Senior Eater critic Robert Sietsema recently released a new book New York in a Dozen Dishes. In an interview aired Saturday on California public radio station KCRW, LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold talks to Sietsema about his past publishing Down the Hatch, Neapolitan pizza, and what he learned researching for the book. Here, in no particular order, are the 8 best quotes:
1) Sietsema on why pig kneecaps might not be the worst thing to happen to mole: "Yeah but it's good for your skin with all that collagen."
2) When Gold asks why Sietsema denied him a subscription to Down the Hatch: "Because I had to stuff each and every envelope and affix the postage by hand and lick every stamp. That was in the days before self-adhesive postage. And I would get this horrible taste in my mouth from all the stamps and also I was sending out like 300 and I thought well that's about as far as any publication should extend."
3) Sietsema on the longevity of John's of Bleecker Street: "It's still there and they're still delivering coal every morning through the coal scuttle."
4) Sietsema shares his thoughts on Neapolitan pizza in Italy: "I was charmed, although their pies are tiny and round and damp and they don't even cut them. And if you try to pick up a slice of pizza, it's going to be all over your pants."
5) Sietsema on fusion pastrami in Los Angeles: "A lot of that happened in the 20s and 30s when the Mexican community in Boyle Heights and the Jewish community in Boyle Heights were the same and so there was a certain intermingling of ingredients which is why you have pastrami burritos and pastrami dogs."
6) Gold on critics obsessions with authenticity of local cuisines: "A lot of people writing about food especially the kind of food we're writing about are stuck on the concept of authenticity. That something has to be done the exact New York way or the exact LA way or the exact Mexican way . . . One of the things that I've liked about your writing is that I think you're interested even more in the sort of transitions."
7) Sietsema on his fascination with Senegalese paella-like stew: "That's something that I'd eaten in West Africa when I went there and it just blew me away. I loved it so much. It reflected so many different historical facts in Africa and geology and everything else."
8) Sietsema discusses some of the discoveries he made while researching his book, one of which was the strange disappearance of guinea pigs: "Guinea pigs are even less common than they were when I first ate them. That some dishes come to New York to die rather than flourish. And I had to get a guinea pig, I didn't buy it at the pet shop of course, but I had to find a restaurant that served guinea pig in order to complete that chapter and it was quite an arduous process trying to find one and I finally found a restaurant in Corona that served it but they charged me $50 per guinea pig."
Listen to the full interview below: