Lisa Hirsch (sunbear) Wed 1 Aug 07 06:51
Both Beebe and Paddleford sound like great characters. A little Googling shows that Paddleford's papers occupy some 400 boxes in Kansas State University. There's a photo of her with her plane and a brief bio here at the Kansas State Historical Society: http://www.kshs.org/features/feat1198.htm You mention above that James Villas called Beebe the campest person he ever met. In the book, you noted that Paddleford had a man in every town, more or less, or, anyway, was on the prowl in every city she visited. There is lots more delicious gossip in the book, especially about the California crew (especially about Chez Panisse!). How did you turn all of that up?? And how has that aspect of the book been received?
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Wed 1 Aug 07 06:55
Wonderful. That old-fashioned name, Clementine (plus, I guess, Paddleford) always made me think of her as, well, not what you described, nor what Lisa adds. People from the Bay Area of a certain age will remember that Lucius Beebe fetched up for a few years at the San Francisco Chronicle with a column. That's an interesting observation that most people didn't eat out except on special occasions until the late 1950s. That was certainly the case with my family until my mother went back to work fulltime. By then I was in college, out of the house.
will work for food (rwilmeth) Wed 1 Aug 07 07:47
Have you noticed some of the same trends that writers such as Ruhlman have regarding culinary graduates who never want to be on the line but want to go into media, food writing, etc. This past semester, I supervised an externship for a culinary student who wrote a cookbook. Her culinary program -- a good one in our state -- gets credit for their flexibility. She was the first one. Good for them -- but I wonder what this will do, overall, to the quality and amount of food writing in years to come.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Wed 1 Aug 07 09:16
Checking in with this topic a bit late....just having moved from St. Louis, flyover central, to Los Angeles, and my taste buds are thrilled with the change. Just going back a moment to post 38 or thereabouts above.... There was excellent food in St. Louis, and not a week goes by that I do not whine a little because I miss Global Foods so much, and I have just been rhapsodizing over in the cooking conference about the wonderful fresh local goat cheese that was so lovely for cooking, but the good stuff has not penetrated nearly as deeply in everyday dishes that people bring to potlucks yet. Still a vast preponderance of heavy, clodding, faux stuff there. In my decade there, shopping for good stuff got a lot easier as whole foods and trader joes and global arrived, but I can actually imagine eating some of what my new hospital cafeteria makes, and ate fewer than a dozen meals at the old one, in all those years.
David Kamp (davidkamp) Wed 1 Aug 07 10:20
Renee Wilmeth raises a good point--that some culinary-school graduates are now not necessarily moving into the kitchen but into other fields peripherally related to the professional kitchen, like "food media" and such. I spoke to a group of students at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) and was shocked at how many of them, even after working with the likes of Jacques Pepin and Andre Soltner, were looking to get into food TV, food marketing, food scholarship, food writing, etc. It's a weird new phenomenon. In one sense, it's gratifying and speaks to one of the theses of my book--that Americans are at last regarding food as every bit an important part of our cultural life as art, music, sports, etc. Culinary studies are becoming an academic discipline in their own right, outside the more scientific parameters of health and nutrition. And these bright kids at the ICC have bright futures ahead of them. The downside is that there are some weenies out there who really just want stardom--as there are in every field in this age of reality television. You get young kids who think they're a "Top Chef" appearance away from getting financing for their first restaurant, or who harbor a desire to be a TV-food pinup like Padma, Nigella, or Giada. Ultimately, the changes to which Ruhlman and Renee allude have produced two influxes of young people into the food world, one bad and one good. The bad one is the influx of impatient young 'uns in the kitchen and in food-media, people with an awful sense of entitlement and no real sense of hospitality or food-love. But there's also been a marvelous influx of new talent into the food work that includes not only young people but middle-aged career-switchers. These folks are getting into it out of passion. One chef I know said he's got a much larger talent pool to draw upon than he did ten, fifteen years ago--there are more people with restaurant-grade skills than there used to be. And it's, as I said, a passion, not just a way to make a buck. This applies not only to kitchen talent, by the way, but also to the increasing number of youngish people who are taking up small-scale farming and artisanal-food producing. These fields aren't lucrative, but they've acquired a newfound respectability--and they're really fulfilling ways to make a living if you don't care about making a fortune.
John Ross (johnross) Wed 1 Aug 07 11:15
Was there a direct continuity from Paddleford (and maybe James Beard) to Calvin Trillin's food pieces in the 1960s New Yorker, where he "revealed" the existence of great regional food across the country? Seems like he was just about the first to point out that things like shoo-fly pie bought at a church festival in Lancaster County, Pa., or crab cakes from a pushcart vendor in Maryland were "better" eating than the food from a chef who learned French cooking by watching Dionne Lucas on TV.
Berliner (captward) Wed 1 Aug 07 11:38
And served it at the Casa de la Maison House!
Paula Span (pspan) Wed 1 Aug 07 12:35
And speaking of the Sterns and Trillin (who did plow some of the same ground, and so delightfully in both cases), which food writers/critics do you like now?
