Friday, November 20, 2009

I Love The New Yorker's Annual Food Issue

Wayne Thiebaud, Pumpkin Cloud, 2009

My weekly issue of the magazine, The New Yorker, arrived the other day and I gobbled it up!

It was the annual Food Issue for November 23, 2009, the edition that I look forward to since I started saving them in 2002, right there on the shelf next to Kenneth Bindiner's Food in Painting (2004), Amelia Jones' Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945 (2006), Jae Emerling's Theory for Art Hijstory, Rebecca Spang's Restaurant book, and the Oxford Symposium on Food in the Arts (1998).

In my early introduction to the Annual Food Issue, I relished Roger Angell's "Dry Martini,"
John McPhee's comments about shad (I was born on the Hudson), and Annie Proulx's hot tub story. In 2004,it was Jim Harrison (of course), Yiyun Li's wisdom that "Lightening does not hit the man who eats," and Jerry Adler's "Back to the Future." Later, I remember enjoying immensely Burkhard Bilger's"The Egg Men"[of Las Vegas]. Thiebaud's paintings just kept getting better and better and Calvin Trillen's letters the same. Then in 2004, I was bowled over by a short story by Lara Vapnyar called "Broccoli," which took place in a Russian community in New York. I remember, because Thiebaud had painted broccoli for the cover. Perhaps that was another issue.

Admittedly, I am addicted to this publication as much as I have been to the New York Times, ever since my high school drama teacher, Miss Lucille Stevens, had us read, cut out and submit to her the Times coverage of Broadway plays back in 1948 in Upstate New York. I can still recall them: Clifford Odets' The Big Knife, Mr. Roberts, Williams' Summer and Smoke, and Oklahoma.

I read The New York Times all through college and even in the army, except in Europe where I bought the Paris Edition of the Herald Tribune. I took the Christian Science Monitor in late 1963 but went back to the Times when the president died.

In the 1970s I discovered, late as usual, the Times' Wednesday cuisine section, which I often read word-for-word and even clipped for a scrapbook. Eventually, computers resolved that burdensome habit. Then since I was working on a book about ethnic foods in Minnesota, I began searching for fresh views on ethnic restaurants, food preparation and the social meanings of food. William Grimes and others were always enlightening, helpful, and down right entertaining (viz. Grimes' warm and wry book, My Fine Feathered Friend, 2002).

But reading The New Yorker came later, probably not in hot, humid and buggy Fayetteville, NC, in the 1950s where we struggled to survive mentally and culturally. Too bad. And not later, in San Francisco, where there was never time (or even the subscription cost) to read beyond the graduate school chapters. So it must have been in Minneapolis where, as complements, the Walker Art Center's exhibits like "Picasso," "De Stijl," films by Andy Warhol, Krzysztof Kieslowski's film, "Decalogue," and postmodern sculpture, and the Russian exhibit at the University Art Museum reminded us that there were folks out there still thinking and tasting, creating and deciding.The St Paul Chamber Orchestra, how I love you! And superb local restaurants like Lucia's Wine Bar, Table of Contents, and Alex Roberts' Alma didn't hurt one bit, even at -20 degrees. And the Loring Cafe, always exciting on a busy summer night in the ally with the sax player on the roof; quietly romantic in a winter blizzard, looking out over the lamp-lit park.

Good, good memories.

In 1994 I moved to Monterey, on California's north central coast, and kept my New Yorker subscription and continued, still later, in 2002, when I found myself in North Carolina where The New Yorker (especially the food issues with those Thiebaud paintings) has kept me sane but envious of people who can experience those nights at the Cafe Carlyle, The Roosevelt Grill, the 92nd Street Y, MoMA, the ever-feisty Brooklyn Museum, the Chelsea scene, and those terrific corned beef sandwiches that one used to find over on Second Avenue and now are up around East 33rd Street.

Bobby Short, where art thou?

So, in 2004 when I began the Artists at the Table Project and got serious about A Food Lover's Guide to the Arts, The New Yorker kept me fueled.

A fine example in these collegial efforts is the Adam Gropnik in his article "Cooked Books: Real food from fictional recipes, " [April 9, 2007, p. 80], in which he discusses how food "fits" in a novel, presenting "the background of thought," and his astute references to Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday.

Others, too, have continued to nourish and support me over the years. Peter Schjeldahl's beautifully informed pieces are often filed right on my computer desktop, in what I call my "art history" file. Roberta Smith, it seems, is always right there with a crispy, vigorous column like her "Room With a View" (on Bonnard's interiors, 2008) or one on Ars Fisher and "Exploration of Space" in 2009. Her experience, expertise and insight are truly astounding and a good balance to Holland Cotter in the NY Times.

Finally, it was one of Roberta Smith's columns in the Times, sometime around 2005, covering a museum exhibit of paintings about food and food environments, that made my enthusiasm and confidence surge. I felt that I had at least,one compadre out there, and one who knew what she was talking about. She remains in my heart and mind that special person whom I would most like to invite to a long and luxurious lunch.

My treat!


1 comment:

monaluna said...

great post! ah, i miss those frosty, moonlit views over loring park from the cafe, too.