Porque fue de menor a mayor, porque tiene el mejor jugador de los ultimos tiempos, porque dejo en el camino a los pesos pesados.

Feliz final de copa del mundo!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Constitucion descartable

No podemos tener un pais serio si estas cosas siguen ocurriendo y a nadie se le mueve un pelo. El personalismo, el caudillismo, el perpetuo avasallamiento de las instituciones republicanas a manos del gobernante de turno -especialmente en el interior de la Argentina- son una constante que no podemos superar. El dia que dejemos atras esta primitiva y autoritaria forma de hacer politica vamos a dar un paso muy grande en el camino (largo para nosotros) a la civilizacion.



Crisis constitucional en Tucumán

Como sucede en el nivel nacional con la nueva integración del Consejo de la Magistratura, que viola la exigencia expresa de equilibrio establecida por la Constitución nacional, la independencia y la imparcialidad del Poder Judicial también están gravemente amenazadas en la provincia de Tucumán.

El deseo de algunos dirigentes políticos de contar con jueces cercanos y leales, que eventualmente garanticen algún grado de impunidad operativa, parece estar contagiando a nuestra clase política en todos los niveles. Esto ocurre sin que la ciudadanía, aparentemente, advierta la enorme gravedad que implica, pues erosiona nuestras debilitadas estructuras republicanas basadas en la división de los poderes y en la noción de responsabilidad de los gobernantes. También pone en peligro las libertades civiles y políticas, y hasta la vigencia de los derechos humanos, expuestos a la arbitrariedad de quienes ocupan el poder público.

La reciente reforma constitucional en la provincia de Tucumán no sólo dispone en su artículo 90 que el gobernador y el vicegobernador pueden ser reelegidos -como era el deseo y objetivo central del cambio impulsado por el mandatario José Alperovich-, sino que también el Consejo Asesor de la Magistratura, organismo encargado de designar mediante un dictamen vinculante a los jueces de primera instancia, de las cámaras, los defensores y los fiscales, será en más organizado por el Poder Ejecutivo.

Esto supone hipotecar la independencia e imparcialidad de los jueces y conferir un inaceptable cheque en blanco en favor del circunstancial gobernador, lo cual ha provocado la reacción de algunos magistrados y hasta del propio Colegio de Abogados local. Ellos han cuestionado la reciente reforma constitucional en los estrados judiciales y han defendido de manera ejemplar y digna su independencia profesional frente a cuanto se muestra como un desafío a los principios republicanos.

Por esta razón, la Sala II de la Cámara en lo Contencioso Administrativo de Tucumán acaba de ordenar al gobierno provincial que suspenda la aplicación del decreto por el cual integró rápidamente el sospechoso Consejo de la Magistratura local, hasta tanto se resuelva el planteo legal formulado por el Colegio de Abogados tucumano, que busca la declaración de inconstitucionalidad del referido decreto. Una decisión judicial valiente y oportuna, que procura, con razón, evitar lo que pretende el Ejecutivo provincial, es decir, el hecho consumado. Así, los abogados de Tucumán han salido en defensa del principio central de la independencia e imparcialidad de la Justicia, que no debe ser nuevamente avasallado desde la política.

El avance sobre la Justicia y la habilitación de una cláusula de reelección indefinida conseguida por el gobernador Alperovich son una burla al equilibrio de poderes y un ataque a las instituciones republicanas.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Receta: Broiled Goat Cheese with Pumpkin Seed Sauce



3/4 cup hulled pepitas
1 cup tomatillos
1/2 bunch epazote
1/4 bunch cilantro, stemmed
1/4 bunch parsley, stemmed
3 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno chile
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons oil
1 pound goat cheese
tortilla chips

To prepare the sauce, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pepitas on a baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until evenly browned. Soak the tomatillos in cold water for a few minutes, the peel off and discard the husks. Place the pepitas, tomatillos, epazote, cilantro, parsley, garlic, jalapeno, and salt in a blender.

Add 1 cup of the broth and blend on high speed until a slightly lumpy puree is achieved. Thin with another cup of broth if necessary to fully blend, but try to use as little broth as possible (hs note: 1 cup was fine to this point)

Place a large straight-sided skillet or frying pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the sauce, stirring to prevent spattering. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring frequently and adjusting the consistency with broth when it gets thick and starts to spatter (hs note: I only ended up cooking it down for 30 minutes, and used another 1/2 cup or so of water). Check and adjust the seasoning with salt as necessary. Keep hot if using right away, or transfer to a container to cool. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Separate the goat cheese into 4 portions, and form each into a 1-inch-thick patty (this thickness allows the patties to bake quickly and evenly). Place the patties in individual 4-inch ramekins and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese softens but still holds its shape. Carefully remove from the oven and ladle with the sauce over the cheese in a 1/2-inch layer. Serve immediately with the tortilla chips.

Serves 4 for lunch or 8 as an appetizer.

The fraud of primitive authenticity



By Spengler

Two billion war deaths would have occurred in the 20th century if modern societies suffered the same casualty rate as primitive peoples, according to anthropologist Lawrence H Keeley, who calculates that two-thirds of them were at war continuously, typically losing half of a percent of its population to war each year.

This and other noteworthy prehistoric factoids can be found in Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn, a survey of genetic, linguistic and archeological research on early man. Primitive peoples, it appears, were nasty, brutish, and short, not at all the cuddly children of nature depicted by popular culture and post-colonial academic studies. The author writes on science for the New York
Times and too often wades in where angels fear to tread. A complete evaluation is beyond my capacity, but there is no gainsaying his representation of prehistoric violence.

That raises the question: Why, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, does popular culture portray primitives as peace-loving folk living in harmony with nature, as opposed to rapacious and brutal civilization? Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, which attributes civilization to mere geographical accident, made a best-seller out of a mendacious apology for the failure of primitive society. Wade reports research that refutes Diamond on a dozen counts, but his book never will reach the vast audience that takes comfort in Diamond's pulp science.

