Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mones, Flinn and Ruhlman at Wordstock

I was in the presence of some pretty impressive figures from the world of food writing this afternoon, at Wordstock's food writing panel discussion.

Portland's own Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef, spoke about her observations of the "real" chinese cuisine; its history, its traditions, its relentless emphasis on formality and decorum, culled from her nearly twenty years of living and writing in China.

Kathleen Flinn related a number of interesting stories based on her experiences at Le Cordon Bleu (did you know, for instance, that there are only three food processors on the entire property?), which she's recently gathered into a book called The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry.

And then there was Ruhlman. Cleveland's staunchest defender; co-author, with Thomas Keller of course, of The French Laundry Cookbook; the man who plays debauched attorney to Anthony Bourdain's Dr. Gonzo. Michael Ruhlman could fairly be called the current Bono of food writing. In town to promote his new book, The Elements of Cooking (interestingly formatted as a 244 page glossary of cooking terms and concepts; should make for a good reference), he was into this panel dicussion. He was engaged. He was animated. He gesticulated wildly as he offered nuggets of wisdom to aspiring writers, bloggers and foodies alike. But most impressive was his humility. He frequently excused himself for "rambling," and diverted many of the questions directed toward him to his fellow panelists, out of a sincere desire to hear their take on their collective craft. Ruhlman made his name writing about topics as disparate as wooden boats and surgery, but he seems to have really hit his stride with the subject of food. Kathleen Flinn said at one point during the discussion that "curious people make the best writers." Ruhlman is, if nothing else, a curious person...

My only complaint about this panel discussion is that the sound crew didn't record it. Given the media saturated nature of our culture, this baffles me a little. I'd love to be able to listen to this a second, and third, time. But these people are authors, and they've given us books to read. I suppose it's best that way.


Kathleen said...

Hi, thanks for the nice coverage of our panel. I did not have a photo of the actual panel setup so I borrowed your main one for my blog. I hope that's OK with you. I totally agree about Michael's passion for the panel's subject! I wrote about my experience on my own panel, the URL noted below.

Kathleen Flinn
author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry"

tommy said...

No problem, Kathleen. Thanks for a great discussion!

Lizzy said...

I saw this panel, too and thought it was very informative. I loved hearing about their reasons for writing about food.

tommy said...

Yeah, pretty interesting stuff. Welcome aboard, Lizzy!

The Guilty Carnivore said...

Very nice writeup, Tommy.