Teo Ruiz is a UCLA history professor specializing in the social and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Castile. Before joining a panel discussion on the virtues of gluttony and feasting, he paused in the Zócalo green room to discuss salad dressings, television, and misconceptions about Spain.
What’s your favorite season?
I was born in Cuba, so my favorite season is no seasons at all. In places which have seasons, my favorite season is early fall.
What are you reading right now?
I usually keep two or three books going. I am reading a biography of the city of Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, which I like very much. I am reading also a new novel by a mystery writer from Denmark, Jussi Adler-Olsen, called The Hanging Girl. Then I am reading things I am teaching like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Plato’s Republic, which I teach every year.
How do you like your steak?
Absolutely and perfectly rare.
When are you at your most creative?
In the morning. For many, many years, I have always written in the morning. I teach always in the afternoon.
What salad dressing best describes you?
Olive oil and vinegar.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received—and the one I give to my students in class—was advice I saw on a window in New York on Amsterdam Avenue, in a shop that sold toys you wind up: “Do not postpone joy.”
If you need a quick bite to eat in Westwood, where would you go?
I am against a quick bite. But if I want to go a restaurant around Westwood or West L.A., I like a Japanese tapas bar called Sasaya, on Santa Monica Boulevard, and the great Oaxacan food place, Monte Alban, at Brockton and Santa Monica.
When you turn on the television at your house, what channel is likely to be on?
I don’t want to appear as a kind of egghead, but the reality is: CNN or Al Jazeera News, which is the best news on TV nowadays, and a lot of Netflix streaming of programs.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about Spain today?
I think the biggest misconception about Spain is that it is one country. It truly is many different countries. Or that the Spaniards are really happy people, which they are not, in most cases.