Special Sauce: How Sliced Bread Got Calvin Trillin Into College


[Photograph: Richard Stamelman]

"The Grand Rabbi of Joplin, Missouri, said that any farm animal with four hooves and no scales, if subjected to more than five hours of slow heat, is kosher. That's the barbecue easement," says writer, humorist, and food lover Calvin Trillin on this week's Special Sauce. And that's how a nice Jewish boy from Kansas City was permitted to eat pork ribs, cooked low and slow.

In this episode of our podcast, you'll find out how Trillin—one of my favorite writers of all time—came to be a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of 30 books, including American Fried; Alice, Let's Eat; and Third Helpings, which are now collectively known as The Tummy Trilogy. These books inspired succeeding generations of serious eaters (including yours truly) to devote themselves to writing about the pleasures of indigenous regional food.

On Special Sauce, Trillin tells us how his warm Midwestern family gathered for meals—though he confesses that his mother served only copious leftovers and was not a particularly good cook. It was the company that mattered, and that's how food gets mingled in our best memories: "I think that's been true for people forever," he says. People remember "the jolly times they've had sitting around a table with their whole family, because people are relaxed when they're eating. And, of course, a lot of meals are rituals, families are built on rituals, kids love rituals."

While enjoying our own lunch around the corner from his home, Trillin and I discuss how sliced bread got him into Yale and the reason he's never cared about covering fine dining. The best part? This interview is a two-parter. Stay tuned for more conversation with Trillin next week.

Special Sauce is available on iTunes. You can also find the archive of all our episodes here on Serious Eats and on this RSS feed.