Darra Goldstein is Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian at Williams College and Founding Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. She has published numerous books and articles on literature, culture, art, and cuisine, and is the author of four cookbooks. Below, she tells us a little bit about herself.
Q. What is the best gift you have ever received?
A. In Moscow, during the Soviet days, when things were difficult, I went to the communal apartment of a man who had no money at all. From underneath his makeshift bed, he pulled out a huge gallon jar of mushrooms that he had salted. He opened those, fried some potatoes in tons of butter, added some raw garlic and a shot of vodka. It was a beautiful gift from the Russian soil and from the heart.
Q. What was the last thing that inspired you?
A. Taryn Simon’s photograph of the contraband from customs [in the Getty’s Tasteful Pictures exhibit]. It made me think about doing illicit things, which is always inspiring. It made me think about artistic composition, about beautiful bright colors, about cadavers because it almost seemed like an operating room.
Q. When do you feel most creative?
A. When I’m walking in the woods.
Q. If you could be anyone in history, who would you be?
A. There is someone who I would both like to be and am also terrified to contemplate being because her life ended up so tragic – the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. She had this enormous talent and beauty, and she was creating something new and lived at an exciting time. But of course under Stalin her life was really horrible. I can’t say that I really want to inhabit her life, but to have that talent and wisdom and to create such beautiful poetry.
Q. What is your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
A. The sun. I’m starved for the sun.
Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?
A. Que sera sera.
Q. How did you get into trouble as a child?
A. I really hated broccoli when I was a kid. I remember taking some broccoli, putting it in a napkin, opening the front door because the cat needed to get in, and throwing the broccoli outside. It was, of course, discovered.
Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. Caviar, though I only eat sustainably raised roe. It’s still pretty extravagant.
Q. Where would we find you at 10 a.m. on a Saturday?
A. This is really sad, but, at my desk.
Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
Q. If you were about to be executed, what would you want for your final meal?
A. A loaf of the most perfect bread with beautiful unsalted butter.
To read more about Goldstein’s panel on food photography, click here.
*Photo by Sarah Rivera.