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eGullet Q&A with Jeffrey Steingarten

Jason Perlow

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We are delighted to have award-winning food journalist and author Jeffrey Steingarten join us for an eGullet Q&A, December 15-19.


Jeffrey Steingarten is kind of a smart guy. As a student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took classes at both MIT and Harvard and served as an editor of the Harvard Lampoon. He went on to The Harvard Law School, where he learned to cook by watching Julia Child on TV in black and white. He came dangerously close to wasting his talent as a lawyer, practicing for some time as a legal consultant in Manhattan.

In 1988, Vogue Magazine's editor, Anna Wintour, asked her friend Jeffrey to write several hundred words about microwaving fish; months later, with the gluttony for detail that has come to characterize his approach to food writing, Jeffrey sent her a 4000-word treatise.

His knack for disabusing readers of their food phobias has taught us all what to say to that uncle who avoids a beautiful hunk of aged cheddar because he is lactose intolerant, to that aunt who would rather lose a limb than risk sucking down one raw oyster.

Jeffrey has taken on wedding cakes and weight loss, ketchup and kaiseki, the biology of ripe fruit and the visceral satisfaction of raw tuna belly. For our benefit, he has subjected himself to the vegetarian cooking of Alain Passard, made over 600 potato gratins, and painstakingly translated complicated recipes to the language and capabilities of the home cook. He has let electrical needles pierce his scalp to find out whether his obsession with good food was luck or lesion.

During his years as Vogue's food critic, he set out to systematically rid himself of all food biases, teaching himself to love lard, Greek food, ant eggs, and ultimately Indian desserts. Yet he occasionally lets his motives guide his investigation -- proving that salad is indeed a silent killer was surely a gift to himself.

His two books, both collections of his Vogue essays, are educational, endlessly enjoyable, and essential for anyone with an interest in food. His first, The Man Who Ate Everything (Knopf, 1997), was a New York Times best-seller and the winner of the Julia Child Cookbook Award and the Guild of British Food Writers Prize for the year's best book about food. His second book, It Must've Been Something I Ate (Knopf, 2002), was recently published in paperback (Vintage), and granted "New and Noteworthy" status by the New York Times Book Review. On Bastille Day, 1994, the French Republic made Jeffrey a Chevalier in the Order of Merit for his writings on French gastronomy.

He is a brilliant interviewee, with a history of ignoring all questions not related to food. I guess that's why he's here.

Biography by Steingarten Q&A moderator, JJ Goode

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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