Why is it that the modern public revels in a demonstrably false portrait of primitive life? Hollywood grinds out stories of wise and worthy native Americans, African tribesmen, Brazilian rainforest people and Australian Aborigines, not because Hollywood studio executives hired the wrong sort of anthropologist, but because the public pays for them, the same public whose middle-brow contingent reads Jared Diamond.

Nonetheless the overwhelming consensus in popular culture holds that primitive peoples enjoy a quality - call it authenticity - that moderns lack, and that by rolling in their muck, some of this authenticity will stick to us. Colonial guilt at the extermination of tribal societies does not go very far as an explanation, for the Westerners who were close enough to primitives to exterminate them rarely regretted having done so. The hunger for authenticity surges up from a different spring.

European civilization arose by stamping out the kind of authenticity that characterizes primitive peoples. It is a construct, not a "natural" development. One of the great puzzles of prehistory is the proliferation of languages. Linguists believe, for credible reasons too complex to review here, that present-day languages descend from a small number of early prototypes, and splintered into many thousands of variants. Wade says:

This variability is extremely puzzling given that a universal, unchanging language would seem to be the most useful form of communication. That language has evolved to be parochial, not universal, is surely no accident. Security would have been far more important to early human societies than ease of communication with outsiders. Given the incessant warfare between early human groups, a highly variable language would have served to exclude outsiders and to identify strangers the moment they opened their mouths.

What brought about civilization, that is, large-scale communication and political organization? Conquest is too simple an explanation. We have from Latin five national languages and dozens of dialects, but no comparable development out of the Greek of the earlier Alexandrian empire. Latin and its offshoots dominated Europe because Latin was the language of the Church. The invaders who replenished the depopulated territories of the ruined Roman Empire, Goths, Vandals and Celts, learned in large measure dialects of Latin because Christianity made them into Europeans.

Even in Christianity's darkest hours, when the Third Reich reduced the pope to a prisoner in the Vatican and the European peoples turned the full terror of Western technology upon one another, they managed to kill a small fraction of the numbers that routinely and normally fell in primitive warfare.

Native Americans, Eskimos, New Guinea Highlanders as well as African tribes slaughtered one another with skill and vigor, frequently winning their first encounters with modern armed forces. "Even in the harshest possible environments [such as northwestern Alaska] where it was struggle enough just to keep alive, primitive societies still pursued the more overriding goal of killing one another," Wade notes.

A quarter of the language groups in New Guinea, home to 1,200 of the world's 6,000 languages, were exterminated by warfare during every preceding century, according to one estimate Wade cites. In primitive warfare "casualty rates were enormous, not the least because they did not take prisoners. That policy was compatible with their usual strategic goal: to exterminate the opponent's society. Captured warriors were killed on the spot, except in the case of the Iroquois, who took captives home to torture them before death, and certain tribes in Colombia, who liked to fatten prisoners before eating them."

However badly civilized peoples may have behaved, the 100 million or so killed by communism and the 50 million or so killed by National Socialism seem modest compared with the 2 billion or so who would have died if the casualty rates of primitive peoples had applied to the West. The verdict is not yet in, to be sure. One is reminded of the exchange between Wednesday Addams (played by the young Christina Ricci in the 1993 film Addams Family Values) and a girl at summer camp, who asks, "Why are you dressed like someone died?" to which Wednesday replies, "Wait!"

Guiding the warlike inclinations of primitive peoples is genetic kinship, and the micro-cultures (such as dialect) that attend it. Christianity called out individuals from the nations, and gave them a new birth through baptism in a new people, whose earthly pilgrimage led to the Kingdom of God. Christians began with contempt for the flesh of their own origins; post-Christians envy the "authenticity" of the peoples who never were called out from the nations, for they have left the pilgrimage in mid-passage and do not know where they are or where they should go.

It is difficult to be a Christian, for the faith that points to the Kingdom of God conflicts with the Gentile flesh whence Christians come; but it is oppressive, indeed intolerable to be an ex-Christian, for it is all the harder to trace one's way back. Europeans have less difficulty, for the Italians never quite gave up their pagan gods whom the Church admitted as saints, and the Germans never quite gave up their heathen religion, which lived on as a substratum of myth and magic beneath the veneer of Christianity.

If the United States of America is the Christian nation par excellence - as I have argued on numerous occasions - then the predicament of an American ex-Christian is especially miserable. Americans do not have close at hand the Saints Days of Italian villages incorporating heathen practice predating Rome, or the Elf-ridden forest of the German north celebrated in Romantic poetry. They have suburban housing developments and strip malls, urban forests of steel and glass, Hollywood and Graceland, but nothing "authentic".

An overpowering nostalgia afflicts the American post-Christian, for whom the American journey has neither goal nor purpose. He seeks authenticity in nature and in the dead customs of peoples who were subject to nature, that is, peoples who never learned from the Book of Genesis that the heavenly bodies were lamps and clocks hung in the sky for the benefit of man. Even more: in their mortality, the post-Christian senses his own mortality, for without the Kingdom of God as a goal, American life offers only addictive diversions interrupted by ever-sharper episodes of anxiety.

With 90% of the world's more than 6,000 languages likely to disappear during the next hundred years, the search for authenticity will turn from an exercise in frustration into a source of horror. For those upon whom mortality weighs heavily, the object lessons in mortality from the disappearing peoples of the world will be a terrifying form of instruction indeed.

Will Mexico 'Jump to the Top'?



By ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA


It is now almost certain, as of this writing, that Felipe Calderón, the center-right candidate of the National Action Party in Mexico's presidential election, has beaten Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing candidate of the Revolutionary Democratic Party, by a tiny margin.

The optimistic view is that Mr. López Obrador was gloriously defeated by Mr. Calderón, a modernizing reformer. But pessimists will point out that a third of all Mexicans voted for Mr. López Obrador, and between a fifth and a quarter for the center-left PRI (the third party in the race). This means that the majority remains divided between the kind of left-wing populism that has kept Mexico underdeveloped -- now represented by Mr. López Obrador -- and the PRI, a complex system of vested interests responsible for blocking every attempt at reform made by President Vicente Fox over the last six years. Both optimists and pessimists have a point.

