The Sunday Newsletter: Culinary Journeys - The New Yorker
The New Yorker

A selection of stories from The New Yorker’s archive

Culinary Journeys

“The true journey,” Italo Calvino wrote, “implies a complete change of nutrition, a digesting of the visited country—its fauna and flora and its culture (not only the different culinary practices and condiments but the different implements used to grind the flour or stir the pot).” In this week’s issue of the magazine—the Food and Travel issue—our writers take Calvino’s dictum as a guide. They trek to a remote Himalayan glacier; sip Oaxacan mezcal distilled in a raw cowhide; try the tasting menu at a locavore restaurant in La Paz, twelve thousand feet above sea level; and browse the country fair that takes over Paris each spring, revealing an unexpected microcosm of France.

In this weekend’s newsletter, meanwhile, we’ve set out a buffet of classic New Yorker pieces. In the spirit of Calvino, you might think of these stories as inquiries into food and memory (a chef reinvents his lost Turkish food heritage), food and wanderlust (an elusive Szechuan cook leads devotees on a chase through suburban America), food and family (an Englishwoman traces her relatives’ culinary diaspora in the Middle East), and food and the city (a Tijuana chef tries to revive his troubled town). Oh, and there’s chocolate for dessert—if you don’t mind riding along to the Bahian rain forest to get it.

—Nick Trautwein, senior editor

Popular Chronicles
 | January 15, 1996

The Homesick Restaurant 

In Havana, the restaurant called Centro Vasco is on a street that Fidel Castro likes to drive down on his way home from the office. In Little Havana, in Miami, there is another Centro Vasco on Southwest Eighth—a street that starts east of the Blue Lagoon and runs straight to the bay.


Notes of a Gastronome | January 3, 2011

Sweet Revolution

Just a year ago, I gave up sweets. I was in a restaurant in San Francisco, and, for the first time that I can recall, when the waiter said, “Dessert?,” in that conspiratorial, perky way waiters have, I said . . . nothing.


Sharpen your pencils. Yale Writers’ Conference

Learn with Amy Bloom, Michael Cunningham, Lev Grossman, Claudia Rankine, Edmund White.

Annals of Gastronomy | March 1, 2010

Where’s Chang?

It is common to dream of wandering into some dreary-looking chow-mein joint called Bamboo Gardens or Golden Dragon, ordering a couple of items you hadn’t expected to see on the menu, and discovering that the kitchen harbors a chef of spectacular ability.


Letter from Europe | September 3, 2007

Spice Routes

Claudia Roden has written ten cookbooks in the English language, including “A Book of Middle Eastern Food” and “The Book of Jewish Food,” and is finishing an eleventh, about the food of Spain. But if you ask where she’s from she says “Cairo” and if you ask her about the soup she says, “Melokhia, a soup no one but we Egyptians like.”


Notes of a Gastronome | October 29, 2007

Extreme Chocolate

Frederick Schilling knows one appetite, one curiosity, and one palate: his own. “What do I want from a chocolate?” he asked. “A beginning and an end. I start with the breast of a woman on her back.” He illustrated with his hand how a breast flattens when a woman lies down. “That’s my flavor curve.”


Letter from Istanbul | April 19, 2010

The Memory Kitchen

That night at Çiya, I viscerally understood why someone might use a madeleine dipped in tea as a metaphor for the spiritual content of the material world. Overwhelmed by the kisir and the dolmas, I wondered if the explanation lay in my past. Both my parents were born in Turkey, but I hadn’t been back for more than four years.


Letter from Tijuana | January 30, 2012

The Missionary

Unlike other Mexican states, whose food traditions go back hundreds of years and are rigidly codified—to change a mole recipe in Puebla would cause a culinary and academic scandal—Baja has no established regional cuisine. Javier Plascencia’s mission is to define one and, in the process, turn Tijuana into a site of gourmet pilgrimage.


Letter from El Salvador | November 21, 2011

Sacred Grounds

Aida Batlle is a fifth-generation coffee farmer and a first-generation coffee celebrity. On the steep hillsides of the Santa Ana Volcano, in western El Salvador, she produces beans that trade on the extreme end of the coffee market, where a twelve-ounce bag may cost twenty dollars or more and comes accompanied by a lyrical essay on provenance and flavor.


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