Robert D. McFadden, writing for the NYT:
But it was as a columnist that Mr. Baker made his name. Based at
first in Washington, he recalled that he had to feel his way in
the new genre of spoof and jape. “Nobody knew what the column was
going to be,” he told the writer Nora Ephron. “I didn’t. The Times
But soon he was doing what he called his “ballet in a telephone
booth,” creating in the confined space of 750 words satirical
dialogues, parodies and burlesques of politicians and the whirling
capital circus — then stoking the fires of the antiwar and civil
rights struggles of the 1960s and the Watergate scandal that
forced President Richard M. Nixon from office in 1974.
Baker retired at the end of 1998, but I was a regular Times reader in the 1990s, and loved his column. Such a distinctive voice and deft touch. McFadden cites a 1975 column, “Francs and Beans”, spoofing a report from the Times’s restaurant critic on a $4,000, 31-course meal. Here’s an excerpt:
The dish is started by placing a pan over a very high flame until
it becomes dangerously hot. A can of Heinz’s pork and beans is
then emptied into the pan and allowed to char until it reaches the
consistency of hardening concrete. Three strips of bacon are fried
to crisps, and when the beans have formed huge dense clots firmly
welded to the pan, the bacon grease is poured in and stirred
vigorously with a large screw driver.
This not only adds flavor but also loosens some of the beans
from the side of the pan. Leaving the flame high, I stirred in
a three‐day‐old spaghetti sauce found in the refrigerator,
added a sprinkle of chili powder, a large dollop of Major
Grey’s chutney and a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to make
the whole dish rise.
Beans with bacon grease is always eaten from the pan with a
tablespoon while standing over the kitchen sink. The pan must be
thrown away immediately.
This, from the man perhaps best known as the host of PBS’s “Masterpiece Theatre”.
★ Wednesday, 23 January 2019