Crack interview journalist, Charlie Michaels, checks in from the trenches of the Portland food world. This is, of course, a spoof. Her report:
Ever since Edward Chumleigh-Jensen-Smythe-Haskell and his wife, Tanya, exploded on the Portland dining scene a few months ago, the cognoscenti in our fair burg have been all atwitter. The reason: an exciting new definition of food is at hand. Eddie, as his friends call him, is a golden-haired, second-generation local at age 19. Tanya, an hour-glass shaped beauty a few years younger than her hub, is also a native, named after Portland’s most notorious has-been Olympian turned drunken thug and hapless boxer. Together, the two have taken the town–and the nation–by storm with startlingly fresh ideas about what we can and should be putting in our mouths and swallowing.
The launchpad for their creative endeavor, dubbed BOUNTYWITHOUTBOUNDARIES or (“BWB”), was the space out back of the Union 76 station on West Burnside at Sixth Avenue. There–despite strong gasoline fumes–friends, family and an ever-growing circle of friends of friends, friends of friends of friends and the occasional homeless dude looking to score a fix gathered to partake in the Chumleigh-Jensen-Smythe-Haskells’ bold crusade to radically reorient our views of what we call food. Among the innovative offerings from the early days were sandwiches made with actual Oregon coast sand, locally produced hop pellets and a pureed fish bone whip crafted entirely from the spinal columns of hook-and-line caught wild Chinook salmon.
The writer was fortunate to have caught up with the young food revolutionaries for a chat during a brief lull in their maelstrom of a schedule. When we spoke, Edward had just returned from a London-New York-Des Moines swing where he was interviewed by editors of several national food publications, including “Grub and Grog,” “Gourmand” and “Eating Good.”
Right after our discussion, Edward and Tanya forked east and west, respectively, to pitch publishers their newly-completed paean to the BWB movement. Entitled “Eat Shit And Die,” the masterpiece checks in at a hefty 850 pages. The first half comprises a detailed exploration of the philosophy underlying the movement. Included is an exhaustive account of Edward’s early travels with his parents, both former Rajneeshees who adopted a form of rigorous nomadic asceticism after the collapse of the infamous Eastern Oregon commune. Although the painstaking narrative is slow going, the patient reader’s reward is a clear understanding–and admiration–of the charismatic young couple who have helped us learn to enjoy goat saliva, live earth worms and Douglas fir shavings as part of our diet. The second half of the book is a collection of notable BWB formulations (the word “recipes,” I am told, is a no-no) which are startlingly easy to prepare even if some of the ingredients are a bit difficult to obtain.
Highlights from the interview:
Would you mind if I called you Eddie?
EH: I wish I could say yes, but no. It’s, like, ya know, we are trying to do something special and kinda unique. . .refocusing people in terms of what is considered food. So, um, like, I feel like I need to be given some respect for the unique and special kinda thing we are doing. But, you can call me Ed.
TH: I’d like to be called Tanya.
Right. Understood. I suppose the obvious question is where did the BWB idea originate?
EH: When you say “originate,” I’m not really sure what you mean. . .because the revolution we have started was totally my. . .er, our idea. But, um, like, ya know, we did get some inspiration from other sources.
EH: Well, um, I’d really rather not say.
TH: Oh, Eddie, don’t be so secretive. We were hangin’ out at some friends’ house last New Year’s doing bong hits through some really righteous champagne we stole from Eddie’s parents and caught an episode of “The Jetsons” on Cartoon Network. And, like, they were eating these pills for food instead regular food, so that got us thinking. Cuz, like, we were looking for an idea that would make us mucho coin so we could, like, retire when we were 30 and travel around a lot or just sorta hang out and watch TV whenever we felt like it.
EH: And now that she’s spilled it, when, um, I was moving around all the time with the raisins for a few years after the commune thing had blown up, we pretty much ate whatever we could find out in the desert or on the beach or wherever we pitched the teepee. The raisins had pretty much given all their money to the Bagman dude and we were pretty broke. And, well, like, ya know, there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t so bad. This is all off the record, though, ya know.
Do you consider yourselves food revolutionaries in the same sense as the so-called deconstructionists, such as Ferran Adrià of El Bulli or Grant Ashcatz at Alinea?
EH: I hate to, like, sound rude, but, ya know, those guys are nothing special as far as I’m concerned. I’d probably give them credit as being above average line cook types, but that’s about it. I mean, well, um, ya know, they’re just doing fancy stuff with regular food. Anybody with a microwave and a blast freezer could do it. Their dishes don’t compare philosophically or in terms of originality with what we are doing.
Have you ever actually eaten at either of these restaurants?
EH: No time. We’re busy building a unique and special empire here. Ever since I was a kid, I knew I had a special mission on this earth and, like, um, ya know, I have been working ever since to keep my focus and be, like, a leader and a teacher, ya know, kinda like jesus.
What about your detractors, members of the food community and some others who say you are an arrogant, obnoxious, self-indulgent little bastard?
TH: That’s, like, so unfair. If they only knew Eddie like I do. He’s not obnoxious.
EH: They can eat my dirt, like my customers who pay me lots of money do. Instead of criticizing me, they should be thanking me for showing them the way out of complacency and sameness. I deserve their gratitude and respect. I know those people are really jealous of what we have created and our success. I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of what we are doing and how special and unique it is.
Rumors of investor upset and financial trouble in the BWB world have been circulating recently. Are the rumors true or false?
TH: Like, where are you hearing this garbage? Are you, like, getting this on one of those pathetic little foodie websites? Those people are such, like, total losers. They aren’t even hip enough to get into a BWB event, so what the hell do they know?
EH: The investors still love me, er. . .us. Everything is, um, well, fine financially. We are planning some changes in our offerings, but that’s related to our chef’s recent trip through the back country of Iceland and around the Shetland Islands, and he wants to showcase some of the special foods he experienced on the trip. The changes have nothing to do with any financial problems despite, um, ya know, what some people who are out to get me might be saying.
Can you share a little of the new menu?
EH: Well, um, one thing I will. It’s deeply thematic in addition to being unique and special. Definitely attuned to my. . .er, our vision. It involves a super-chilled, irregularly shaped flat piece of stark white marble for service. On top, there will be small, stark white mounds of snow and salt, surrounding a small square of stark white raw seal blubber. We have been working really, really hard to pair the crystalline structure of the two or three different types of snow and salt we want to use to achieve a magical symmetry on the plate and palate. Most of our snow is coming from different peaks in the Cascades. We are getting the salt from our friend Jim Dixon who is local. This dish totally rocks–totally magical and amazing. Our original working title was “Stark White,” but we are probably going to change it to something a little more original like, “The Crystalline Entity.” Our customers and the New York press are going to love it.
It does sound unique and very BWB. Last question since your personal escorts are looking at me and making little slashing motions across their throats. . .if someone new wants to attend a BWB gathering how can that be done?
EH: Well, um, ya know, I’m not going to give out all that information here. Let me just say that if you are interested in coming to one of our events, send an e-mail to me at [email protected] along with a résumé, recent financial statement and a paragraph or two about why you would like to attend. Our people will get back to you.
Any parting words?
TH: Thanks for the props, Charlie.
EH: That’s off the record, ya know.