You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Mimi Sheraton—the celebrated NY Times restaurant critic and cookbook author who recently passed away at the age of 97—lived it.
I’ve written about Mimi several times before, including in The Jewish Table this past October, when I shared her recipe for Green Minestrone with Chicken. So I won’t share her biography again here. (Though I recommend clicking through one/both of the links if you want to read more about her Brooklyn Jewish upbringing and trailblazing work.)
But I’ve been thinking about the fact that, over the course of her career, Mimi gained a reputation within the industry for being difficult. She reportedly bristled against editors who wanted to change her copy. And as a reviewer she had strong and exacting opinions, and was never shy about sharing them—even if that meant calling a restaurant “gloomy, dated and suggestive of an old-age home,” or describing a dining room as resembling "a high-toned interrogation center.”
The restaurants being reviewed, surely, were not pleased by these descriptions. Sheraton famously disguised herself with wigs, glasses, and makeup when she dined at restaurants she was reviewing, so the staff wouldn’t recognize her. On a couple of occasions where she was identified, she was refused service or asked to leave. But as Mimi unflinchingly put it in a 1987 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross:
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