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Mimi Sheraton, pioneering NYC restaurant critic, dies after lifetime of good eating

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

And now we are going to take a moment to remember Mimi Sheraton's taste buds. The longtime food and restaurant critic passed away last week at the age of 97.

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

In 1975, she was hired as The New York Times' first female restaurant critic. And throughout her 60-year career, she ate, well, everything, including the time she spent 11 months tasting all 1,196 of Bloomingdale's food products.

SUMMERS: Still, there were a few foods she just could not stand, as she told NPR's Michel Martin in 2016.

MIMI SHERATON: I thought I just hated kale.

SUMMERS: And she did not hold back on what she thought of the bitter, green vegetable.

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Kale chips - no.

SHERATON: No. Kale on top of pizza...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SHERATON: ...Which burns and becomes like little stray pieces of paper. You get little leathery bits in brownies or cookies now. I occasionally go into a gym in my neighborhood - not to go to the gym, but to buy some cookies...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SHERATON: ...And the oatmeal cookies have kale in them. So I think...

MARTIN: Do you just tell them no? Do you tell them no - just stop it?

SHERATON: Yeah. I walk out. I don't buy anything.

MARTIN: Just stop it.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: Sheraton said revisiting an old article of hers from the 1970s helped her realize she didn't hate the vegetable at all, just the trendy ways it was being prepared at the time.

SHERATON: When I liked kale, it was cooked in traditional ways - very soft, always in a stew or soup and always with some kind of fat, whether it was olive oil and garlic by Italians - was soul food simmered for a long time with ham hocks or salt pork, and that softness made it palatable and pleasant. What I don't like about it now is the grilling and the roasting or raw, very hard chips that bring out the worst flavor notes of kale, a kind of dirty, musty bitterness that more or less leaches out.

SUMMERS: Mimi Sheraton was exacting and thorough, kale criticism and all. She used disguises to avoid preferential treatment. At The New York Times, critics must visit a restaurant three times before writing a review. Sheraton often went five or six times, sometimes even eight times, just to be sure.

LIMBONG: She was also a prolific author, publishing 16 books, like "1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die" and "The Bialy Eaters" about Jewish and New York foods.

SUMMERS: Mimi Sheraton died last week after a lifetime of good eating. She was 97 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF REFUGEE CAMP ALLSTARS SONG, "THE SWEETEST THING (FEATURING LAURYN HILL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Fuller
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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