eatinglife: Eating The Life

The back kitchen

It's not hard to figure out where my love of food and eating springs from: The back kitchen of my Italian grandfather's butcher shop in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Some of my most primeval memories are of that place. A shadowy hallway led from the front of the store to a cozy little kitchen where there was always a roast in the oven and sauce bubbling on the stove. It was a sacred place, fragrant with the smell of food and alive with a feeling of family. There, one day, decades ago, as a round-headed little kid with spaghetti on my face and a meatball clutched in my fist, something must have clicked: This is what this being alive thing is really all about.

I wager that behind every foodie (you know who you are: reminiscing about meals the way some people do about past loves, stocking your refrigerator full of funny bottles and sauces, falling asleep reading cookbooks in bed) is some similar, foundational food experience.

Fast forward a few decades and now we've got one very food-focused adult on our hands. Having a food quality-control filter set on high means life basically boils down to a series of punctuated, standout culinary encounters: Meaty tomatoes plucked straight from the vine, buttery apple tarts fresh out the oven at Poilne in Paris, handmade mole rojo in a Mexican mountain village ... and the list goes on.

Stints in New York City (hyper-culinary paradise), Vermont (where I ate artisanal cheese and wrote for Eating Well magazine), and Connecticut (ah, Frank Pepe's coal-fired white clam pizza), led to Ohio's brave new world, where Cincinnati has become my new culinary playground (goetta, Skyline, Graeter's ...).

I've written for CityBeat since 2004, and now I've assumed the role of contributing editor of the Diner pages. It's my goal to dig into the eating life in these parts and reveal the unique and different — all told through CityBeat's particular lens, probing, insightful, with a healthy dose of attitude.

Whether you think of it in these terms or not, our meals do define our lives. "Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are," wrote Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th-century French politician and thinker. Consider that the next time you're wolfing down some fast food slop. We'll do our job, giving you our take on the good and the bad. What you eat is up to you.

Now, as the French say, let's eat: "À table!"