What Ruth Bourdain Really Thinks
by Fran Brennan
by Fran Brennan
Move over macarons. Food lovers have a new guilty pleasure.
Meet Ruth Bourdain — a mind-bending mix of Ruth Reichl (much revered former New York Times restaurant critic and editor of the now-defunct-but-still-widely-mourned Gourmet magazine) and Anthony Bourdain (the oft-profane chef-writer-television personality).
Maybe the most fun a foodie can have without firing up the oven (or the whipped cream canister, but that’s another post entirely), Ruth Bourdain debuted on Twitter March 3 (@ruthbourdain). Since then, he/she has gained more than 2,000 followers and countless amused retweets. He/She has also aimed his/her fiery wit at some of the biggest names in food, always to hilarious effect.
But Ruth Bourdain is at her/his best when “mashing up the tweets of Ruth Reichl with the mind of Anthony Bourdain,” according to her/his Twitter bio. During the recent storms in New York City, Ruth Reichl tweeted:
Slate sky. Power out. Ferocious wind. Fire blazing. Cold ham, thick bread, chunky applesauce. Hot coffee. Cream.
That same day, Ruth Bourdain tweeted:
Like Bayless’s quesadilla pose and Fieri’s thighs, not much is sacred on Ruth Bourdain’s Twitter feed. (He/She even poked fun at the ever-serious writer Michael Ruhlman.) The recipients don’t always get the joke; but Frank Bruni (another former NYT restaurant critic) clearly caught the spirit, telling Ruth Bourdain,
You're offal cute: the drag-queen love child of Fergus Henderson and Alice Waters. Meant as a compliment.
Food News Journal was lucky enough to catch Ruth Bourdain between tweets (and, possibly, other assignments). After we’d promised not to unmask her/him, she/he graciously agreed to answer a handful of our most pressing questions.
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FNJ: How did you come up with this freaking brilliant idea of “mashing up" Reichl and Bourdain? Are you a fan of either or both of them, or did those Reichl tweets make you just crazy enough to create a sort of Frankenstein's monster named Ruth Bourdain?
RB: I'm a big fan of both of them. Interestingly, Anthony Bourdain does not tweet. However, Ruth Reichl is prolific. Her haiku-like tweets about food really needed a send-up. What better way than transplanting the acerbic Anthony Bourdain into her body? I hope that nobody is offended. It's all in good fun.
FNJ: Food people can take themselves -- and their food -- pretty seriously; and food writing can swing in so many different directions (from the overly precious to the super earthy). You seem fairly adept at lampooning that. Had you been following both of these writers for a while? Have you ever met either of them?
RB: I met Ruth Reichl once. Never met Anthony Bourdain. Food people take themselves way too seriously. Food can be an incredibly serious subject — in terms of politics, production, health, and nutrition, among other aspects. But, eating is mostly about pleasure (or the lack thereof). If Reichl swings towards the "overly precious" side, Bourdain swings in the other direction.
FNJ: Have either Reichl or Bourdain (or their respective camps) contacted you since Ruth Bourdain first appeared on Twitter?
FNJ: What's your day job? Is it food related?
RB: I am a writer. Yes.
FNJ: Any chance you'll tell us your gender?
FNJ: You're not only skillful at capturing the styles of two of the biggest names in food; you also seem able — like them — to stay up late, be up early, enjoying (or not) food all the while and tweeting about it. When do you sleep?
RB: Thank you. Ruth Bourdain never sleeps, except when she has too many absinthe smoothies.
FNJ: What about that Twitter photo, with Reichl's wild mane framing Bourdain's perma-scowl? Your idea? We loved Frank Bruni’s 'drag-queen love child” assessment. Do you consider that a compliment, a sign of success?
RB: The Twitter avatar was created before the very first tweet. I think that's what set it all in motion. This character needed to come to life. Very flattered by Bruni and the general reaction. I honestly didn't expect anyone would take notice.
FNJ: Do you see a future for Ruth Bourdain? Food Network show? Book deal? Food blog? Or are you just doing it to crack yourself up? Because you’re sure cracking us up.
RB: Just taking it one step at a time. Books, TV shows...bring it on! Not sure if Ruth deserves a book out of this, to be completely honest, but if someone wants to pay for it, that's a different story entirely! Otherwise, I really just created this as an experiment and will only keep doing as long as it's fun. Which it is. For now.
FNJ: Finally, any death threats?
RB: No, but Rick Bayless appears to be completely perplexed that he had a yoga session with Ruth and twisted her into an "inverted quesadilla" pose. He [direct message]'d me, and I tried to DM him back to explain that this was just a parody, but he doesn't follow Ruth, so there's no way to set him straight. C'est la Internet.