American Studies --
Posted 14 February 2005 - 12:07 AM
Did graduate work in American Studies have any positive influence on your food journalism career?
If so, how? If not, what of value did you take away from it?
Posted 14 February 2005 - 01:18 PM
Posted 15 February 2005 - 12:12 PM
I think interdisciplinariness is a good thing for a critic -- the best ones, like the late Lester Bangs, or (perhaps overreaching a bit) the LA Times's Pulitzer-winning Dan Neil, integrate disparate sources, enriching their work, increasing its importance, even.
What non-food or non-cuisine cultural influences inspire you?
Posted 15 February 2005 - 08:58 PM
There's no doubt that well-roundedness is a wonderful, enriching thing, and I am impressed by your selection of Lester Bangs, the most fascinating of rock-and-roll writers. I love music, mostly old-timey blues, jazz and country, and old prehistoric rock and rhythm and blues, and even gospel. If you start with Bob Dylan and work backwards through his musical influences, you get a pretty good idea of my interests. I love history and fiction, from Dickens and Tolstoy through Raymond Chandler, Graham Greene and Thomas Berger to Alan Furst and Tony Hillerman. I love movies, though my movie knowledge largely stops at at 1991 when I became a parent and started reviewing restaurants. I like sports, and I've been doing kokushi-ryu jujitsu and tomiki aikido for the last six years. It's become a critical part of my loife
Parenthood and family life, of course, is tremendously important in shaping my time and my thinking, although I won't bore you all bragging about my kids. But as they say, you can't imagine life as a parent before you have kids, and you can't remember how you lived without them.
Aren't you sorry you asked?
Posted 16 February 2005 - 11:21 PM
I continue on a life-long search for congruence between rock music and cuisine -- by and large fruitless, but not unpleasant. Have you found any such music/food congruence?
And, 1991 -- a very good year for children (my example being my own now-13-year-old son). I imagine most eGulletaires would love to hear about yours. (I know I would!)
Posted 17 February 2005 - 09:13 AM
From one of your answers in another thread, I saw that you moved into food writing once you were on staff at the Times. I wonder, though, how you made the transition from graduate school to journalism. Did you go to graduate school with the intention of becoming a journalist?
I know it's a little off topic from food, but becoming a journalist seems to have put you in the position to become a food writer.
Posted 17 February 2005 - 03:04 PM
Martial arts has led me to some of my best friends, each passionate about food and wine. We dine together regularly, secure in the knowledge that if one of us screws up the cooking, the others will simply beat him up.
My kids, Jack and Peter, are great fun to hang out with and eat with. My wife, Deborah, and I are always intrigued by how different their tastes are -- hardwired into their personalities -- yet, at different times in their lives, each has been remarkably open to trying new foods. At 14 and 13, they haven't shown much interest in wine, but we've done some great root beer tastings.
Posted 17 February 2005 - 03:10 PM
I actually had zero intention of becoming a journalist. My father worked for Newsday for 40 years, and I, somewhat contrarily, was determined to do something different. But in grad school -- I was in the American Studies program there -- I realized that I was not going to be a top academic and decided I needed to earn a living. Having had a great liberal arts education, I realized I was perfectly prepared for absolutely nothing. So, recalling an entire childhood of sitting at dinner, listening to my father's stories about newspapers (he was of the generation called newspapermen, not journalists), I figured I knew enough to get a job somewhere. Which I did, at the Chicago Sun-Times, where I stayed about a year before I came to The Times.
When people ask me how you get a job writing about food, I'm always at a loss, because everybody's situation is so serendipitous. All I can think to say is, whereever you are, start writing and keep writing, and hope for the best.