John Ross (johnross) Wed 1 Aug 07 13:30
And come to think about it, what about Dionne Lucas? She was teaching French cooking techniques on TV more than a decade before Julia Child came along. Did she have any serious influence (other than teaching my mother how to make an omlette)?
David Kamp (davidkamp) Wed 1 Aug 07 13:55
Dione Lucas is another of those relatively unsung people like Michael Field--an individual who, in her time, was huge, but who has faded from the collective memory since. She was the first real food-TV personality. Beard was on TV first, but he was surprisingly bad at it, while she hung on for a few years; in fact, repeats of her old 1950s syndicated programs were among the first things broadcast on the fledgling Food TV Network in 1993. It's also worth noting that, prior to the publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Julia Child and her collaborator Simca Beck held Lucas in great esteem as the Great Lady Who Brought French Food to the American People, even before Julia did. That said, Lucas was dour and acharismatic, with none of Julia's nutso charm. She was important in that she laid the groundwork for the postwar Francophilic boom--as the cookbook author and former Lucas student Paula Wolfert says, "because *something* was happening"--but she was more of a table-setter than a major figure.
David Kamp (davidkamp) Wed 1 Aug 07 14:58
I'm compelled to address Lisa's words in post #76, about gossip. First, I want to clarify that I don't say in the book that Clementine Paddleford had "a man in every town." I say that Cecily Brownstone, the veteran food editor for AP, remarked that Paddleford was man-crazy. And I don't hold Paddleford's man-craziness against her--I just thought that the (then) nonagenarian Brownstone's remark was revealing and funny, a nugget of Paddleford knowledge we might not otherwise have been privy to. The bigger point is that this book has been both lauded and criticized for being, in a word, "gossipy." (Check out the Amazon reviews.) Here are my thoughts on this subject: 1. Who doesn't love a little gossip? 2. I dislike puns about "great dish!" 3. If it's not vainglorious to say so, I think this book is pretty rigorously researched and thought out. It may be gossipy in the sense that it acknowledges that its chief figures had certain sexual proclivities and personal feuds, but it's not gossipy in any pejorative sense, meaning, it's not shoddy or inaccurate or reliant on false rumor and innuendo. 3. I'm actually kind of delighted that this book has violated the etiquette of how food people are written about. I've long recoiled at the twee, lace-doily treatment of food people in the press and in PBS pledge drives, which I find patronizing--the idea that chefs, food journalists, cookbook authors, and the like are jolly, harmless cut-out figures with no inner lives. I never thought that any of what I wrote about the personal lives of Craig Claiborne, James Beard et al was gratuitous. As I said in an earlier post, I was as surprised as anyone to learn of how readily figures such as these conflated their sexual appetites with their gastronomic ones, and how the (then-unglamorous) food world offered these guys a refuge when they had nowhere else to turn. In Claiborne's case, particularly, his confusion over his sexuality played an enormous role in his winding up where he did, as a male maverick in the then-female-dominated world of newspaper food writing. Claiborne wrote about this with startling frankness in his own memoir, "A Feast Made for Laughter," which came out in '82 or '83. His public didn't want to know about it. The book stiffed, which hastened his decline into alcoholism. Yet even in 2007, there are still people who don't want to know. They find it distasteful that I acknowledge how Claiborne's sexual confusion and messed-up childhood informed his work; it violates their Vivaldi-soundtracked image of the food world as a blandly precious refuge of smiling ladies and gents in striped aprons. As filth and dirt goes, "The United States of Arugula" is actually quite tame in comparison to any Kennedy bio, to any portrait of Paris in the '20s, to any Picasso bio, to any Scott-and-Zelda bio, to any chronicle of the Rolling Stones or even of Mott the Hoople. The brilliant book I happen to be reading now, "Fathers and Sons," by Alexander Waugh, is squirmily disconcerting in the frankness with which the author, the grandson of Evelyn Waugh and great-nephew of Alec Waugh, details the sexual proclivities of his relatives, and how these proclivities impacted their literary output. But he's right to examine these themes, and I don't for a moment object that he does. But in the food world, some people still just don't want to know. Personally, I don't get this need to uphold Beard, Claiborne, Child, Waters, et al. as sanitized figures. I have lots of respect for all of them, and I think blind, sanitized hagiography does more to discredit them than any "gossipy" account of their actual thoughts and behavior does.
David Kamp (davidkamp) Wed 1 Aug 07 15:01
Item # 3 in the previous post should be labeled item # 4. I may be "gossipy," but I can usually count.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Wed 1 Aug 07 16:41
David-- one thing that we emailed about when I first read the book was about the non-appearance of Nero Wolfe as a 1930's foodie/ harbinger of foodie culture in the book. There are at least two occasions where Nero solves a mystery because he can tell that something isn't caught or picked fresh (Corn and fish) There are multiple times when a good part of the book or story is about food, from extolling the virtues of simple American cooking (ribs and chitlins, as I recall) or diner pie and a cold glass of milk. And there are numerous stories set in a gourmet foodie culture (1930's epicurean clubs and the like) Any plans to add in Nero Wolfe (and his author Rex Stout) into the next edition?
