Welcome back to the third installment of #MRGTOP10! This week Seth Makowsky has the incomparable food and trend writer Allen Salkin. Allen is well known as an expert on pop culture and food media. He’s also a frequent editor and creator on About.com’s Food Writing and Cookbooks plus a menagerie of podcasts. Really though let’s get to Allen, his answers are more eloquent than our introduction could ever hope to be.
The best thing you’ve ever written and why? I’d like to believe it’s my book From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network, which I gave three years of intense, maniacal effort — I am proud of how I gave my all to something. But the best thing I’ve written may be the story I did for the New York Times a few years ago about men over 40 who won’t give up the life of summer share houses.
Childhood food that you still won’t eat? Watermelon. It just doesn’t deliver.
Dead or alive who would you most love to cook with or write with? Henry Miller. I’d like to visit him in Big Sur, or in the dirty days of Paris, talk a bit, then retire to our desks for three or four hours of writing, then trade pages, read and talk it all over. I wish Ferran Adria would come back to my apartment and cook again like he did one time. Seriously, this happened. Now I just want it again.
Why did you decide to become a writer? No, choice. I was put on the earth to be a conduit or something, whatever you want to call it, for what spills into and out of me.
Funniest food or writing related mishap/incident? I was late to meet Bobby Flay once when he was coming to my house for an interview. I found him in the kitchen watching some friends cook brunch. He was just standing there silently near the stove, watching them. It was pretty freaky for them. I got him out of there.
How has food writing changed during your career? Everyone thinks they can be a food writer. The words food writer now deserve quotes. That’s how it’s changed. “Food writer.”
Most challenging ingredient to work with? Emotion.
Staple junk food in your pantry? Chocolate-covered graham crackers.
What is your best piece of writing to date? This.
What is your favorite thing to write about? Trends that at first people think are not trends but then they realize, oh shit, that actually is a trend. Like Monocles. I’m the guy that wrote the monocles-are-back trend piece for the New York Times. I didn’t say they were everywhere, But the fact that they’re ANYWHERE is news.
Bonus round with Allen Salkin
Who is your biggest culinary inspiration and why? Travel. There are just some tastes that can not be reproduced away from their original locales. But you try.
Your absolute must have kitchen or writing item? It’s fun trying to cook anywhere and make due with what you have. But man do I love my big Le Creuset Dutch oven. I also love writing with fountain pens, the kind you have to actually fill with ink from an inkwell. The flow from hand to page, the visceral feeling of it, it’s like where cooking and writing meet.
Your death row meal? Patagonian lamb grilled like they do in Ushuaia.
Anything else? Eat your paper airplanes, everyone!