January 2007 Archives
It’s gratifying to learn that some writers have used The United States of Arugula as a launching point for their own investigations. Last fall, both a reporter for The New York Sun and the author of a blog called Lost City (devoted to the vestigial bits of old New York that survive even in the current Carrie Bradshaw gleamopolis) were motivated to check out Le Veau d’Or, the unreconstructed ’50s-style French restaurant on East 60th Street that still serves Escoffier-style cuisine–and whose aged proprietor, Robert Tréboux, may be the last still-working restaurant professional who served under the autocratic Henri Soulé, who famously ran Le Pavillon until his death in 1966. (Both writers spell my name wrong, but hey, at least they have passion.)
More recently, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tracked down another old-timer who plays a small but important role in my book: the neighbor of Judy Rodgers’s who traveled to France a lot on business in the 1970s, becoming friends with the Troisgros family and setting in motion the chain of events that led to Rodgers, now of Zuni Café in San Francisco (one of my favorite restaurants), becoming a chef. I never named this neighbor in my book, but he’s a retired chemical engineer for Monsanto named Frank Riordan Jr., and he’s still going at 88, baking his own baguettes. It was Riordan who facilitated Rodgers’s first trip to France as a teen, in which she stayed with the great Roanne chef-restaurateur Jean Troisgros, had her palate awakened, and thereafter plunged headlong into hardcore foodie-ism. Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a meal at Zuni owes Mr. Riordan a debt of thanks.
I am fortunate to be acquainted with the gifted photographer James Wojcik. He does lots of work for fashion magazines and their advertisers, but I’m particularly enamored of his food photography. Mr. Wojcik recently presented me with the image above–evidence, he says, of how “tasty” he finds The United States of Arugula. (I especially like the olive-oil stains.)
Be sure to get to your bookstore as early as possible–I’m told the edible editions always sell out by noon.
Image ©2007 by James Wojcik
I was on a television program called The Colbert Report on Wednesday night, and boy, do I feel hoodwinked. I was told by the producers that I was participating in a Kazakh journalist’s documentary on American life, and was pressured into signing a vaguely worded release form written in Cyrillic. Little did I know that I would be ambushed by a prankster comedian and held up to ridicule. See for yourself.
ADDENDUM: If Comedy Central’s video player only shows you the first half of the interview, here’s a link to the second half.
In describing the first American cookbook, Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery (1796), on page 13 of The United States of Arugula, I note her recipe for “Beft bacon,” adding in a parenthetical aside that “printers had not yet sorted out their use of f’s and ornamental s’s.”
Marvin Taylor, who is the director of the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University, and who was especially helpful to me as I researched the early chapters of the book, writes in to point out that what I describe an an f “isn’t really an f, it is what is known as a ‘long s.’ If you look closely at it, the cross bar doesn’t go all the way across. If it did, it would be an f. It goes only halfway, and is, thus, an s. While it looks odd to us, the long s was a typographical convention in English printing until the mid-19th century. It came over from handwriting into typography. You usually see it in the middle of words where there is an s or whenever there are two s’s together.”
Truth be told, I was aware that these f-lookin’ s’s are indeed s’s, and I was simply trying to convey how they read to the modern eye: “best” reads as “beft.” It’s like that great Ron Carey line in one of the ancient Rome scenes of Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I: “You’re nuts! N-V-T-S nuts!”
But Taylor is right, the way I worded that sentence in the book, it sounds like the printers made a mistake, when, in fact, they knew exactly what they were doing and were correct in their usage.
On page 209 of the book, I say that the Peruvian-born cook and James Beard protégé Felipe Rojas-Lombardi was “for a time a partner in [Dean & DeLuca] with the namesake owners.” While Joel Dean, before his death, described Rojas-Lombardi as a “fourth founder” of the upscale food store (along with Dean, Giorgio DeLuca, and Dean’s companion, Jack Ceglic, who designed the store), Giorgio DeLuca has called to tell me that it would be “revisionist history” to call Rojas-Lombardi a full-fledged partner. DeLuca duly credits Rojas-Lombardi with being a fantastic cook and a driving force behind the shop’s innovative prepared-foods section, “but Felipe was never a partner.” So noted.