Indigenous mythology and Western-style social utopianism -- of the kind that pits good revolutionaries against evil reactionaries, and local values against foreign perversions -- tend to produce populist messiahs like Mr. López Obrador. In the early 1900s, Mexican folktales began to be recorded again after a three-century hiatus. Many evoke a local king -- reminiscent of Montezuma, the Nahua ruler defeated by the conquistadors in the 16th century -- who has gone underground, but who will one day come back to save his people. Many of Mr. López Obrador's voters see him as that sort of redeemer.

Mr. López Obrador represents a renunciation of the idea that development comes from transferring responsibility from the state to civil society and embracing a full exchange with the world. He offered a presidency favoring popular legitimacy over institutional checks and balances (witness his promise to use referendums); a government that acts as the engineer of social justice (hence his promise to give a 20% raise to anyone earning under $800, and to spend $8 billion in social programs and another $20 billion in infrastructure projects); and limits to foreign capital (as in his idea to keep oil and electricity in "national" -- that is, government -- hands).

It is unlikely that Mr. López Obrador would have become a full member of the "axis" formed by Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, for the same reasons the PRI kept away from communist alliances when it dominated Mexico: Mexican nationalism. But a populist victory in Mexico would have invigorated other populists in Latin America. And the demagogic foreign policy establishment that used to be part of the PRI state would have likely come back, straining relations with the U.S.

Felipe Calderón, by contrast, understands the stakes better than the man he barely beat. Yet there is no guarantee that he will be a more effective reformer than Mr. Fox. The paralyzing dynamics in Congress, where Sunday's election did not produce a working majority, will pose major obstacles. Mr. Calderón is aware of how, in recent decades, South Korea, China, Spain, New Zealand, Ireland, Estonia and others joined what he calls "the top of the league" by unleashing entrepreneurial drive and creating conditions for capital accumulation. "I am tired of seeing Mexico in the middle of the table," he told me a few weeks ago. "It is time to jump to the top." And he seems eager to try. But if he is to prevent the populists from overwhelming his government and winning next time, he needs to look at why so many Mexicans voted for Mr. López Obrador and the PRI.

Mexican voters would have shunned Mr. López Obrador altogether were it not for the shortcomings of the reforms of the last two decades. What those reforms left untouched is as important as what they modified. Yes, financial stability was achieved and has been maintained -- Mexican bonds had a maximum maturity of only one year in 1985; the figure today is 20 years. And, yes, hundreds of inefficient companies were privatized and trade was liberalized to a significant extent. But the economy continued to suffocate under heavy taxation, government-protected monopolies, labor legislation whose rigidity is surpassed only by sub-Saharan Africa, and, above all, the absence of the rule of law. The result has been a socioeconomic system that is not productive or competitive enough.

Between the early '80s and the beginning of the new millennium, per capita GDP experienced zero growth. It has picked up a bit in the last three years, mostly due to spectacularly favorable international conditions. The small reduction in extreme poverty experienced lately is due to cash transfers that provide temporary relief. Millions have survived only through the informal economy (that employs a majority of the workforce), remittances from migrants, and bribery. A study by the private-sector Center for Economic Studies indicates that 34% of businesses paid $11.2 billion in bribes in 2004.

Mr. Fox's presidency has contributed to the resurgence of Mexican populism: He has undertaken no substantial economic reform, so millions of frustrated voters were ready to jeopardize political gains for the sake of populist expediency. It is true that the PRI blocked most attempts at reform in Congress these last six years -- but in a country where the presidency continues to be exceptionally powerful and the states depend on the federal government even for the collection of local taxes, that is only an excuse. The leadership just wasn't there.

According to the International Institute for Management Development, Mexico ranks 56th out of 60 countries in terms of competitiveness. To be competitive, a country must provide a secure legal environment in which companies have the expectation of profitable returns. Many companies have migrated from Mexico to China because of high transaction costs. Even when capital does come in (Mexico received a respectable $18 billion in FDI last year), the corporatist, mercantilist system holds back social mobility and productivity (which has grown at an average of only 1.2% a year in the last decade). Mr. Calderón must tackle a number of these bottlenecks if Mexico is to join the top of the league. The justice system, the tax code, labor laws, the pension scheme and the energy sector -- monopolized by a government-owned company responsible for keeping the industry undercapitalized -- need be opened up to serious market competition. All of this amounts to reforming the state. Quántica Consultores, a consulting firm, found that the two poorest quintiles of the population receive, in per capita terms, 21% of the benefits of government "social" spending while the top two quintiles get 40%.

When Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico, Montezuma mistook him for Quetzacoatl, the divine ruler of the ancient Toltecs who, according to legend, had disappeared. He paid for his mistake. Five centuries later, a majority of Mexican voters seem to have learned the lesson and take Mr. López Obrador for what he really is. Let us hope Mr. Calderón rewards them with a first-class package of reforms that makes sure Mr. López Obrador never comes within an inch of the Mexican presidency again.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hinchas extranjeros


Aca en Los Angeles se da el mismo fenomeno. Cuando jugaron Argentina y Brasil por las eliminatorias me fui con mi cuñado a un bar chileno en la zona latina. Decenas de hinchas con gorros, camisetas y demas insignias seguian el partido con la misma pasion que se vive en Buenos Aires o en Rio. Todos estos hinchas provenian de paises centroamericanos que casi no tienen chances de participar en un mundial: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. Y la rivalidad es tan intensa como la vivimos nosotros. "No nos ganan mas" le decia un guatemalteco a un desconsolado nicaraguense al final del partido en el que Argentina le gano a Brasil 3-1.

