Pushing Against the Edges of Good Taste

| 1/28/2008 11:10:33 AM

Gastronomica editor Darra Goldstein talks to Utne.com about her savvy, luscious, and provocative food journal

interview by Sarah Pumroy

FreudGastronomicaYou could say Darra Goldstein has her plate full. She’s the founder and editor in chief of Gastronomica, the journal of food and culture that won the 2007 Utne Independent Press Award for social/cultural coverage. The quarterly is a labor of love she produces with the help of a part-time managing editor and design director while managing her work as a professor of Russian studies at Williams College. She’s also the author of four cookbooks and numerous scholarly books and articles. 

Each issue of Gastronomica bursts with articles that inform, conjure the senses, and reflect on the cultural impact of food. And each issue brings a bounty of content that ranges in style, format, and gravity, from playful poetry to weighty investigative pieces. Utne.com spoke with Goldstein about how she got the idea for the journal, what makes for good food writing, and why the glossies’ food coverage is worth reading, even if it sometimes falls short. 

You have a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature. How did you become interested in writing about food and where did the idea for Gastronomica come from? 

TomatoGastronomicaI’ve always been interested in food. When I started graduate school I wanted to write my dissertation on food and Russian literature. Because there are so many themes of eating in Russian lit, I just thought it would be a wonderful dissertation to write. This was back in 1974, and my professors told me it was not a serious topic. So I did a different dissertation on a Russian modernist poet. I’m not sorry that I did that because it enabled me to enter into a really wonderful world, but I couldn’t stop thinking about food. I got the job at Williams and was teaching Russian literature but I was also continuing to write about food on the side. The two lives were very distinct: the Russian scholar and the food writer. It was almost as though what I was doing had to be secret, a little bit illicit, because I wasn’t supposed to be doing it. But I couldn’t help myself. 

6/29/2009 3:27:42 AM


Sheldon Z
4/30/2009 3:08:44 AM

Talking about food, , April 27th was KFC Free Grilled Chicken Day. KFC Free Grilled Chicken Day was put on by Kentucky Fried Chicken to promote their new, healthier alternative option, Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Kentucky Grilled Chicken, the Original Recipe and Extra Crispy still come under fire from groups concerned with public health and heart disease, and animal rights groups protesting the treatment of chickens. A lot of people would give a cash advance to get more fast food chains to offer healthier fare. Regardless, KFC is still selling, and is a popular brand the world over. So anyone who didn't want to use installment loans to buy their own grill hopefully participated in KFC Grilled Chicken Day. http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/2009/04/27/kfc-free-grilled-chicken-day/

manjari chatterji
1/30/2008 5:31:37 PM

Despite our otherwise consumerist society, we are still Puritanical about admitting to "pleasure" for pleasure's sake, which is what you, like the Europeans and the Slow Food people do. Pleasure is so suspect, that a hearty leven of ecological concerns seems necessary to legitimate it. Not that bio-diversity should be ignored; those of us old enough to remember pre-industrial food feel a great urgency in restoring health to agriculture.

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