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David Foster Wallace on Lobsters


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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 08:41 AM

Oh, I'm so glad you brought this up!

Along with the Ruhlman piece on Keller and the piece on debunking Reidel (sorry -- don't know the author), my recent favorites from the magazine would certainly include the one to which you refer here:

Personal favorites?  Generally I like the pieces that terrify me, the ones that I know are pushing the envelope, the ones that I know some people will just hate.  The David Foster Wallace piece on lobster comes to mind, because it was such a great piece of writing, but also so out there. 

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I agree that it was a great piece of writing, but also a challenging one, sure to bring out some real anger (which, of course, it did). Finally, it seems to me that it was a decisive declaration by you that "This is Not Your Auntie's Gourmet, Friend."

Can you talk about the in-house conversations that attended the decision to publish that piece and those that followed its publication? If there were some real wing-dinger letters to the editor that you didn't publish, of course we'd love to hear about those! :biggrin:
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#2 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 08:53 AM

Oh, I'm so glad you brought this up!

Along with the Ruhlman piece on Keller and the piece on debunking Reidel (sorry -- don't know the author), my recent favorites from the magazine would certainly include the one to which you refer here:

Personal favorites?  Generally I like the pieces that terrify me, the ones that I know are pushing the envelope, the ones that I know some people will just hate.  The David Foster Wallace piece on lobster comes to mind, because it was such a great piece of writing, but also so out there. 

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I agree that it was a great piece of writing, but also a challenging one, sure to bring out some real anger (which, of course, it did). Finally, it seems to me that it was a decisive declaration by you that "This is Not Your Auntie's Gourmet, Friend."

Can you talk about the in-house conversations that attended the decision to publish that piece and those that followed its publication? If there were some real wing-dinger letters to the editor that you didn't publish, of course we'd love to hear about those! :biggrin:

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The Reidel story was written by Daniel Zwerdling (the NPR reporter with the wonderfully cracked voice). Loved that piece too.

As for DFW, we published the best letters. I'm a big believer that letters sections are only good when they're filled with negative feedback. Who wants to read endless congratulatory stuff? It's just no fun.

The in-house conversations were deep, on-going, intense. Including the fact that at one point DFW wanted to pull the piece because I wanted to tone back some of the pro-PETA stuff. In the end we compromised and he got to say that I wanted to tone it down in one of the footnotes. But I'll admit that there was a point when I thought I'd be insane to publish the piece and Jocelyn Zuckerman, who was DFW's editor on that, just came into my office on an hourly basis and insisted that we'd be insane not to. And, I have to say, in our post-mortem, we were all sorry that we'd wimped out on the art. We should have given it a much stronger treatment. I plead guilty to that; I just didn't want to offend people unnecessarily. I was wrong.

#3 Vinfidel

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 02:37 PM

can you please post a link to the debunking riedel article

also for the lobster one

when did it get published?

i get gourmet magazine but maybe here in canada it takes a long time so i did not yet get the new issue?!

ruth, have to say i loved you articles when i lived in LA and almost at the same time as you i moved to new york from my native montreal

all in all i think that the new york reviews you really did a great job to light the food scene

#4 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 03:29 PM

can you please post a link to the debunking riedel article

also for the lobster one

when did it get published?

i get gourmet magazine but maybe here in canada it takes a long time so i did not yet get the new issue?!

ruth, have to say i loved you articles when i lived in LA and almost at the same time as you i moved to new york from my native montreal

all in all i think that the new york reviews you really did a great job to light the food scene

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Both the lobster and Riedel articles were August of 2004. I can't get you a link to them, but I could send you a copy of the issue.

Montreal - now there's a great food city. Have you been back recently? I just fell in love with it on my recent visits.

#5 Vinfidel

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:32 AM

hi ruth, i have gourmet archives for many years so i will go back and check august 2004

i am now back living in montreal but still travel to nyc, hudson valley, and finger lakes a lot

this is still the most romantic city in north america but i am sad to say that except for a few restos the food does not do that much for me any more

not to say the food has gotten worse, on the contrary much better than 10 years ago, probably now at its peak ever

so i get my fix when i travel for things like ethnic foods (japanese, turkish, indian, korean, vietnamese, cambodian we do not do good here!) but french and italian we are very very good. no good sushi here as well.

however, the city is too small of a market to support many many great restos but that atmosphere and bon vivant attitude makes this less important. we like to eat and drink and party here, it is the culture

also, according to our local expert Lesley Chestermint, the resto scene in QUEBEC CITY (our capitol) is even better than montreal. i can believe this since there is a lot of old and new money now there and if you think montreal is a beautiful old city, quebec is even better, like nowhere else on this continent.

when you come here again please post a note, we would love to share with you our best local secret treasures!

