The 2010 CHOW 13

The 2010 CHOW 13
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ILLUSTRATION ASAF HANUKA

RUTH BOURDAIN

Fictional Twitter character

For delivering a sharp send-up of the food world. There isn't a lot of Watergate-esque secrecy in food writing: no Deep Throats or Primary Colors–style anonymous bylines. At least there wasn't until this March, when a disturbing illustration that superimposed the aging hippie mane of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl over the shit-eating grin of Anthony Bourdain debuted on Twitter. This creepy character's tweets were brilliant mash-ups of Reichl's precious food haikus and Bourdain's bad-boy bluster:

"Leftover steak bone / Stares back at me from the fridge / This is some great weed"

"People of LA: Sorry for last night's riots, car-tipping, setting fire to meyer lemon trees. That's what happens when I can't get into Mozza"

Ruth Bourdain hit a nerve, collecting thousands of followers on Twitter and inspiring rampant, unsuccessful speculation as to his or her identity. (One theory fingering food writer Regina Schrambling was struck down by Grub Street in June: "Kinda crushed people would think I'm wit-deficient," sniffed Schrambling. To which RuBo responded: "So, @gastropoda is denying she's me. But, if she's not, then who is the mind behind that Regina Schrambling persona?").

Whoever is responsible, Ruth Bourdain has pointed out the absurdity and vapidness of food-celebrity worship—and the media's role in creating the monsters.

The writer behind Ruth Bourdain agreed to be interviewed via email but did not reveal his or her identity.

Why do you do this? What do you expect to get out of it?
I did it on a whim. Twitter provides a very low threshold (maybe too low!) for trying out different kinds of writing. Were it not for Twitter, Ruth Bourdain would have been nothing more than a momentary thought and probably would never have ended up on paper. I'd never written anything even mildly humorous, so it represented an opportunity to experiment. It's fun to create the character, and even better to see some of the responses by notable food world people.

When will Ruth Bourdain be outed? Why do you stay anonymous?
I have no plan to be outed. Originally, I stayed anonymous out of fear of the unknown: How would this be received? Would this destroy my professional reputation? Considering the positive response, I'm not so worried about that anymore. But, now that the character has taken on a life of its own, I can't see any benefit to going public. I think it really enhances the mystique of this creature to not have any other image in one's head except what I have provided. Is it killing me to keep it a secret? Yes. But, aside from my own ego, there's no good reason to reveal my identity.

To read what Ruth Bourdain the character had to say to some of our questions, click here.

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