Sheraton's love of food gives Westport crowd plenty of food for thought
Award-winning author and former New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton took an overflow audience on a culinary adventure around the world Saturday from their seats in the McManus Room of the Westport Library.
Sheraton said food is the foundation for her autobiography "because in search of food to write about it's defined my life, it's found my friends ... It has changed my ideas about people and places ... It's a big world out there with a lot of different tastes and customs."
She gave the audience heaping servings of food knowledge, wisdom and memories with a generous dollop of deadpan humor. She regaled the crowd -- and occasionally repulsed them -- with tales of the exotic menu items she has consumed in every corner of the Earth, including bull penis pho in Vietnam ("It was leathery") and grilled insects at China's night market ("It was like eating burned paper, which might have been a blessing").
The presentation centered around her latest book, "1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List," in conversation with Matt Storch, chef and partner of Match restaurant in Norwalk and The Chelsea in Fairfield. "She's an encyclopedia, 100 percent. I could only aspire to travel and eat as she has over her lifetime," said Storch, who also is well traveled.
The book reveals a "bucket list" of the best cuisines around the world, including French, Italian, Chinese, Senegalese, Mongolian, Peruvian and many more. Sheraton said Lebanon is the best place to eat. "I don't know if the French made it that way or stayed because the food was so good," she said.
"Her ability to recall all those places so fluidly as part of her lexicon was outstanding. She went from Germany to Vietnam and Lebanon," Mark Fricilli of Fairfield said. His wife Jane marveled at Sheraton's sharp memory naming New York restaurants -- some of which no longer exist -- as well as their addresses and cross streets.
Prompted by Storch's questions and those from the audience, Sheraton talked about coming food trends, her preference for organic, and revealed her ultimate comfort food -- fried eggs she prepares herself. Asked if she has a favorite vegetarian restaurant Sheraton delivered a definitive, "No," drawing laughter from the crowd. But she did add that Indian restaurants do the best at preparing vegetables.
Sheraton believes West African food will have more influence in the next few years and of Middle Eastern or Israeli shakshuka she said we may not know it now "but pretty soon you won't be able to avoid it." Ten years from now we will recognize restaurants as restaurants but there will be more experimentation with new foods, molecular techniques and new equipment we're not aware of yet, she said.
After the hour-long presentation Sheraton autographed books for fans, some sharing personal stories about how her writings are treasured by their families.
Elizabeth Keyser of Fairfield had the food expert autograph a copy of her 1965, "The German Cookbook," which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. "This is my bible," Keyser told Sheraton.
Laurie Peck of Bridgeport had Sheraton autograph a specific recipe in her book, "From My Mother's Kitchen Recipes & Reminiscences." "It's our family memory cookbook. So many of the recipes are similar to what my grandmothers made for us," Peck said, adding her 93-year-old mother Ruth Schaffer has asked her to make calf's feet, or petcha. Above that recipe Sheraton wrote: "To Laurie -- Try it already."
"I'm going to make it," Peck vowed.
For more about "1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List," visit: http://bit.ly/1ECXKUn.