Cookbook writing is a lot of work, y’all.
Novelists have it easy. All they have to do is show up in an attractively rumpled jacket with a working Sharpie. A scowl indicating Deep Thinking is nice, but not essential.
However, if you’re a food writer, you have to show up with snacks, charm and the ability to courteously answer even the most wacko questions, often about food you didn’t write about – such as the signing when I was offering samples of deviled eggs and got asked if they were vegan.
Also, I doubt that anyone has ever invited John Grisham to observe their trial and, when he showed up, expected him to be their defense attorney. Something similar happened to a writer I know. She was invited to a dinner party, and when she arrived, she found out the host expected her to prepare the meal.
Food writing lacks the perks enjoyed by top chefs, such as wearing garishly colored shoes without being mocked and trapping staff in the walk-in for grins.
I need a supplemental line of work, one that might draw media attention. One that would make me an Internet sensation and turn me into a meme (although many my age think that word ought to be capitalized and hyphenated, and refer to a grandmother).
I could be just like Salt Bae.
Salt Bae is riding the wave of an Instagram video into steak house stardom. In the video, the Turkish restaurateur (real name: Nusret Gokce), dressed in mirrored glasses, slicked-back hair and a snug white T-shirt, looks like he belongs in a mash-up of “West Side Story” and “Chicago.”
He stands at an outdoor table and uses a huge knife to peel steak from a large bone with oddly sexy strokes. Then comes the big finish: He holds a hand aloft, elbow bent and wrist flexed as if making shadow animals to amuse small children. His fingers flick salt toward the meat.
The whole act is a little more than a minute long.
Now, people are stampeding to his new Manhattan restaurant to see the Salt Bae show, which includes $130 steaks. According to The New York Times, diners hold their phones high to get their own videos of Salt Bae as he works the room, in costume from the video, recreating his famous move over their slabs of beef.
Merely watching online isn’t good enough. If you don’t Facebook, tweet, Instagram or Snapchat it yourself, it didn’t happen, right?
In case Salt Bae takes a night off, there is enormous artwork of the man in mid-sprinkle on the restaurant’s walls. But that wouldn’t be sufficient for the hordes holding cameras. They want the performance, to see the chandelier plummet toward the audience or a real helicopter churning on stage.
Salt Bae has built a following on something people have been doing all by themselves for centuries: salting meat.
If I could just find the right thing …
I have it: Napkin Bae.
Diners put napkins in their laps all this time, but so prosaically, without even thinking about the art of it. They have not been doing it with Internet-attracting elan. It’s a need they didn’t know they had, and I’m here to fill it.
Figure skating offers moves that easily could translate to the napkin arts, and I’ve been studying them carefully during the recent Olympics.
Salt Bae is a one-trick pony of salting, but I’ve settled on three techniques that, well practiced, should make my Napkin Bae online career blow up faster than a video of puppies kissing kittens hugging ducklings.
My dream of becoming viral will be finally fulfilled.
Triple axel: Hold napkin in one hand and twirl it rapidly three times, lowering the napkin exactly at the end of the third turn gracefully into the awestruck diner’s lap. Step back with a flourish and bow.
Twizzle: With both arms extended overhead, hold napkin horizontally between thumb and forefinger of each hand. Stand behind diner, spin once, lower arms on each side of diner and drape the napkin. Avoid dropping a napkin on a diner’s head or knocking off their glasses.
Quad: The ultimate, camera-ready technique for tables of four or more. Take a napkin, spin with arm extended, place on lap; repeat around the entire table. Bow, and wait for room to stop whirling.
Get your phones ready, folks.
Debbie Moose is a freelance food writer and cookbook author. She can be reached at debbiemoose.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.