The wondering and speculation are over. We finally know who the real person is behind Ruth Bourdain, the Twitter personality that is a bizarre mashup of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and foul-mouthed TV food show host Anthony Bourdain (visually, we’re talking Reichl’s dark long hair with bangs plopped on top of Bourdain’s mug).
All those witty and profane jabs at the pretentions of food culture — as well as a companion book titled, “Comfort Me With Offal” — were written (and tweeted) by Josh Friedland,, who came out to New York Times reporter Julia Moskin in Saturday’s paper. Despite his snarky alternate persona, the Moskin calls Friedland “a mild-mannered freelance writer in Maplewood, N.J., who produces the Food Section, one of the longest-running culinary blogs on the Web.” On his website, Friedland describes himself as “addicted to just about everything having to do with food, whether it be home cooking to restaurants, culinary travel, photography, history, books, or food politics.”
The truth about brisket is that your bubbe’s is probably the best. It’s probably better than my bubbe’s, and better than your neighbor’s bubbe’s, and while no two brisket recipes are the same, we’re all right when we say our briskets are the best. Past that, there aren’t a whole lot of definitives — even the terminology can get a little shady — which is exactly why putting five brisket aficionados on stage to talk about the comfort meat was more than fascinating.
At Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History led by Mitchell David, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, and organized by culinary curator Naama Shefi, so much was revealed about the dish that no Jewish feast is complete without.
Like many popular Jewish foods, brisket worked its way into the cuisine because of its low cost. “Brisket is implicitly kosher since it’s from the front of the animal,” said New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, “and it was cheap because anything that takes a long time to cook and that can’t be grilled has challenges, especially in a restaurant.” Davis added that while the ribs are also from the front of the animal, their popularity in Jewish cuisine didn’t quite reach that of brisket’s because they could be sold for more money. Daniel Delaney, owner of the barely month-old BrisketTown, in Williamsburg, attested that this was the case in the Texas culture as well, where butchers who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut of meat and ultimately created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
Spanish cuisine is at a critical moment. Ferran Adrià, arguably the world’s most influential chef, will close his historic restaurant, El Bulli, July 30 to start a culinary foundation and think tank. The restaurant, which puts humor, illusions and even irony on the plate through the use of molecular gastronomy and other remarkable cooking techniques, did more than make waves in the world of Spanish food — it pushed the limits of cuisine around the globe. “Spain has transformed itself into the world’s effervescent center of gastronomic creativity,” noted cookbook author Claudia Roden writes in her new book, “The Food of Spain.”
Writers like Julia Moskin at The New York Times and prominent members of the food community have pondered what will happen to Spanish cuisine without El Bulli. Some fear that the closing will hurt the country’s culinary tourism business; others hope it will allow light to shine on lesser-known chefs. But no one is certain.
Standing on a precipice, unsure of what lies ahead, is perhaps the best time to look backward. “You have to look into the past to understand Spain’s complex gastronomic map,” Roden writes. Her immense and exhaustive new book does just that. The tome is an indispensable guide to the country’s traditional cuisine, tracing the cultural and religious roots of many of its signature ingredients, dishes and culinary traditions.