"Siempre hablamos de nosotros para referirnos a ellos (los argentinos). No nos damos cuenta de que no es nuestro país. Tampoco importa. Creo que si India alguna vez llega al Mundial y juega contra Argentina, posiblemente alentaré a Argentina", dice Debasish Dutta, un indio devenido argentino por mandato del fútbol. Para entenderlo, habrá que ponerse en los zapatos de Debasish. Fanático del fútbol hasta la médula le ha tocado nacer y vivir en un país cuya selección nacional no da pie con bola. ¿Tenía otra opción mejor que la argentina?

Los casos como el de Debasish son cada vez más. Existen cientos de naciones -habitadas por personas que aman al fútbol- que nunca van a los mundiales. Esos hinchas, adoptan un seleccionado de otro país y lo sienten como propio hasta el final de sus vidas, literalmente hablando. Tal es el caso de dos fanáticos de Argentina en Bangladesh. Jahangir Alam, un comerciante de 38 años, y Abdur Rauf, un sastre de 50 años, que murieron a causa de ataques cardíacos tras el partido entre Alemania y Argentina. No soportaron la emoción de los penales ni el dolor por la eliminación argentina.

Pero hay casos menos extremos. Rafiqul Islam, dueño de un local en la capital de Bangladesh, rebajó el té un 33% para los hinchas de Argentina. En lugar de cobrar 3 taka, pedía sólo 2 para los que alentaran a la selección albiceleste. El pequeño local cuenta con una TV en blanco y negro donde por las noches la gente se junta para ver los partidos del Mundial. Su negocio marcha bien, pero al contrario de subir los precios aprovechando las circunstancias, Rafiqul los bajó en beneficio de los hinchas argentinos. No ahonda en investigaciones sobre si los clientes dicen la verdad o mienten, cree en el fútbol es un acto de fe y lo aplica a su negocio.

En Nepal, la selección argentina es también siempre una de las favoritas. Maradona tiene mucho que ver con esto. Sushil Tapa colecciona desde hace años artículos sobre Diego y admite que lloró cuando acusaron al astro de consumir drogas. "Lo que los jugadores hagan fuera de la cancha no tiene importancia", dice con firmeza. Los nepaleses así como Sushil, rezan por la salud de Maradona y por el futuro de Argentina. Algunos locales incluso están convencidos de que nepaleses y argentinos tienen rasgos faciales similares.

En Calcuta, la segunda ciudad de la India, los seguidores locales de la selección argentina le ofrecen plegarias a sus jugadores. En varias ocasiones hicieron ceremonias con fuego invocando a dioses hindúes y abogando por la victoria argentina.

Pero sabemos que para ser un verdadero hincha argentino hay que tener una posición determinada con respecto a los máximos rivales, los brasileños. Pensar que esta rivalidad pueda entenderse más allá de las fronteras sudamericanas, es difícil de imaginar. Sin embargo, hay hinchas que entienden todo lo que hay que entender y además aquello que no tiene razón. Qué mejor ejemplo que el pacto que firmó un matrimonio hace unas semanas en el este de India. El marido, Probir Sanval, dejó por escrito que se comprometía a ayudar de por vida en la cocina si Argentina perdía con Brasil. Su mujer, menos osada, dijo que le compraría un pantalón y un sweater si los brasileros caían ante Argentina. Probir, un homeópata que durante el Mundial atendió a sus pacientes vestido con los colores de Argentina, confiesa que desde muy chico le gustaba el fútbol pero que cuando vio jugar a Maradona, se convirtió por completo. En las buenas y en las malas.

Y ahora tocó una mala. Tras la derrota con Alemania los hinchas argentinos en Bengala no podían creer lo que estaba pasando: su equipo se iba del Mundial. "El referí fue el responsable de la derrota" exclamaba Bhaswar Bannerjee, un ardiente hincha argentino. "Si hubiese dado el penal, mi equipo hubiese ganado ", agregaba. "Es imposible perder un partido después de haber jugado tan bien. Pero con 14 jugadores de Alemania (incluyendo a los 3 árbitros) jugando contra Argentina, la hazaña era difícil", se quejó Kashem. Ibrahim, el más enojado, iba más lejos: "Voy a cortar los cables de las casas de la zona. Si ya no puedo ver a Argentina jugar, tampoco quiero que otros vean jugar a los demás equipos".

Sin embargo, los ánimos mejoraron con la eliminación de Brasil al día siguiente. Entre los habitantes de algunas ciudades en Bangladesh, se volvía a la vida con la victoria francesa. Rinju, que se define como un gran fana de Argentina, declaraba al diario Xinhua Sunday: "Ya no me siento mentalmente tan deprimido, la derrota de Brasil me animó". Los medios de Bangladesh cubrieron con especial interés las reacciones locales tras las derrotas sudamericanas. En el diario Xinhua Sunday dicen que se realizaron lutos por Argentina y Brasil. El sábado fue el turno de los fans argentinos, quienes bajaron las banderas desplegadas en terrazas y balcones. El domingo, le tocó a las banderas verdes y amarillas.

recetas de Zuni Cafe


Salt of the earth
Judy Rodgers knows the transformative power of a most basic ingredient.

JUDY RODGERS has firm opinions on salt. Well, to be honest (and that's the only way she would have it), Rodgers has firm opinions on many, many things, including such disparate topics as the unthinking use of lemon as an all-purpose acidifier, why Kennebec and Winnemucca are the perfect potatoes for frying, and the tip-driven inequities between waiters' and cooks' take-home pay.

These aren't knee-jerk opinions. The chef and co-owner of San Francisco's beloved Zuni Cafe has thought through these issues quite thoroughly, breaking each down in her methodical way.

In fact, a thoughtful, painstaking approach to cooking is the very spirit that informs her restaurant. While other chefs may range far and wide, tracking down the latest new dish, ingredient or technique, Rodgers would rather just dig a little deeper.

Though roughly 60% to 70% of the dinner menu at Zuni changes every night, it is based on a relatively small number of dishes. And some, such as roast chicken, Caesar salad and house-cured anchovies, have been on the menu almost every night since she took over in 1987.

