A Kingsborough College literary feast: Mimi Sheraton
The name Mimi Sheraton is as synonymous with food as the names of great international chefs. Yet her memories return her to her native Brooklyn: “Clams are my Brooklyn summers at Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay when Lundy’s…had an outside clam bar.”
She has written 16 books on food and travel, winning praise along the way. But her fame emerged from the pages of The New York Times, where she commanded attention as that newspaper’s first female food and restaurant critic for eight years.
Sheraton will speak about food and her Brooklyn upbringing on Oct. 18 at Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach.
Hailing from the neighborhood of Midwood, she studied journalism and marketing at New York University, which introduced her to copy writing at Good Housekeeping and Seventeen magazines. She was hired as a Times critic in 1975. Her experience led to subsequent positions and assignments at Time, Conde Nast Traveler, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
Among the titles of her books is the latest, “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die” (2015), a worldly indexed reference book, not a cookbook. Her autobiography is “Eating My Words” (2006). Then there’s “The German Cookbook” (1965) and “The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup” (1995).
Her online biography refers to her Brooklyn parents: her mother loved cooking and her father was a wholesale produce merchant in the Washington Market. After college, her interest in food piqued as she traveled on the job to furniture designers and was able to sample meals over the world, building an education about food. The editors at Seventeen promoted her to food editor.
Her options evolved as she moved into free-lancing; she researched food themes for Restaurant Associates when creating the original Four Seasons restaurant. In 1960, she circled the world to write “City Portraits,” a general travel guide to 60 cities.
Sheraton’s columns about food have been published internationally although her mother never thought restaurant reviewing equated with marrying a doctor. In a 2004 Times interview, she reported predicting to her mother that she was destined to have a “big job.” “Maybe you’ll wash an elephant,” her mother replied.
After leaving the Times, Sheraton wrote on airlines’ food and spoke on food criticism. An assignment for the Smithsonian Magazine in 2013 evoked memories of ten top meals that stood out across time.
Sheraton lives in a pre-Civil War Greenwich Village brownstone, with an appropriately equipped kitchen, and still writes regularly. Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio attended her 90th birthday party.
Her interest in Manhattan Beach Baths comes from her teenaged summer days there when her family rented a cottage on Norfolk Court (now Street) in the resort. She still remembers the food of Brooklyn and many of its specialties and her favorite restaurants.
Several other special meals from her “1,000 Foods” book include Spaghetti Cacio a Pepe at Sandro’s (East 81 Street near Second Avenue); Pizza Rustica (No. 28 Carmine St.).; Babka (Breads Bakery, 18 E. 16 St.); Dan Dan Noodles (Wu Liang Ye, 36 W. 48 St.); and Caviar and Blinis (Petrossian’s, 82 W. 58 St.).
When I met Mimi, we discovered we shared the same elementary school: P.S. 193 on Bedford Avenue and Avenue L, now re-christened Gil Hodges School. She went on to Midwood; I transferred to James Madison High School. Both of us received degrees from New York University.
Sheraton was an honored graduate of Midwood High School on Oct.15 when Midwood celebrated its 75th anniversary. Among other graduates of the first full commencement in 1943 was Matilda Cuomo, wife of former Gov. Mario Cuomo and mother of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Some other books by Sheraton include “From My Mother’s Kitchen” (1979), “The Bialy Eaters” (2000), “Visions of Sugar Plums” (1968), “Food Markets of the World” (1997), “The New York Times Jewish Cook Book” (2003), “Food Tales” (1992), “Mimi Sheraton’s The New York Times Guide to New York Restaurants” (1983) and “Is Salami and Eggs Better Than Sex?” with Alan King (1985).
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