Hannah Goldfield on the Joy of Describing Tastes

The Critic and Her Publics is a live interview series that asks the best and most prominent critics working today to perform criticism on the spot, on an object they’ve never seen before. It’s a glimpse into brilliant minds at work, performing their thinking, taking risks, and making spontaneous judgments, which are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

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From the episode:

Merve Emre: If you’ve been listening to The Critic and Her Publics, you’ll have a good sense of the variety of objects we’ve encountered so far. In this episode, our object is something a little different: food. And there’s no one better positioned to illuminate for us than Hannah Goldfield, a food critic at The New Yorker, and the beloved former writer of the Tables for Two column. I’ll confess that I’m someone with a frankly pragmatic approach to food—I know I need to eat it so I don’t die—but reading Hannah’s poetic, playful, and intensely sociable column week after week actually makes me want to eat. To commemorate her writing for Tables for Two, she created a listing of her 20 favorite restaurants that she reviewed in New York City. Here are a few of the descriptions that leapt out at me:

“…a texturally thrilling stuffed cabbage, filled with sticky rice and oyster and button mushrooms, draped in a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce, and finished with crunchy focaccia bread crumbs.”

“…a bowl of clear, fragrant broth dense with wontons bobbing like jellyfish, their ruffled bellies stuffed tightly with shrimp, their slippery wrappers trailing like tentacles.”

“The half chicken is brined, cleverly.”

“I preferred the testicle, meaty but mild, as supple as sweetbread, nearly spreadable.”

I could go on and on but it’ll only make me and you hungry.

For a full transcript and details of the piece Hannah responded to, head over to the New York Review of Books.


Hannah Goldfield is a staff writer at The New Yorker, covering restaurants and food culture. Previously, she was a fact checker at The New Yorker and an editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Her writing has appeared in New York magazine and the Times, among other publications.


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