Don't mistake that as a sign of a kitchen on autopilot. Rodgers still views every one of those dishes as a work in progress, and she is constantly measuring, timing and evaluating whether there is a way each could be improved. As she puts it in her critically acclaimed "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook": "Making even a simple dish three times in two weeks can teach you more about cooking than trying three different dishes in the same period. Pay attention to the process of making it, and to the small and large differences in the results."

That could be Rodgers' mantra: Pay attention to the details of cooking and think about what is going on. "Build your database," is how she likes to put it.

Rodgers' most-discussed culinary theory regards the salting of meat. Almost every piece of beef, lamb, fish or poultry that comes into the Zuni kitchen immediately gets a light dusting of salt, and then is set aside for as long as several days to "cure."

"It is a part of the restaurant's personality," she says. "The flavor of Zuni Cafe is pre-salting, and if I can't pre-salt, I can't get the right flavor."

Rodgers says pre-salting does two things: It seasons the meat all the way through rather than just on the surface, and it changes the texture of the meat, making it moister and more tender — in much the same way brining does.

Ask for details and you'd better be careful what you wish for. Rodgers might just invite you to San Francisco for a day of on-the-spot experiments.



The basement cook

THERE are two kitchens at Zuni Cafe: one upstairs where dishes are finished, and one in the basement where all the initial preparations take place. The first, the one the customers see, is light-filled and airy with warm wood and tile surfaces. The second is emphatically not, but it seems to be where Rodgers spends most of her time.

The two are joined by a long, steep staircase, and in the course of a day Rodgers must sprint up and down it at least a dozen times. At 49, she still has an air about her of Berkeley in the '70s. Tall and willowy, she wears her hair waist-length and straight and is given to dressing in brightly colored tights and short skirts, even when she's cooking.

But there is nothing airy-fairy about Rodgers. She believes in getting right down to business.

For this day's experiments, she has lined up four chickens (two cut up for frying: one cured, one not; two whole for roasting, the same arrangement); three beef sirloins (one uncured, one cured in salt only, one cured with salt and coarse pepper); two chuck roasts for braising (one cured, one not); and five thick pork chops (variously cured, brined and marinated). You might expect that each type of meat would take a different dose of salt, but Rodgers has calculated that about 1 tablespoon of medium-grain sea salt per 4 1/2 pounds of meat is the perfect ratio for everything. Instead, she says, it's the time spent curing that varies, from a couple of hours to several days. This depends on the type of meat — chicken and pork are denser than beef or lamb so they take longer — and the size of the cut.

Rodgers' salting is different from traditional koshering in that kosher chickens are salted and cured for only an hour, then rinsed with water, whereas Zuni chickens cure for anywhere from one to three days. As for the salt, Rodgers prefers a sea salt that she finds in bulk bins in the Bay Area that is somewhat coarser than fine salt, but much finer than that which is usually sold as coarse. It has the consistency of cornmeal. If you're using very finely ground salt, just use slightly less.

You might think early salting would result in drier meat because the salt would draw out moisture. But the way it seems to work is that over time, the meat reabsorbs the moisture, carrying the salt with it. Furthermore, because that moisture is loaded with amino acids and sugars, the meat browns better and forms a better crust.

Rodgers knew none of that when she started pre-salting. She was just following the instructions of Georgette Descat, a Parisian chef and one of her culinary godparents.

By her own admission, Rodgers comes from a very nongastronomic family in St. Louis. As a junior in high school in 1973, she was anxious to spend a year abroad, preferably in France, as she had studied the language. A neighbor who was a fabrics chemist at Monsanto mentioned he knew someone in Rouen, a textile city, who might be willing to host her.

That someone turned out to be Jean Troisgros, who with his brother Pierre was among the pioneers of nouvelle cuisine, at their three-star restaurant Maison Troisgros. For someone with even the most nascent interest in food, this was like landing in heaven.

Indeed, Rodgers dates the beginning of her culinary life to the very first meal she enjoyed chez Troisgros — not a Michelin-starred extravaganza with its famous salmon and sorrel, but a very carefully made ham sandwich that Jean Troisgros fixed upon her arrival at 4 a.m.

"That was when I started paying attention to food," she says. "Before then I was someone who fueled efficiently. But there was no turning back after that ham sandwich."

Life at the Troisgros' wasn't all wine-poached truffles (though there were those too). Much more formative for Rodgers were the family's dinners prepared by their sister, Madeleine Troisgros Serraille, who served perfectly executed versions of classic French home cooking.

"Salmon and sorrel is wonderful, but nothing beats a great blanquette," Rodgers says.



Duck's versatility

AFTER the Troisgros experience, Rodgers' great teacher was Pepette Arbulo, who had a small cafe in the Landes region, a great area for ducks, but not much else.

"That was a real awakening for me," she says. "I never noticed that I was eating duck two or three times a day, because people there had explored for a hundred years every possible elaboration of what was possible to do with all of those damned ducks they had, and had eventually winnowed all of those possibilities down to a few of the best. It was a kind of communal distillation.

"It wasn't an attitude of 'Here is what we have to do because we're so isolated'; rather it was a daily exploration of what they could do with what they had."

Between the two French stays was a stint in Berkeley at Chez Panisse, working with an all-star crew including Alice Waters, Lindsey Remolif Shere, Mark Miller, Jean-Pierre Moullé, Deborah Madison and Jeremiah Tower. Rodgers learned from all of them, but the most important lesson may have come from her mother, who hardly cooked at all. She was an instructor in fashion design at Washington University, and when Rodgers was 8, she gave her her first sewing lessons.

"She taught me that there was a right way and a wrong way to lay out a pattern on a piece of fabric, and that if I laid out the pattern the wrong way, it would mess everything up. It didn't matter if it was a great pattern and great material," Rodgers says.

"It's the same thing with cooking. You can have great ingredients and a fabulous imagination, but if you screw up at any of the steps, it doesn't matter what you were working with or what you imagined."



Fried to perfection

WHICH brings us back to that kitchen full of meat. The first finished dish we taste, the fried chicken, is fabulous. It's the dish that brought her to national attention in the 1980s, when she was cooking at the little Union Hotel in Benicia, northeast of San Francisco. (Ruth Reichl, then critic for New West magazine, called it "the most perfect example of that dish I have ever encountered.")

