New York Press' Gut Instinct: Food on MyFace

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It's with great sadness and a heavy heart that I make this announcement: After resisting for too many years to count, I’ve given up the fight and joined Facebook.

“Why now?” you wonder. “You’ve ignored my friend request since the dawn of social networking. I thought you were a Luddite.”

Honey bees, here’s the answer: I need you. I’m currently writing a book on craft beer. In a nutshell, it’s about how our great, drunken land is undergoing its largest seismic shift in imbibing beer since Prohibition. I’m reporting on the fermenting revolution, from inky stouts aged in bourbon barrels to ales inoculated with wild yeasts. It’s an epic undertaking, one causing me no shortage of gray hairs and hangovers. But that’s hardly the biggest headache.

“Are you on Facebook?” my publishing house’s acquisitions editor asked me. “What about Twitter?” I shook my head. Wrong answer. “For promotions, you’ll need to get on Facebook and start tweeting,” he said, working his thumbs on a phantom BlackBerry. “These days, you have to social-network.” His words hung in the air, as thick and ominous as San Francisco morning fog.

I do not cotton kindly to orders and authority. For instance, I despise the pageantry surrounding pre-flight screenings. Removing my shoes, sliding my computer from my carry-on, sealing toothpaste in a Ziploc bag: It’s security as theater starring you, John Q. Public. And me. Last week, I was flying back from Kentucky when a badge-adorned TSA agent pulled me aside.

“Come with me,” she said, bringing my red bag to the bomb-screening station. She rooted around my dirty underwear and retrieved Colby cheese and cured ham. “It’s ham. Kentucky’s famous for it,” I said, the sort of smartass comment that my girlfriend fears will put me in the pokey. The agent swabbed my foodstuffs—is culinary weaponry al-Qaeda’s insidious new tactic?—then sent me away. I was not told to have a nice day.

Long story short, I didn’t want to join Facebook. I have enough time-wasters in my day, like cleaning the toilet or rubbing my dog’s stomach. Nonetheless, I did want to write a tome. To facilitate one book, I signed up for the other. Within minutes, my inbox was flooded with friend requests and requests from people who weren’t my friends. I accepted. Soon, I was scanning friends’ unfiltered opinions on Lost, Shake Shack burgers and mass transit. Reading that virtual wall felt like taking a No. 2 in a public toilet, reading strangers’ helterskelter scribblings. If this is what it means to be a modern-day journalist, I thought, overwhelmed, then I best become a short-order cook.

Wading through the wordy muck, I finally found a pearl: My friend Maya was hosting a Saturday barbecue. Facebook, you have redeemed yourself! I love barbecues of all sorts, but I love Maya’s best. Her boyfriend, Eugene, hails from Trinidad, meaning their grillfests involve piquant jerk pork, peppery chicken and foreign-export Guinness, which has a decidedly richer, more bitter profile. I instantly RSVP’d. Dinner commenced at 6 p.m. At 8 p.m., I called to let Maya know that my girlfriend and I were in transit.

Long story short, I didn’t want to join Facebook. I have enough time-wasters in my day, like cleaning the toilet or rubbing my dog’s stomach.

“Well, the food won’t be ready yet,” she said. “No problem.” After all, you can’t rush genius cooking. “What time will food come off the grill, like 9 p.m.?” “Maybe,” she replied. Her tone was as certain as a BP oil official insisting the Gulf spill was under control. I should’ve taken this as a warning. Instead, I said, “Sounds good.”

We arrived at 9 p.m. The only edibles were calamari and Utz chips, not exactly my favorite flavor combination. “We’re a little behind schedule,” Maya said, busily chopping vegetables. “That’s OK,” I said. “I’ll just eat… some beer.” I cracked a Red Stripe. I drank it. Then I drank another. Nine p.m. gave way to 10 p.m., which quickly, blurrily became 11 p.m. The grill had yet to relinquish its meaty treasures. Understandably, the hosts were operating on Caribbean time.

“I think the meat will be ready soon,” I told my tired girlfriend. “I’ll just drink another beer. Let’s wait a little longer.” With waiting, there comes a point when you’ve invested too many minutes to turn back. Think about hailing a cab after waiting half an hour for a tardy bus. Giving up is admitting failure, that you’ve wasted your precious seconds. But cutting losses can be a victory too.

“Let’s head home,” my girlfriend said, gathering her bags and her wisdom. “We’ll get you something to eat.”

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