Welcome to La Briffe

What is La Briffe? The name comes from an ancient French word for eating. Briffe is food. Briffer is a verb: to eat. A briffaud is someone who loves to eat. And when you have a great meal, you are chez briffman.

I’ve been a briffaud all my life. When I was 23 years old and looking for a job a friend said, “You’re such a good cook you ought to write a cookbook.” So I did.

You have to understand that in 1971 there were not a lot of Americans who had much interest in food. So after MMMMM: A Feastiary came out, I was officially a food writer.

What luck! For the next fifty years I reported on the great American food revolution. As we were becoming a nation of eaters I wrote for dozens of magazines. I moved on to become the restaurant critic of both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. I was the last Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine.

When I started out, food writing was exiled to what were then called “the women’s pages.” It was pretty much limited to recipes and restaurant reviews. I’ve always loved to cook and I’m fascinated by restaurants but I still found it infuriating. There is so much more to food! Everyone eats, and I believe that the choices we make about how we feed ourselves impact every aspect of our lives. There are many ways to approach food writing, and many topics to cover. That is why La Briffe is different from anything else you’ll find on line.

Think of it as a kind of mini-magazine filled with delicious tidbits. You’ll find something new in your inbox every day. You’ll hear from me, of course, about current developments in the food world. But that’s only the beginning.

I’ll be posting vintage articles from my archive, sharing those that reveal the way American food has changed over the years. There will be articles on forgotten food pioneers. One of my first assignments - and still one of my favorites - is about a man who studied Thanksgiving in such detail that he could tell everything about you simply by asking what was on your family table. Other articles chronicle food movements, innovations, and all the new foods we were discovering.

Restaurants have always struck me as particularly fertile ground, and we’ll be looking back at old restaurant reviews to reveal important moments in food history. Along the way I’ll share some astonishing vintage menus from the huge archive I’ve collected.Reading through them you discover not only the way we ate, but also the way we lived. I think you’ll be amazed by how much they say about their time.

You’ll also be getting a daily Gift Guide. These are suggestions for foods, plants, cooking equipment and utensils that have made my kitchen a happier place. (Yes, I paid for everything; no product placement here.) These are all things I love, and I know your friends will be glad to get them. But I’m betting you’ll want to keep some for yourself.

There will be recipes, of course. Not to mention restaurant suggestions.

Got questions? Ask Ruth. I’m here to help. And I’ll be asking some questions of my own, because I’m eager to find out what you’re thinking, cooking and eating.

What does it cost? Absolutely nothing. For the month of December I’ll be Writer in Residence here at Substack. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know one another again.

Why am I doing this? Because this is the most exciting time in food in my lifetime. There’s a lot to talk about, and I want to be part of the conversation. And after years of being a daily journalist I miss being connected to all of you. So please sign up. If you like La Briffe - and I like producing it - this could turn into something more permanent.

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Writer. Cook. Eater.