At first it's hard to say whether that deliciousness is because of the quality of the meat — it's cured for only two to three hours — or the glorious crackling crust. But pull some of the meat from the center of each sample, and there is a definite difference — the texture is fine-grained, not stringy.

Things come into clearer focus with the braised beef. Cooked in a red wine reduction until it is nearly falling apart, the regular chuck tastes like boiled beef. The pre-salted sample has a fuller flavor. The pork chops, which the grill cook has let go a little too long, are slightly dried out, except for the one that was brined. It is still tender and moist, but the sugar in the brine makes the meat noticeably sweet when compared with the others.

Rodgers doesn't like that, and though the flavor of the brine was not on the day's agenda, she vows to change the recipe.

The three beef fillets, roasted quite rare, are dramatically different. The unsalted is fine — it's a nice piece of grass-fed beef — but the pre-salted has much better flavor and is firmer in texture, so it slices cleanly, rather than in rags. And a hint of black pepper seems to have been carried to the center of the one that was peppered as well as pre-salted.

It is the roast chicken that is the coup de grâce, though, and that is fitting. Zuni's roast chicken is so popular that the restaurant goes through 350 birds a week — each one roasted to order in the wood-fired oven.

You can tell the difference between the birds just by looking. The pre-salted chicken is a uniform golden color, whereas the other is more mottled, with some gold, some pale and even some black charred spots.

The difference in flavor is even more pronounced. The bird that was salted just before roasting tastes like, well, chicken — nothing special, and the texture is a little stringy.

The pre-salted chicken is a revelation: The flavor is full and deep. It's not salty at all, but has a profound chicken taste. The meat is moist and tender; the texture is downright buttery.

Sure, it's a roast chicken. But it's not just any roast chicken. "That is the taste of a Zuni chicken," Rodgers exclaims. "That is the taste of Zuni restaurant. This is what I've always wanted to do: Serve dishes that weren't just playful and amusing, but were keepers. I like keepers."





Zuni Cafe roast chicken with bread salad

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus 1 to 3 days standing time

Servings: 2 to 4

Note: This recipe is adapted from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers. From 1 to 3 days before serving, season the chicken. Begin preparing the bread salad up to several hours before serving.

Roast chicken

1 (2 3/4 - to 3 1/2 -pound) chicken

4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or sage, about 1/2 -inch long

About 2 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

About 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

2. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

3. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper, allowing about three-fourths teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but otherwise don't worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days.

4. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 475 degrees. (Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or as low as 450 degrees during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly.)

4. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Heat up the pan on the stove over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast-side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

5. Place the chicken in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn't, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoky, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking). Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on its size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to 1 hour.

6. When the chicken is done, lift it from the roasting pan and set it on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

7. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juices into the drippings.

8. Set the chicken in a warm spot (which may be your stove top) and leave it to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

9. Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

10. Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste — the juices should be extremely flavorful. The pan juices will be used to drizzle over the bread salad.

Bread salad and assembly

Generous 1/2 pound slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)

6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried currants

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or as needed

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered

1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part

2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water

A few handfuls of arugula, frisée or red mustard greens, carefully washed, dried and torn

Spoonful of pan juices from the roast chicken

1. Heat the broiler. Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust (reserve the top and side crusts to use as croutons in salads or soups). Brush the bread all over with olive oil.

2. Broil the bread chunks very briefly to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread over and crisp the other side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

3. Combine about one-fourth cup (4 tablespoons) of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. In a wide salad bowl, toss about one-fourth cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and taste again.

4. Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of warm water. Set aside.

5. While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and place them in the hot oven for a minute or two, just to warm through. Add them to the bowl of bread.

6. Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until softened. Don't let them color. Scrape this mixture into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again. Taste a few pieces of bread — a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If either is bland, add salt, pepper and/or a few drops of red wine vinegar, then toss well. Since the basic character of bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential.

7. Pile the seasoned bread in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the bread in the oven after you flip the chicken for the final time. Remove the bread when the chicken is done.

8. Tip the bread into the salad bowl. (It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle wads, and a few downright crispy ones.) Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette and fold well. Taste again.

9. Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter and nestle the chicken in the salad.

Each of 4 servings: 831 calories; 55 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 52 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 193 mg. cholesterol; 1,399 mg. sodium.



Roasted or grilled fillet of beef with black pepper


Total time: About 25 minutes, plus 1 to 2 days standing time

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: From Zuni Cafe. Begin preparing the fillet 1 or 2 days in advance. If you can find a whole fillet of beef of 5 to 6 pounds, it will serve 10 to 12 people.

Fillet of beef, 2 pounds or more, trimmed of fat

Salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1. Trim the meat of any thick layers of fat, leaving the thin streaks in place. These will melt as the meat cooks and be a vehicle for the pepper flavor. Leave the delicious, streaky "rope" of muscle that runs the length of the fillet attached, however tenuously, to the roast, but check for and remove large lumps of fat it might conceal.

2. Concerning the satiny "silver skin" that sheaths one face of the fillet: Where it is thin, soft and translucent, leave it intact. You won't notice this tender sinew once the meat is cooked. Where it is opaque and tough, near the fat end of the fillet, slide the tip of your knife just beneath the surface to remove a few thick strips of it. But don't bother being meticulous.

3. Season the trimmed fillet moderately overall with salt, sprinkling more heavily on the thick sections. We use a scant three-fourths teaspoon sea salt per pound of meat. Next roll the fillet in freshly, coarsely cracked black pepper. We use about 1 teaspoon per pound. To ensure even cooking, truss the fillet, one string every few inches. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.

4. About an hour before serving, heat the oven to 400 degrees or light a charcoal fire and remove the fillet from the refrigerator.

5. Sear on a hot grill or griddle, under a very hot broiler or, if somewhat awkwardly, curled in your largest skillet. For reference, take the temperature at the centers of both the thick and the thin ends of the fillet — they should be between 60 and 70 degrees. The meat will feel soft and limp. You can hold it for up to an hour this way before cooking.

