Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Champion of Twin Cities Food Writing
This essay is part of a feature, Food Writer Friday, which highlights a significant food writer and explores the ways they have shaped us as writers, thinkers and cooks. Tag us online with #foodwriterfriday to share your greatest influences.
When people say food writing is just about food, I want to point them to your work and say, “Think again.” Your work helps me tell them, “Think about your food and how it looks and tastes and smells and how many people were involved in getting it to your plate,” and so on. You know food doesn’t exist in a vacuum and you show people its nuances while writing some of the best food descriptions in the game.
I read your work for the first time a few years ago. I lived in Indianapolis then and fitfully attended a magazine club (like a book club but with articles so everyone would actually read the material!), which introduced me to your piece in Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. I was blown away. Who wouldn’t be with a title like, “What Would Jesus Grill?” In it, you examined the rise of feedlot beef and its effects on agriculture, national food identity, and everyday dining habits. By bringing together and balancing each of these usually unwieldy topics, you crafted an article that was illuminating and galvanizing with a human story at its core.
Since reading that piece, I’ve moved to the Twin Cities—your base of operations—and I’ve devoured (sorry) your writing, marveling at your succinct and beautiful food descriptions, like this one about Tenant in Minneapolis:
A scallop crudo was as pretty and perceptive as food gets, the scallop cooked lightly over charcoal to capture it in a state of dewy sweetness, the fragile morsel then served in a bowl that was half an emerald-green coulis of asparagus and herbs and half a smoky golden XO sauce with charred onion.
And this one about Izzy’s Ice Cream:
For every pipsqueak who comes in for a sugar rush of Cotton Candy, there's an adult snaring some tart grapefruit sorbet, thick, mouth-coating cream-cheese ice cream, homemade praline butter-pecan ice cream--even the best vegan ice cream I've ever had, a very creamy soy-based mocha-chip made with an imported Italian base.
How about this on Heyday’s bar menu?
Bargain gourmets: activate! The deboned pastrami-cured and smoked duck leg is a marvel of elite cooking tactics. The skin is crisp and peppery, the flesh tender as confit and salty like pastrami, the whole thing layered with elusive scents and flavors...Add a $3 tallboy and you’re living a white tablecloth life at fast-food prices.
I think of your writing as a master class.
You conjure flavors and colors and sensations and memories with your words. Your sense of humor makes your writing approachable. Your expansive knowledge of the Twin Cities dining scene and the food world at large is impressive. Your writing connects what’s on your plate to the community, to the nation, the globe--explaining why food matters.
Reading your work, I feel let in on a richer, brighter, more curious world. You’re the real deal. Thank you.
Theresa J. Beckhusen
Theresa J. Beckhusen is a writer and editor based in Saint Paul, MN. Her work has been published in Paste, The Kitchn, Us of America, American Theatre, and others. She is interested in food and memory, its intersections with other art forms, history, and ritual.