Culinarian: Gotta get the basics out of the way, major and year?
Ortal: I’m a first-year, and I’m (tentatively) majoring in Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia while also studying Jewish Literature at JTS.
C: There are so many clubs to be a part of on campus–why did you choose to be a part of Culinarian?
O: My obsession/love affair with food really began through ogling food blogs, (my friends can attest to this–the images on my laptop didn’t help silence the stomach growls during classes before lunch in high school) which got me really into food photography–an art on its own. And before any of that started, food was always a central part of my life; cooking with my parents, meals around holidays, and then gradually cooking meals with friends. So the idea of having an entirely student-run, professional publication devoted to food excited me to no end (and still does.) People sometimes assume that food magazines are reserved for some sort of food elite, but that’s ridiculous. Sharing ideas and all things related to good food is something I’m deeply passionate about.
C: Your food love sounds pretty intense. What makes the culinary arts special for you?
O: Food is universal. It’s a rare thing that has the power to bring everyone together, because at the end of the day no matter how picky or what your individual habits are, ya gotta eat something. And it’s more than that: for me, food has always matched up to culture. Growing up between French and Israeli heritage, I was always aware that taste and flavors blend with so many other elements of nationality and identity. There’s just something amazing about the differences in the way people in different places choose to have their meals, from the basic table manners to the seasonings in the dishes. It’s a pretty incredible thing to watch the way something freshly baked can seemingly stop time as it comes out of the oven and finds its way onto a table.
C: That’s a lovely way to encapsulate the power of food. What’s a foodie habit that’s particular to you alone?
O: I’m that annoying person who always, always looks up reviews of restaurants and cafes on yelp, timeoutNY, and NYmag before going…and then finds a dozen other options in a two-block radius that look just as delicious to complicate things.
C: It’s always useful to have someone like you on food adventures! Do you have an anecdote of a food interaction gone wrong?
O: Ending up with a lo mein noodle finding its way out of my nose one day… (To be clear: I did not consume the noodle after this occurred.)
C: Haha! That’s so strange… If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would you pick? I’m guessing it’s not lo mein…
O: CHEESE. (Add jam and bread to that, and I could die happy.) Who needs real food when you can have obscenely-creamy-super-fatty-deliciousness all day? (To hell with low-fat nonsense.)
Got questions for Ortal? What’s your favorite cheese? Tell us in the comments!