'We're Living in the Golden Age of Pizza,' says Wilco's Jeff Tweedy

And more conversations on music and food with Mark Bittman

Jul 6, 2022

Earlier this year, Mark interviewed singer-songwriter, Jeff Tweedy, in what was originally billed as a discussion about food. Tweedy is also on Substack, with the terrific Starship Casual that we’d highly encourage you to check out. As you’d expect, the interview is more far-reaching in that they talk about the meaning of “alt-country,” the rise of women authors and singer-songwriters, the backstory behind Tweedy’s “Black Moon,” and more.

Above, we’ve got the best of this interview. Below, we’ve highlighted the food-relevant stretch.

Jeff Tweedy is best known as the frontperson for Grammy award-winning Wilco and has put out over 20 studio albums, including his newest, “Cruel Country,” a country-leaning double-LP. Tweedy has also teamed up with legends such as Mavis Staples and has diverged into solo- and side projects such as Loose Fur and Golden Smog.

This interview is edited for length and clarity.

Photo: Alexa Viscius

Mark Bittman: OK: Who does the cooking in your house?

Jeff Tweedy: My wife [Sue Miller] does almost all of the cooking in our house.

Bittman: This is Susie, I take it?

Tweedy: Yeah. Our family, I have to say, has a pretty odd relationship with food. We don't cook a whole lot. We eat out a lot, and I bring food home. I'm at the loft every day, where I am right now. There's a pretty vast repertoire of decent things to order from here. A lot of times, when I leave here, I'm taking home ramen, or things that are around here. We have a lot of nights that are designated: sushi night, or whatever. It's incredibly disappointing for this conversation, I guess. I apologize.

Bittman: I can still do it, don't worry. What are the nights? What are your favorite things to be eating?

Tweedy: Our family loves Chicago pizza, honest to God, unabashedly so. There are a lot of different pizza places that we like. Not all of them are Chicago-style, but it seems like we're living in the golden age of pizza, at this point.

Bittman: Certainly people talk about it enough.

Tweedy: I'm sure that's like you telling me that you wish we played "Louie Louie" more often.

Bittman: Yeah, that's a song I don't have to hear anymore, actually.

Tweedy: We have a couple of simple things that we do make occasionally that we just call The Dish: brown rice, avocado, scallions, some sesame oil, and some chopped-up tomatoes and stuff like that. It's really simple stuff….This is an ongoing conversation in our house that somebody needs to learn how to cook more. And it's not my wife: She's aiming at our 21-year-old son who still lives with us. And Spencer, he's 25, he doesn't live with us anymore. He probably cooks more than we do. But as a family... I don't know. Maybe it's because of the travel, I think, that I've just gotten so used to eating out almost all the time….It's a weird dynamic. And I feel shame. I feel shame.

Bittman: I'm sorry. We can send you some cookbooks if you like, if you want to try —

Tweedy: No, that's the crazy thing. I think we have your cookbooks, and we just need to open them and work towards a better lifestyle.

Bittman: How much are you touring?

Tweedy: I wasn't touring for those 18 months [of the pandemic], and that was the longest I have been in one place in my entire adult life. Because I started touring and playing shows around the country around 18, 19 years old, and I'm 54 now. So it's not a great excuse for not learning how to cook, but it's the one I have.

Bittman: Were you touring 200 nights a year back then?

Tweedy: A lot of the years, we were averaging 180 shows a year. On the road, it's really hard. You have to really be careful. Otherwise, you gain weight no matter what, no matter how hard you're working on stage. We call it “second dinner” because you always end up eating after the show no matter how late it is. And that's partially because, for me, I cannot eat for hours and hours before the show. I just don't like getting on stage feeling really full. So the last meal before the show would probably be around 3 p.m., and then I don't eat again until we get offstage. Midnight or so.

Check out Jeff Tweedy’s newsletter, Starship Casual, where you’ll hear music from Jeff, chit-chat from tour, and other great stuff.

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Bittman: And it's just whatever you can lay your hands-on kind of thing?

Tweedy: We plan ahead. And a lot of times that's why it's not hot is because you order from the places that can close while you're on stage and the tour manager or somebody makes sure everybody gets something from a local Chinese place or someplace like that. I'm not complaining because we do what we do pretty comfortably these days. And it's way better than it was in the old days. There are way more restaurants to order from than there ever were, especially for takeout.

Bittman: I was just having this conversation with someone about how much better takeout... First of all, people are willing to spend more money on takeout than they used to because, for a while, we had no choice, but then restaurants have gotten really, really good at it.

Tweedy: It's changed. And then, Europe, it was always really, really hard in Europe. In England, when I first started touring, it was really hard to get a vegetable on the road. Now, it's pretty amazing. Truck stops on the motorway or whatever, you can get the salad. But, again, in lots of European countries like Italy and places like that, it's surprising how early everything closes. It's also surprising in places like Spain, how nothing's open at 9:00 p.m., but they'll be open at 10:00 p.m.

Bittman: Last question, because I know you have to go. And I ask everybody this. So what did you eat for dinner last night?

Tweedy: Susie cooked a nice, just straight-up stew-stew. Meat, potatoes, carrots, what you get at Manny's here in Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Manny’s Instagram