Food Writing These Days.

I keep reading and rereading this, below, from Sam Sifton’s farewell story in yesterday’s New York Times. Is it a sentence? A paragraph? A poem?

Three nights in April: one in a comfortable booth at the Dutch, Andrew Carmellini’s terrific pan-American clubhouse in SoHo, where I ate crabmeat dressed in bloody-mary sauce, a rib-eye steak and some apple pie; another at a sticky table at La Joya de Ceren on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens, where a fried pork chop came flanked by pupusas, rice and garlicky beans; and a third at Masa, the sushi temple in the Time Warner Center.

I like Sam Sifton’s writing, pretty much, and he’s treated me kindly and with respect in all of the few interaction I’ve had with him but, I don’t know… Why does food writing so often have to get so… weird?

And then there is the brilliance of these last two graphs:

But the best meal I had on the job? It was in the garden of Frankies 457, on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, on a summer evening with my wife, my children and my brother. We had what everyone always has at Frankies: crostini and some romaine hearts, beets, cold rib-eye salad, cavatelli and sausage and brown butter, meatballs, braciola marinara. The kids hovered while the adults talked family over cold red wine, and a little breeze moved through the trees, and around us other people did the same.

There was bread as we needed it, water, more wine. The food was simple and elegant. The children behaved as they do when they are starving, and in love with what they are eating. Nothing was wrong. Everything was right. It would have been nice if it could have gone on forever.

In a sense, those two paragraphs beg the question: why do we review restaurants? Because a perfect meal isn’t about the perfect anything. It’s about good food, enjoyed with people you enjoy, and unless you’re traveling, ideally, close enough to home that you can comfortably go back— again and again. That’s a message I can get behind. The writing is still a little fancy but we’ll give Sam a break on fancy. He went to Harvard.

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