A personal memory: Mimi Sheraton, food icon from Brooklyn, dies at 97
With the death of Mimi Sheraton on April 6, Brooklyn has lost a singular voice among many gourmet critics. Growing up in Midwood, she enjoyed Sheepshead Bay restaurants: “Clams are my Brooklyn summers at Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay when Lundy’s had an outside clam bar.” Food was written into her genealogy. Her mother loved cooking and her father worked in the Washington Market in wholesale produce.
Having written 16 books about food, cooking and restaurants, she later admitted to hate the chore of writing and deciphering the computer. Her copy usually arrived late, she admitted, until she approached her task from the viewpoint of the reader. Then she often phoned in her stories.
She shared the same elementary as I (P.S. 193 on Bedford Avenue) but we divided in high schools: she attended Midwood and I Madison. We both chose New York University where she studied journalism and marketing. After college, her interest in food piqued as she traveled all over the world sampling meals and building an education about food. In 1960, she used this experience to write “City Portraits,” a guide to eating in 60 cities.
Her fame emerged from the pages of The New York Times where she commanded attention as that newspaper’s first woman food and restaurant critic in 1975. Often, she disguised herself in restaurants to remain anonymous.
Mimi’s food columns have been published world-wide although her mother never thought restaurant reviewing equated with marrying a doctor. In 2004, she predicted to her mother she was destined to have a “big job.” “Maybe you’ll wash an elephant,” her mother retorted.
Ms. Sheraton lived in a pre-Civil War Greenwich Village brownstone on busy West 11 Street. When I visited her for a story, we sat in the dining room with our coffee and cookies next to the neatly crowded kitchen. Outside in the rear, she grew spices and herbs in window boxes.
I asked about her youthful associations with Manhattan Beach Baths where Kingsborough Community College is now located. She recalled swimming in the pools and dancing to the bands as a teenager. Her family then lived on Norfolk Court outside the resort’s gates, a street on which I later rented as well.
Her memoir, Eating My Words (2004), was her final book but she continued writing food criticism for The Daily Beast until 2016, the same year I convinced her to give a talk at Kingsborough about her youth in Manhattan Beach.
Other book titles by Ms. Sheraton include 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die (1915), an indexed reference book, not a cookbook, The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup (1995), From My Mother’s Kitchen (1979), and Is Salami and Eggs Better Than Sex?(1985) written with Alan King. Her The German Cookbook (1965) remains a best seller here and in Europe.
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