6. To cook, place the seared fillet on a heavy, rimmed sheet pan in the oven or back on the grill over medium coals. If grilling, plan to turn the meat every 10 minutes or so. Whether roasting or grilling, start checking the doneness after 15 minutes. Check both ends. For a very rare fillet, remove the fillet from the heat when the center of the thick end registers 105 degrees (it will feel only barely firmer than before). For a very rosy medium rare, remove from the heat at about 115 degrees. For "just a little pink," cook to 125 degrees. At this point the tender muscle will begin to feel "flexed" firm. Cooking time will depend on the heat source and the thickness of the meat. A skinny fillet that was over 70 degrees to begin with may be very rare in less than 20 minutes.

7. If roasting a whole fillet, remember that the skinny end will cook faster, running about 10 degrees hotter than the fat end. This is convenient, if you want to offer a range of doneness. If you want the whole roast to emerge the same doneness, loosely wrap the skinny end with foil, shiny side out, when it tests about 95 degrees.

8. In any case, loosely tented, in a warm spot, the meat will continue cooking after you remove it from direct heat. Expect the temperature to increase about 10 degrees in 10 minutes. Although tenderness is not an issue with fillet, I think it has the best flavor if allowed to rest 10 to 15 minutes.

9. Because fillet is very tender, you can carve it as thinly or thickly as you like, but respect the mostly regular grain of the muscle. Don't remove the trussing strings on any part of the fillet that you don't intend to carve right away.

Each of 6 servings: 247 calories; 31 grams protein; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 95 mg. cholesterol; 463 mg. sodium.

*

Union Hotel fried chicken

Total time: 40 minutes, plus about 5 hours plus overnight standing time

Servings: 2 to 4

Note: This is the dish that first earned Judy Rodgers national attention back in the early 1980s, when she was cooking at the little Benicia Hotel northeast of San Francisco.

1 small (about 2 3/4 -pound) frying chicken

Freshly ground black pepper

Thyme

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sea salt

1 2/3 cups cold milk

Flour for dredging

About 1 cup peanut oil for frying

1. Cut the chicken into 10 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 4 breast pieces). Trim any gobs of fat, especially from the edges of the breast, they tend to burn. Save the back and fat for stock.

2. In a shallow bowl, toss the chicken parts with the pepper (allow about 1 1/2 teaspoons per pound of chicken), thyme leaves (about 1 teaspoon thyme leaves per pound), and sea salt and toss well. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

3. After about 2 1/2 hours, rinse off the salt in cold running water. Try to keep as much of the pepper and thyme as you can (the pepper and thyme will tend to cling). Drain the chicken well and place in a baking dish just large enough to hold all of the chicken in a single crowded layer. Add cold milk to barely cover. Stir to coat all of the chicken and spread the pieces in a single layer.

4. Leave the chicken at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring a couple of times to encourage even de-salting.

5. Dredge the chicken in flour, lifting the chicken pieces directly from the milk so they are very wet and will hold a lot of flour. Make sure the skin is neatly stretched over the muscle in a natural position. Tap lightly to shake loose stray flour and place on a cooling rack on a baking sheet so that the pieces are barely touching. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered.

6. Before cooking, bring the chicken to room temperature to speed up cooking and encourage even browning.

7. In a cast iron pan, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. (As you add the chicken, the oil level will rise. If the chicken is ever more than half submerged, ladle out some of the oil.) Test for temperature by dipping the edge of the chicken into the oil — it should sizzle modestly but immediately.

8. Add the chicken pieces, tapping off excess flour before placing them in the oil. Don't crowd or overlap the chicken pieces. If the pan is not large enough, fry the chicken in two batches. Don't worry that the coating is sticky. Start with the thighs, then the drumsticks, then wings and upper breasts, and finish with the breast tips. This is the rough order of how long it will take them to cook.

9. Adjust the heat slightly as necessary to maintain a discreet sizzle. If the oil gets too hot, reduce the flame slightly. You can also add a few tablespoons of cool oil to the pan, being sure not to pour it onto the chicken pieces. If a piece is browning unevenly — say the tip of the drumstick is browning too fast — or only part of a piece is pale, you can prop the piece against the side of the pan so that the done part sits above the oil, or, so long as all the pieces have set a good crust, you can prop one piece against another so that only the part you want to keep browning is submerged.

10. Use tongs to turn the chicken, not a fork, which would pierce the skin. Turn when the cooked side is pale gold, about 9 minutes. Don't assume that all pieces will brown evenly — the pan may not transfer heat evenly throughout.

11. Brown the other side in the same way, then turn back over one or two more times to refine the browning of both sides. The curing helps the chicken retain moisture, so there is little harm in leaving the pieces in the hot oil an extra minute or two to get the tastiest, crispiest golden crust.

12. Set the chicken on paper towels to drain. Don't stack it — you just made a perfect crust, don't let the steam destroy it. Serve immediately.

Each of 4 servings: 612 calories; 45 grams protein; 27 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 35 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 166 mg. cholesterol; 532 mg. sodium.

In the World of Fine Wine, There'll Always Be a France



By ERIC ASIMOV


PERMIT me to speak briefly in praise of France.

Yes, France, the greatest wine producing nation in the world.

Don't look so shocked. I've heard about the Judgment of Paris, the famous blind tasting in which French and American wines went glass-to-glass in 1976, and the French lost. I know all about the greatness of California cabernets and shiraz from Australia, and I understand that the French lag in the clever global marketing of instantly recognizable brands of wine.

Nonetheless, no country comes close to matching France, either in setting demanding standards for its wine industry or in producing such a variety of consistently excellent wine. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone go without saying, but those famous regions are simply the most visible. From Jurançon in the southwest to Jura in the east, from Nantes on the Atlantic to Alsace on the German border, France makes wines that are endlessly compelling and should be endlessly inspiring.

