A Week in Culture: Amanda Hesser, Food Writer, Part 2


The Culture Diaries

Photograph by Sarah Shatz.


ALL DAY All work, no Internet play.

>1:00 A.M. Time to do some serious reading online. Nah! Read about the Steve Martin imbroglio at the 92nd Street Y. Skip over to a piece on Google and Groupon (best part: Andrew “Mason, Groupon’s chief executive, declined an earlier interview request, adding that he would talk ‘only if you want to talk about my other passion, building miniature dollhouses.’”) Listen to some Beth Orton, which always makes me think of a former boyfriend/jackass, who introduced me to her music—a shame, because I like you Beth!—so I switch to Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara,” a song I love because it scorns the clichéd drum climax interlude. The song builds and builds and never resolves.

Then my surfing goes to a dark place. Read Gawker story on whereabouts of Julian Assange, followed by a New York Times story on the suicide of the suspect in the murder of Ronni Chasen, a Hollywood publicist.

Robert Scoble pulls me from my death spiral. Thank you, man. Listen to his interview with Kevin Systrom, a cofounder of the Internet sensation Instagram. I like listening to company founders tell their stories, although I’m more interested in their tone and salesmanship than what they actually do. Systrom’s was confident, controlling, and mildly dismissive.

Dip my toe into the Times story on obesity surgery. Decide I’d rather think of something besides Lap-Bands before bed … like my to-do list! It’s three pages long and includes items like “Read Wired story on coupons” and “Look up foodie episode of South Park”—plus a whole host of actual work and responsibility, like “Figure out health insurance” and “Sign Addie up for ballet.”


>ALL DAY Long thread of meetings.

>8:30 P.M. News flash, found via @ErickSchonfeld: Google-Groupon deal is off. Shocker! (Not.) Move on to @RachelSklar, who leads me to Mediaite “What Machiavelli Would Have Thought of Wikileaks: A Short History of Undiplomatic Diplomats.”

Pause for requisite look at real estate. Fantasize about living in this Frank Lloyd Wright home.

Read on Twitter that Elaine Kaufman died. Best nugget in her obit: “After an argument with her, Norman Mailer vowed never to return and wrote her an unflattering letter. She scribbled ‘Boring’ across the top and sent it back to him.”

Listen to “Falling Slowly,” which has never sounded as magical since Once costars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová broke up.

>12:00 A.M. Come across a story about Nicolas Sarkozy chasing a dog chasing a rabbit through his office, while Hillary Clinton looked on.

Read a ton of Eater and Curbed. Tossed in a little HuffPo, too. Troublingly, I will look through any slide show on Princess Letitzia.

Come across the cookbook roundup in The New York Times Book Review, which identified me as a “former columnist.” Last time I checked I’ve been a columnist since 2004. Plot witty and devastating e-mail about correction, but then get sleepy.


>MORNING I no longer read the Times in print, and this entirely changed the tenor of my Saturday mornings. No more guilt! No more pressure to work my way through it. I can now read the paper persistently online all through the week. Since there is no end to it, no more completion anxiety!

>12:00 P.M. Brave Fifth Avenue crush to go to Coolhunting for Gap, a pop-up store, to sign books.

>8:30 P.M. Read Alix Browne’s story on Alice O’Malley’s “availablism.” Tad pointed me to a Modern Love column by Jenny Browne. It is the best essay I’ve read in the past year.

Dig into Slate’s 80 over 80—focusing on the women. Helen Gurley Brown is still alive—didn’t know that! I bet she’s had more sex than I have. Eat Middle Eastern food while watching a mediocre 30 Rock. Still no TV tables!

Tad and I watched a three-minute cooking show/interstitial on NY 1: A man in a random apartment cooked pork chops and served them over an apple salad. The food looked fine, but his cabinets were so much cheesier than we’re used to seeing on food segments; they’d never do in It’s Complicated.

Twitter led me to HuffPo’s “Best Cookbooks of 2010,” which mentioned the Tournament of Cookbooks along with Amazon, NPR, and The Guardian—we’re legit!


>11:00 A.M. We buy a Christmas tree from our ritzy, top-secret Frazier Fir outlet—namely, the shivering kid in front of Key Food—and lug it home. Our four-year-old twins help us decorate, smashing two ornaments to smithereens in their zeal. Listen to ancient Time-Life Christmas album, which includes my favorite holiday song, “Christmas in Dixie.”

>7:30 P.M. Tad built a fire, I made cocoa, and we read a fabulous pop-up edition of The Night Before Christmas, by Robert Sabuda, to the twins.

>8:30 P.M. Read some David Carr, whose work is like eating your vegetables, but he makes them taste like dessert. And found a nice little gem, this Lamborghini story.

My father-in-law sent a link to this >12:00 A.M. Someone on Facebook e-mails me about a piece on the GE Energy Smart LED lightbulb. It has ceramic fins! And it last like ten years. The post, which appeared in T, was written by one of my favorite style writers, Pilar Viladas.

Summary of week: I have a lot to do if I want to get on that 80-over-80 list. It’s so much easier just to hang out and be a douche-b.

Amanda Hesser is a columnist for The New York Times, a cofounder of food52, and the author, most recently, of The Essential New York Times Cookbook