Exclusive Interview: The Man Who Bit the World
Shalom Life speaks with Noah Galuten the blogger behind the incredible Man Bites World and The Cookbook Blog
Noah Galuten decided to take advantage of his spare time during a period of unemployment by starting Man Bites World, a blog that followed his attempts to eat a different country’s cuisine every single day -- without skipping a day.
Since this project's completion, Noah continues to blog on NoahGaluten.com and L.A’s food blog, Squid Ink. Just last week, he launched The Cookbook Blog, which, obviously, is a blog about cookbooks. It tests the functionality of cookbook recipes and reviews the books themselves.
I got a chance to speak with Noah about his experience while writing Man Bites World, and to discuss his current endeavour.
AB (Ashley Baylen): What inspired you to start Man Bites World?
NG (Noah Galuten): I was inspired by frustration, I think. I was a playwright at the time, and was becoming increasingly annoyed with something I'd been working on. Man Bites World seemed like a great excuse to write something else every day, but also to explore the many different cultures and cuisines represented in my city.
AB: Did you have any prior experience either writing or in the culinary world?
NG: None. Ever since I was a kid, I have been passionate about food and writing, but somehow never thought to put them together until Man Bites World. Looking back, it seems so obvious for me to have written about food. I don't know what took so long.
AB: Did you have a set of rules or guidelines you had to follow?
NG: I couldn't take any days off. So I had to find and eat a new country's cuisine every single day, with no exceptions. It was a bit of a scheduling nightmare. Another rule was that it didn't count if I cooked the food for myself. I find that rule especially amusing now, since it seems like all I do is cook food from recipes these days.
AB: How many countries' food did you end up sampling?
NG: 102 countries in 102 straight days. I'm still sort of amazed by it. I expected to find about 40 or 50. Now I know better.
AB: Can you share a few of your most memorable experiences?
NG: Ghana Day still stands out the most to me. It was everything I had hoped the blog would be about. I heard about this place through a friend of a friend, who sent me a very odd, cryptic email with just a lowercase scribble of a restaurant name. I tried to look the place up online and couldn't even confirm that it was a restaurant. There was almost no record of the place existing. I was only able to find a phone number, and the name "Nana & Naa International Enterprise." It definitely wasn't on Yelp. We showed up and they were completely confused by the sight of two white guys in shorts and t-shirts, asking if they served food. At first, they seemed like they were trying to convince us not to eat there. But when we told them we were looking for Ghanaian food, they got a little more excited. When we told them we liked spicy food, they welcomed us with open arms and made one of the best meals of the whole blog. It was this fried fish and okra stew, eaten with banku, a fermented dough made from corn and cassava. It was delightful.
AB: Was there a specific style of food that was your favourite? How about the worst?
NG: I'm open to eating everything, but there are still certain cuisines for which I have a deep love. Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese were all great. As for the worst? I hate to trash a place, since most of the restaurants I went to were trying their best with what they had. But I will say that I was pretty disappointed by Canada Day. Why are there no Canadian restaurants in Los Angeles? There was a good one, apparently, but it went out of business right before I started. I wound up eating very mediocre poutine in a bar.
AB: Did you expect your blog to receive the attention it has?
NG: No, not at all. My goal is always to be excited by what I'm working on. That's pretty much my only criteria. I want to do something where, even if nobody else ever gives a crap about it, I'm still glad I did it. That was the case with Man Bites World, and it's the case with my new project, The Cookbook Blog, too.
AB: What did you learn from this adventure, besides expanding your knowledge of international cuisine?
NG: The biggest thing I learned is that a shared love of food makes people bond very quickly. I also learned that I liked Los Angeles a lot more after the blog than I did before.
AB: What are you doing these days?
NG: I'm really excited about my new blog. I've been writing professionally about food since Man Bites World, but hadn't really been doing my own blogging. I've just launched The Cookbook Blog, and I'm having an incredibly fun time. It's a website devoted to testing the functionality of cookbook recipes, writing reviews, and posting rather pretty pictures of the food I've been cooking. We're also going to have cookbook author Q&As, and post some recipes too. But on a personal level, it's great because I get to spend an inordinate amount of time reading cookbooks, and cooking things like Italian braised rabbit and huevos rancheros.
AB: If you were to start this experience over again, would you do anything differently?
NG: I don't know, probably not. I think it's very difficult for me to look back at things in that way. Small changes can make the outcome very different. I'm alive and healthy and enjoying life as best I can. What would I change?
Check out The Cookbook Blog at www.thecookbookblog.com.