Eating Where the Cooks Eat: Critiquing Food Writing in New York

"Do you have to be white to be a food critic?"-- question I wish I had asked.
"What's the relationship food critics have to producing food? Do they cook, too?"-- question I actually asked.

The most excellent gentlemen of Gelf magazine hosted a Media Circus on Food Writers, with three of New York's (employed) food writers presenting their thoughts on a range of issues from food blogging ("Print is dead!" cried one) to food porn ("I love it!") to anonymity ("If you're made, pretend anyway!"). The man in the audience wearing a devil mask (and wig), who initially creeped me out, turned out to be the quite charming, and determinedly anonymous, Village Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, who was joined by Time Out New York's Gabriella Gershenson and NBC's Alex Vallis.

It was fun, but raised the question of "the new foodism"-- our attitudes about food and what food critique is. Sietsema is, apparently, unusual in the field because he reviews what one of the other critics called "authentic, fresh-off-the-boat, ethnic food." Though it's easy to criticize that unfortunate characterization, I want to make a stronger argument about why those kinds of restaurants are very much worth reviewing and eating at. The stronger argument is not about politics, it's about the practical. The people who eat there are the people who are cooking the food at the fancier restaurants being reviewed.

The people who are making the fine dining, culinary fashion-forward cuisine of New York City, the restaurants that are being reviewed and noticed by taste-making critics are not the celebrity chefs. The people who are actually doing the cooking, pulling together the recipes in the kitchens, the ones who are crafting the food of New York are the working class immigrants who eat at these local unassuming ethnic restaurants. They are bringing their sense of spices and flavorings, of how to prepare dishes. And so, to understand what's happening in the upscale restaurants that lead the way in food in the US, we need to sit at the tables of the people who cook it.

And so, my part in this endeavor will be unveiled in the near future.

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One Response to Eating Where the Cooks Eat: Critiquing Food Writing in New York

vave said...

ohhhh can i come??? your part sounds delectable!


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