We’re delighted to be partnering with the Cuyahoga County Public Library to bring Ruth Reichl to town on June 3 to talk about her newest book, a novel entitled Delicious. But June is still nearly a month away, so we posed a few questions to give you a preview of why we are so excited for her visit. Here’s what she shared with us…
What was the best food-related job you’ve had and what made it great?
Editing Gourmet Magazine. At a time when food was becoming part of popular culture, we were given the opportunity to reinvent what an epicurean magazine could be. It was a fantastic challenge – and it was great because I got to work with so many talented people.
Where do new ideas in food come from?
The answer would very much depend on where in the world you happen to be. If you’re specifically referring to America, the answer is pretty much….everywhere.
For starters, we’re a nation of immigrants, so we are constantly getting new ideas from the latest arrivals. Industry, for better or worse, is dependent upon inventing new products, and they’re always out there prowling for new foods to feed us, and new ways to combine them. We have the most intellectually curious group of chefs the world has ever known, and they influence change. As do seed breeders, scientists, journalists….
Who would you name as the most influential people in food today?
The young farmers who are going back to the land, learning old ways, growing crops that have real flavor. They’re challenging agribusiness, showing it is possible to feed the world without corporate interference, supporting their communities, bringing ethics back to raising animals – and giving us delicious food.
How do you think social media has changed the food landscape?
Social media has taken over the consumer reporting arm of food journalism – forcing journalists to tackle bigger subjects, become more knowledgeable and write better prose. Because of social media, we have the most impressive group of professional food writers we ever have. They have to get beyond the buy this, choose that kind of writing that once passed as food journalism.
What excites you about food today? What is the most troubling?
What excites me is that Americans are starting to understand that eating is an ethical act, that our food choices matter. What depresses me is that the food movement is still much too elitist; if you’re a rich person you can eat happy animals and vegetables that have never been tainted with pesticides. If you’re a poor person – or one of the people raising our food – you might very well be relegated to stuff that is cheaper than food, filled with calories and devoid of nutrition.
What one eating habit do you wish everyone would take up?
I wish everyone would learn to cook. It would completely change the way we eat.
At a time when flavor has been farmed out of many of our foods, which foods do you think still maintain a strong flavor profile?
Chiles come immediately to mind.
How has the role of the cookbook changed over time
Cookbooks used to live in the kitchen, and people used to cook from them. Now people dream over them, and keep them on their bedside tables.
What advice do you have getting the most out of food shopping?
Enjoy it. Get to know your butcher, your baker, your cheesemonger. Ask questions. Taste. Sniff. Pinch. There is nothing more sensual than food shopping if you allow yourself to relax into it.
How is writing like cooking?
It isn’t. Writing is hard work. Cooking is pure pleasure.