Lisa Hirsch (sunbear) Thu 2 Aug 07 08:21
(Those are great comments, kafclown.) David, if I didn't make this clear: gossip is a good thing! And what you wrote about your subjects' personal lives WAS all germaine to the topic at hand.
David Kamp (davidkamp) Thu 2 Aug 07 12:00
Don't worry, Lisa, I more than understood that you liked the "gossipy" aspects of the book. I just wanted to make a point that the food world, to some of its enthusiasts, must remain dowdy and inviolate, its participants incapable of having emotions or intercourse. To these people, my book is appalling. I guess you can't please everyone, but I wish that these folks had your understanding that the personal stuff is very much germaine to the topic. Adam, I remember your e-mail about Nero Wolfe's foodieness--it was delightful, and I wish I'd made the connection when I was writing "US of Arugula." (As it is, my book doesn't get into lit and pop-culture references too much; I think I mention how people talk about olives in the novel "The Magnificent Ambersons," and how drinking bottled water is perceived as a sign of homosexuality in the movie "Heathers.") I don't know if there will be a "next edition," but the idea of writing about foodie characters in literature and movies appeals to me.
Lisa Hirsch (sunbear) Thu 2 Aug 07 12:44
those people in "The Age of Innocence" who eat canvasback duck about every five minutes!
Renee Wilmeth (rwilmeth) Thu 2 Aug 07 14:17
<scribbled by rwilmeth Thu 2 Aug 07 14:19>
will work for food (rwilmeth) Thu 2 Aug 07 14:25
I think some people in the foodie world will always find the intersections between life and eating...messy. They're (and I might have to include myself here) purists. It took me a long to time to get comfortable with Reichl's style in her books -- too much personal information. But once I was in, it only made her food writing *more* vivid. It helped me understand where she was coming from. But we'll always have snobs. The problem with food snobs (like wine snobs, of which I fight being all the time) is that they don't realize that more newbies and eaters and amatuers getting involved is what sustains the cratzy (oops, crazy) growth! I used to cringe everytime someone arrived for dinner wtih a bottle of Yellow Tail when I'd carefully picked out and paired all Alacian whites. But what I finally realized is that the more people who keep drinking cheapie Australian and Cali wines (some of which are pretty darn good) helps the business sustain a huge level of growth. Which means some of my favorite winemakers can noodle with some more expensive but also more fantastic wines they wouldn't be able to make otherwise (or that I wouldn't be able to afford.) (And that's Alsacian -- above, typo not a new wine region.)
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Thu 2 Aug 07 17:27
(We guessed about the Alsacian/Alsatian, we guessed!) David, I wasn't the least offended by any of the personal info in your book--God knows Jeremiah Tower was far more frank in his autobiography, and your description of him as being "pansexual" was so funny I read it aloud to my husband. I don't want cardboard cutouts anywhere in life, and it makes perfect sense to me that people who love food love lots of other things too, including other human beings. When we eat at the Beard House, we try to get a group of six or eight together so we can eat in what's known as "the bedroom." It has a mirrored ceiling. Suits me. I also have a few mirrors where most people don't.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 3 Aug 07 06:02
(<rwilmeth>, if you're a borderline wine snob, then why the hell aren't you posting in wine.ind, the conference for wine snobs, wannabe wine snobs, sometimes-wine snobs, maybe-wine snobs, and their co-dependents?)
will work for food (rwilmeth) Fri 3 Aug 07 06:22
Ahh, Steve, I know, I'll add it to my list. (and I'm so glad all my long- time WeLL peeps are used to my typos by now.) I think I wrote up last weekend's Conferie tasting of white burgundies in chow.ind or cooking or somewhere.
David Kamp (davidkamp) Fri 3 Aug 07 06:51
Speaking of wine snobs, I have a humor paperback coming out in the fall called "The Food Snob's Dictionary," part of a continuing series of cultural-snobbery reference guides I've been doing (with a different collaborator each time). You can check out www.snobsite.com for more info on these books. And I am at work on the fourth Snob book, "The Wine Snob's Dictionary," as we speak; it will come out in 2008. My co-author is David Lynch, not the one who directed "Blue Velvet," but the illustrious one who has been Mario Batali's and Joe Bastianich's wine director for years at Babbo and their other restaurants. He not only knows his stuff but has a sharp sense of humor and better writing chops than any non-full-time writer has any right to.
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Fri 3 Aug 07 08:15
Looking forward! So, I had my first Chipotle experience last night, and was it your book where I read they buy their pork from Niman Ranch? We wondered how a basic mom-n-pop ranch (which they are more than now, I know) could supply a chain of that size. Verdict: in New Millennium tradition, the food is getting healthier, the ambient noise will undo any good the healthier food does your body.
Lisa Hirsch (sunbear) Fri 3 Aug 07 08:27
David is probably sleeping off jet-lag, so I will field that one. Niman Ranch is now a brand, not just a ranch in Marin County. Meat marketed under the Niman label comes from (generally small) farms that follow the niman principles.
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Fri 3 Aug 07 13:44
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