Why is it necessary for me to state what should be obvious? Because a prevailing attitude toward France and its wines, in the New World at least, seems stuck somewhere between pity and glee for an industry supposedly rotting from within.

New World producers and journalists like to jeer at the sacred French notion of terroir as a myth constructed to preserve French status in the industry, and they laugh at the rigidity of the French appellation rules, which dictate what French growers can plant, where they can plant it, and how they should tend the vines. The European Union's recent decision to spend millions of dollars in an effort to diminish a European wine glut by digging up vineyards and turning excess wine into ethanol contributed to a confused perception of industry-wide crisis. The perception springs from an oversimplification of the French wine business, and no doubt a bit of wishful thinking.

The latest chorus of American gloating was heard around the time of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Paris tasting, even as many of these same gloaters were lining up to pay record prices for the heralded 2005 vintage of Bordeaux. When French winemakers were understandably reluctant to participate in yet another re-enactment in May, American wine writers were quick to play the cowardice card. And when the event feebly played out, and the Americans won again, writers exulted.

"Sacré bleu! Make that red, white and blue," Linda Murphy wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle, which can perhaps be forgiven for boosterish support of an industry in its backyard. In maybe the unkindest blow of all, Hollywood is apparently considering a movie version of the original event, based on the book "Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine" (Scribner, 2005), by George M. Taber.

Maybe it's payback for years of supercilious French sneering at the American wine industry. Or maybe Americans just need to lash out to pump themselves up with competitive energy, like football players pounding their lockers in an adrenalin-fueled frenzy. Any way you look at it, American wine partisans have got themselves a punching bag and they call it France.

Business-oriented types look at the French wine industry as old and tired. Through rigidity, bureaucracy and lack of creativity, they say, once-dominant France clings to old and outdated ways, and can no longer compete with modern wine powers like Australia, the United States, Chile and South Africa.

Those sympathetic to France heave a sigh, shrug their shoulders and say, What can you do? Meanwhile, some of the harshest critics are among the French themselves, particularly growers and winemakers in less prestigious areas, or entrepreneurs who feel hamstrung by French wine laws.

Make no mistake. France's troubles, as far as the wine business goes, are many. Consumption at home has dropped precipitously as the culture that once prized the long lunch and the arduous construction of a meal has taken a route toward convenience foods, quickly gobbled. The quest for productivity in a globalized economy, no doubt, has also taken its toll on daytime consumption, while stricter drunken-driving laws have also had an effect. Troubled fortunes in the wine economies of Bordeaux and the Languedoc are well known, if not well understood. And France's share of the wine export market has tumbled as well.

What's crucial to understand is that France has two entirely different wine economies, and one should not be confused with the other. The first produces oceans of cheap, occasionally palatable wine, sold for immediate consumption under lowly appellations, like plain Bordeaux or Beaujolais, for example, rather than the more prestigious and more specific St.-Julien or Juliénas. This industry is indeed in a deep crisis, with many growers hurting badly. Historically, much of this wine was for domestic consumption, and this segment has taken the biggest hit as the market has shrunk. Producers who would like to sell these wines overseas say they feel hampered because they cannot compete against the cleverly branded bottles of New World producers, who often use winemaking techniques unavailable to French producers.

The other industry makes the middle to high-end wines, those sold around the world, consumed in restaurants and reviewed in publications like Wine Spectator. Producers like Sylvain Pitiot, who makes the seductive, voluptuous Clos de Tart, a grand cru Burgundy, are doing exceptionally well, regardless of how many gallons of French wine the European Union wishes to convert to fuel. Like Clos de Tart, much of the high-quality end of the business is prospering.

In many ways, the French A.O.C. laws, for appellation d'origine contrôlée, which protect quality at the top, are simultaneously responsible for the demise of the low end. In other words, the law that insures the meaning of St.-Julien by dictating what the wine is made of and how it is labeled can stifle the producer of ordinary Bordeaux, who might want to legally blend some syrah into the cabernet sauvignon, or call the wine by a cute, memorable brand name — not Yellow Tail, but maybe Red Head. But while a producer in the Languedoc might wish he could pull out all his grenache and replace it with syrah, a Burgundy producer like Mr. Pitiot would be appalled at the idea of somebody wasting precious pinot noir territory by replacing it with merlot.

It may be that both ends of the French wine industry can only work at cross purposes, with the Old World tradition of exalting specific place names struggling against the New World merchandising power of the brand name. For France to try to accommodate the low end by compromising the standards that have insured its high-end dominance might in the end be catastrophic for the whole industry.

"Europeans should realize they can't play that New World game," said Neal Rosenthal, an American wine importer who is devoted to the concept of terroir. "They're better off protecting what they have and making sure people better understand the reasons behind it."

Not that the standards can't be beneficially modified. In a recent column in Decanter, a British consumer magazine, Michel Bettane, the French wine critic, suggested that St.-Émilion would be a fine place to plant chardonnay, which is currently not permitted under A.O.C. rules. Maybe so. And as in any bureaucracy, a stultifying rigidity often makes rational decision making difficult. But on the whole, the A.O.C. rules do far more to protect greatness than to prevent it.

While a further decline on the bottom end of the industry will have a tremendous social and human cost in France, it won't undermine the greatness of French wines. It's possible to imagine that France will be joined at the top by countries like Italy and Spain, which produce distinguished, singular wines like Barolo and Rioja, and are working hard to improve the quality in distinctive regions that have long been ignored.

It's harder to imagine New World countries like the United States and Australia reaching the same pinnacle. Their leading wines, whether made of cabernet, chardonnay, shiraz or pinot noir, will always be measured against the French, and regardless of the blind tasting here or there, few people really take seriously the notion that the New World wines will surpass the French reference points on a large scale. What's more important about New World wines is how they have improved their quality on the low-to-middle ranks, to the point where today it is possible to say that very few bad wines are produced.

No, France will always set a standard, barring some sort of colossal, self-destructive move, like gutting its appellation rules. Should that happen, Americans and the rest of the world would then have great cause to jeer.