Last Friday was a busy day — Janet Napolitano traded Homeland Security for California, Edward Snowden apparently picked Russia — and many of you may be forgiven for not realizing that one of the biggest mysteries of the food world was quietly solved. Or maybe not so much solved as presented, as a kind of fait accompli, and finally in more than 140 characters.
On Friday, The New York Times unveiled the identity of the anonymous humorist Ruth Bourdain as Josh Friedland, the longtime author of the blog The Food Section, who finally got tired of his cloaks and cleavers and came out of the pantry, as the NYT put it.
That Friedland, who is 43 and based in New Jersey, managed to keep his secret for so long is as much of a mystery as anything else.
For a time in 2011, everyone thought it was former Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema. For a brief few hours one April, everybody thought it was Alice Waters (it was actually former Squid Ink writer Noah Galuten, penning an April Fool's joke). For years, some of us thought it was New York food writer Regina Schrambling (Hi Regina!).
For three years and, according to The New York Times, 2,700 posts, Ruth Bourdain tweeted out hilarious commentary on the food world in the form of an imagined mash-up of Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain. This running joke was so successful that the James Beard Foundation created an entirely new award category — humor, not something that either the food world or the Beard Foundation has historically been known for — to celebrate the voice. Ruth Bourdain even got a book contract.
“I never thought the joke would go on so long,” Friedland told the NYT. But then a lot of us never thought that the food world would become so easy to parody. (“Just got nasty with some donut nectarines. One lick, and the juice drips down my chin. Imagine if they were cronut nectarines.”) As for why Friedland finally gave himself up — he was not unmasked, despite the earnest attempts by many to do so over the years — he told the NYT that the secrecy had become exhausting and “being unable to take credit for the work has become a hindrance.” To what exactly, we'll doubtless soon find out.
Ruth Bourdain will be greatly missed.
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