#6 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:38 AM

hi ruth, i have gourmet archives for many years so i will go back and check august 2004

i am now back living in montreal but still travel to nyc, hudson valley, and finger lakes a lot

this is still the most romantic city  in north america but i am sad to say that except for a few restos the food does not do that much for me any more

not to say the food has gotten worse, on the contrary much better than 10 years ago, probably now at its peak ever

so i get my fix when i travel for things like ethnic foods (japanese, turkish, indian, korean, vietnamese, cambodian we do not do good here!) but french and italian we are very very good. no good sushi here as well.

however, the city is too small of a market to support many many great restos but that atmosphere and bon vivant attitude makes this less important. we like to eat and drink and party here, it is the culture

also, according to our local expert Lesley Chestermint, the resto scene in QUEBEC CITY (our capitol) is even better than montreal. i can believe this since there is a lot of old and new money now there and if you think montreal is a beautiful old city, quebec is even better, like nowhere else on this continent.

when you come here again please post a note, we would love to share with you our best local secret treasures!

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Oh do I not agree about Quebec City! It's a lovely place, but I spent a few days there last winter desperately trying to find great food. (The best place was closed for the week when I was there, which was too bad.) But we did go have one meal at a place touted by the NY Times in its escapes section, and I have to say it was the worst restaurant meal I have ever had in my life.

#7 Vinfidel

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:41 AM

Wow! thats sad to hear. I have to admit I have not been in many years but lesley's article in the local Gazette paper and other reports from my friends say it is really going up and up

maybe it is a case of over-hype, this is certainly possible!

what was this terrible resto where you had a bad experience?

#8 iharrison

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 12:42 AM

How wrong you are about Montreal Vinfidel. Terribly off the mark on all fronts.

Quebec City is quaint by comparison and although Lesley Chesterman (not Chestermint) did laud it in a recent article, she would never tout it as a food city in the same vein as Montreal.

But Ruth knows this already. A future issue of Gourmet will attest to that, as will an imminent episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.

#9 Vinfidel

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 04:22 AM

just my opinion Sensorial, since i was born here, lived here during the high time of montreal, left during the low times to travel the world, and now came back during supposedly the greatest period of montreal restos tp see that the food scene here is better than ever but certainly not world class and representing our huge ethnic communities! i am the first person to promote montreal as a destination for tourists, summer or wintertime, it is really one of a kind place to come

for us locals that live here, another story altogether

i love this city my home town but if you know of some secret great cambodian, turkish, sushi, sizchuan, bbq, pizza, tex mex, authentic mexican, chicken wings, indian, malaysian, israeli, pakistani, iranian, i coul go on forever, please let me know

even lesley says in her column that this is an uninspired time for montreal right now. this is a great city and it will come back again i know it maybe thanks to the support from all the recent good things written about it

also it is important for the sake of ethics to come clean that you are involved with the production of the Anthony Bourdain television show and maybe other commercial interests as well...? it is customary on this board to announce such things before promoting ones own interests

#10 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 05:59 AM

just my opinion Sensorial, since i was born here, lived here during the high time of montreal, left during the low times to travel the world, and now came back during supposedly the greatest period of montreal restos tp see that the food scene here is better than ever but certainly not world class and representing our huge ethnic communities! i am the first person  to promote montreal as a destination for tourists, summer or wintertime, it is really one of a kind place to come

for us locals that live here, another story altogether

i love this city my home town but if you know of some secret great cambodian, turkish, sushi, sizchuan, bbq, pizza, tex mex, authentic mexican, chicken wings, indian, malaysian, israeli, pakistani, iranian,  i coul go on forever, please let me know

even lesley says in her column that this is an uninspired time for montreal right now. this is a great city and it will come back again i know it maybe thanks to the support from all the recent good things written about it

also it is important for the sake of ethics to come clean that you are involved with the production of the Anthony Bourdain television show and maybe other commercial interests as well...? it is customary on this board to announce such things before promoting ones own interests

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Okay Vinfidel, you raise an interesting question here. Which is this: Does a city need to have great ethnic food to be a great food city? What thrills me about the new Montreal is the emphasis, for the first time, on creating a great local cuisine. A pride in products. Support for farmers. An attempt to do what you can do as well as it can be done.

