Frank Bruni and the Hidden Beauty of Aging
An enlightening chat with my old colleague and friend
"I still love food and I still love restaurants, and in a way I get more joy out of it more now than ever because it is an inimitable adventure to be a restaurant critic for a paper like the New York Times. It is a heady and surreal experience. But you're not a normal diner. You can't be a regular at any restaurant, because your job is to go to the next one, the next one, the next one. You can't have truly normal interactions with the host or hostess, with the chef, with the servers, because there's this dance going on where everyone is pretending that they don't realize it's you there, and you're pretending you don't know that they know you're there. And now, when I find a restaurant that I love, I can go back once a week if I feel like it."
My guest on today’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman is someone I’ve known for years, I have tremendous respect and admiration for, and who used to be my next-door neighbor at the Times — we had offices next to each other. When I saw that he had a new book, The Beauty of Dusk, I reached out immediately to have him on the show. I am talking, of course, about Frank Bruni.
Frank, who still writes for the Times, is now in North Carolina, where he’s a professor at Duke. His career trajectory is impressive and varied: Over his 25 years with the organization, he has served as metro reporter, White House correspondent to the Bush administration, Rome bureau chief, and chief restaurant critic. He became an op-ed columnist shortly after I did, but remained much longer and has been much more prolific. (He was also the first openly gay op-ed columnist at the Times.)
Frank is the author of four Times’ bestsellers; The Beauty of Dusk, the most recent reflects on his imperiled eyesight and the challenges of aging. That’s what I wanted to talk to him about; I read the book and found it incredibly poignant, a very compelling read, and I wasn’t disappointed in this conversation — in fact, I was thrilled by it. It was great to catch up with Frank, and I think you’ll really enjoy this.
The recipe featured in the episode — The BruniBerry — is below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And we’d love to hear your food-related questions, as we’d like to start doing live Q&A: Email us at email@example.com.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
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Makes: 1 cocktail
Time: 5 minutes
The BruniBerry is a mildly-sweet tequila and strawberry cocktail that gets some heat (as much or as little as you want) from jalapeño.
Keep in mind that some jalapeño is hotter than others: It’s impossible to give a measure that will assure a specific degree of heat. So if you make the following recipe, go especially light on the jalapeño the first time around, and don’t overdo the ice in the shaker. — Frank Bruni
1 small piece jalapeño (smaller than a grape)
1/4 ounce honey water (half-honey, half-water)
1½ ounce tequila of choice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 sprig cilantro
1. Muddle strawberries. Transfer to a cocktail shaker, combine with other ingredients and a few ice cubes, and shake. Strain into a short tumbler with fresh ice.
— Recipe from The New York Times
Nice one! He's a writer with heart, and in his previous books had such a gift for getting to what really matters. I'll put this one on the list. It sounds aligned with Atul Guwande's Being Mortal, also about living fully in the moment whatever one's capacity to do so.
I can't wait to read his book and listen to your chat with him. I am such a fan of both of you!