Resigning from my post as Sifty’s #1 fangirl
It all started as an inside joke. With myself. During his tenure as the New York Times‘ Food Critic, Mr. Sifton wrote a review of a new restaurant called Lavo. I happened to really enjoy this parody of a certain personality type that I knew all too well. My brain was delighted; my sense of humor ignited — I shared it with all of my friends.
Later that week, at a dinner party turned late night out, a character resembling the gentleman from Mr. Sifton’s review approached me and a friend. “You’re into food?” he said, “I have to take you to this amazing place — you’ll love it.” The gentleman was obviously referring to Lavo, and was not entirely pleased when the resulting laughter catapulted me from my chair. Broheim, indeed.
When Sifton left the Times, chef/food personality/enigma Eddie Huang wrote a review of the critic who once slammed him. It was the best summary of the man’s influence on the food world that anyone could have come up with. As Huang pointed out, Sifton realized something that had long been bubbling up beneath the longstanding food conversation: that food was the new cultural currency of the intelligentsia. In Sifton’s reviews, restaurants were cultural establishments where food happened to be a central component, but their position and point of view in the broader landscape of culture was fundamental. And he pulled in diverse cultural elements that people from my generation could relate to, weaving rap lyrics into his restaurant reviews as easily as he dissected fashion statements and personality types.
A gastronomic authority with a quick pen, quicker wit and a love for hip-hop? I was head over heels in love with the prose, but the joke really began when I thought up my food-focused t-shirt company, Epicurean Apparel. One of the first tees I was planning to feature included the slogan “Sam Sifton is my boyfriend” enclosed in a heart. But the dude quit the food critic gig to head up the New York Times‘ news desk before I could get the company launched. And, more importantly, he broke my heart by abandoning his post at the intersection of food and everything else.
Thanks to the thin veil of anonymity provided by the internet, I felt empowered to take my frustration to Twitter: “@SamSifton claims he’s leaving @NYTFood for @NYTNews. Actually he’ll be dedicating himself to being my boyfriend full time”
Pleased with myself, several other similarly ridiculous #SiftyismyBf tweets followed. Much to my surprise and profound amusement, the tweets spurred a response from Sifton’s wife: “Only if you help kids w/ homework,” she wrote back. This woman is cool. (Sadly I changed my Twitter handle and the rest of the conversation is now lost to posterity).
It’s one thing to make a fool of yourself on the internet, and a totally different thing to do so in real life. So when I finally faced Mr. Sifton in person a few weeks ago at a talk to promote Eddie Huang’s new book, I was pretty mortified. I probably hadn’t felt like this much of a speechless loser since the first time I met Ferran Adria, and it was all I could do to ask him to sign my copy of his book. When I told him who I was, his eyes brightened. “Mariana! So nice to meet you!” he said. I turned bright red. He seemed pretty amused about the whole thing, and was really nice about it. I was flattered to be recognized, but also totally embarrassed to be that girl. It was then that I vowed to end my tenure as Sifton’s fangirl.
So if you’re reading this, Sam, Happy Valentine’s Day! Thanks for being cool. And Tina: you’ve got a great husband. Here’s wishing you two a romantic evening.