The thing about ethnic food is that I don't think you can have great ethnic restaurants without a knowledgeable population to support them. Which is why Los Angeles is so exciting for lovers of ethnic foods. There are whole sections of the city where no English is spoken, and where you find the most amazing Salvadoran, Korean, Oaxacan, Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, etc. food. It's made for people who know the cuisine, demand that it be good and won't frequent places that tone it down or dilute it for an American population. The same is definitely not true here in New York, and while I think this is a great food city, we don't have great representations of most of the cuisines you mention. Great Thai? Nothing to touch LA. Great Chinese? Ditto. Great Korean? There are more good Korean places on one block of LA's Koreatown than in all 5 boroughs of this city. Great Cambodian? No way. Great Mexican? I know ten taco stands in LA I'd rather eat in than anyplace here (although that situation is changing with the influx of Mexicans into NY). There is certainly no great barbecue in NY City, nothing to touch the Lulling Market in Texas or Philip's in LA or Big Ed in.... I could go on and on. But the point is, I think this is a great restaurant town because of what's here, not because of what isn't. And I'd say the same about your town.

#11 Lesley C

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 08:11 AM

What thrills me about the new Montreal is the emphasis, for the first time, on creating a great local cuisine. A pride in products. Support for farmers. An attempt to do what you can do as well as it can be done.



Yes, very true. Another thing I have always found interesting about Montreal is that today almost all of our top chefs are homegrown. For years you had to be from France to make it here, but now few of our top chefs are European. And look at all the up-and-comers, who are all Quebecois kids who trained at the local hotel school, apprenticed in France and came back to Montreal to work in our top restaurants. They are not heading to New York or Toronto, as so many people believe, but staying because they find the local scene challenging and stimulating. And they can even set up shop here and make a go at owning their own restaurants. So the future looks bright as well.

#12 FoodMan

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 09:45 AM

Here is a link to the Lobster article..now I'm off to read it.

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#13 slkinsey

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 11:24 AM

We had an okay discussion going on about lobsters & pain in the eG Forums a while back:

http://forums.egulle...showtopic=61469

An informed understanding of what pain is (a psychological phenomenon) and lobster neurophysiology strongly suggests that boiling live lobsters isn't such a big deal.
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#14 iharrison

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 12:42 PM

I agree with Lesley about homegrown Montreal chefs but must vehemently disagree with Vinfidel about the lack of great ethnic eats in the city.

Do you really live in Montreal? I wonder.

Ruth poses a great question: does a city need to have great ethnic food to be a great food city?

Fortunately in Montreal, we need not concern ourselves with this dilemma. As someone with extensive world travel experience, I speak not as someone who has never left the city. I can devour an ethereal goat roti, wonderful falafel, superb empanada, delectable bowl of pho and authentic lamb korma all within several blocks of each other on Victoria Ave.

And that is one street Vinfidel. Where do you hang out? Westmount?

Yes, I was the field producer for an episode of Bourdain's No Reservations set in Montreal and the province of Quebec as a whole. We shot the episode two weeks ago. I hardly see the relevance, but there it is.

Edited by Sensorial, 01 December 2005 - 12:52 PM.


#15 Vinfidel

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 12:46 PM

Ruth,

you are making a good point. from the viewpoint of food and tourism, my answer is no you do not need to have great ethnics food to be great. to this point, montreal is a+ with our local stars like lesley said. we have some great quebec farmers and seafood and meats, no doubt i will not complaint here. also even though quebec wines are not really good, i think that we have some ice apple ciders that is really amazing better than ontario ice wines - this is a local treasure.

but as a resident you cannot live on that alone. i need ethnic foods! for this i will say that montreal is not good. if you think NYC is not good for all those categoris you list, then please do not try the same here!

the ethnic question makes so sense here because we are a true melting pot. arabs, north africans, italian, irish, french, african, camdodia, vietnam, korea, china all the provinces, taiwan, hong kong. so big ethnic population but the food is wishy-washy. makes no sense. i hope it will change.

LA is the greatest food city in the USA to me, there is no comparaison for ethnic foods with anywhere else especially if you like latin american. LA is also one of the best city in the world for STREET FOOD!

anyway i cant wait to see your GOURMET article about our fine city and to celebrate its treasures again

#16 Vinfidel

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 12:55 PM

sensorial, i dont want to turn this into a forum about montreal, maybe we should take this elsewhere. this forum was originally about lobsters! sorry friends for the distraction!

going back to the montreal forum! thank you ruth!

#17 iharrison

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 12:59 PM

I hope Ruth has the sense to not place any faith in your horribly misguided opinions of Montreal.

To say that the city does not have good ethnic food is absolutely ludicrous and frankly, insulting.

#18 Chris Amirault

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 01:10 PM

sensorial, i dont want to turn this into a forum about montreal, maybe we should take this elsewhere. this forum was originally about lobsters! sorry friends for the distraction!

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Excellent point! Click here to continue the discussion/argument!

edited to correct link -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault, 01 December 2005 - 01:49 PM.

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