My favorite sentence in the magazine this month is this one: “Even as head chef, walking into a high-end kitchen ‘packing a vag’ means condescension, kisses on the head, and lingerie for Christmas.” It’s from Anne Pyburn Craig’s review of Shaina Loew-Banayan’s memoir Elegy for an Appetite (page 61). It packs a syntactic wallop and also has a lot to unpack in its feminist critique of professional kitchen culture. It’s the kind of sentence that contains a few of my favorite things: pointed analysis, technical details, economical wording, and a bit of insider lingo. The reader gets a real sense of what Loew-Banayan, a young nonbinary chef with an eating disorder, had to deal with while working in a series of high-end restaurants, some Michelin-starred, in a field where toxic masculinity is still regularly on the menu.
The good news: Loew-Banayan made it out with her food-joy intact and opened Cafe Mutton in Hudson, which, like her freeform memoir Elegy for an Appetite, is a boundary-smashing adventure receiving critical acclaim. Recent menu items from a brunch during Pride weekend at Cafe Mutton included potato chip and onion dip omelet, blackened bluefish, and a fried bologna sandwich (the bologna is made in-house). As Loew-Banayan told Chronogram’s Kerri Kolensky in October of last year: “My ethos is that it doesn’t have to be a basic cafe—it can be anything that we want it to be. I really just want to cook food that I like, that I feel is authentic, and makes good use of what’s around in the area.” Race you to Hudson for fried bologna!
If you couldn’t tell, we’re a bit food obsessed here. It’s a (well-fed) living, as they say. We’ve been chronicling the region’s food scene since 1993—against all odds, Chronogram turns 30 in 2023—and its constant evolution has gotten more evolutionary in recent years. Pandemic pivots, pandemic closings, pandemic openings have kept us busy in our reportage.
The dizzying pace of change in the restaurant sector seems to be slowing down, however. Here’s how I believe I know: For the past 30 months, we’ve had to whittle down a long list of new eateries to choose the five we would feature each month in Sips & Bites (page 19). This month, we had to redouble our efforts to scout out some new spots. I’m most excited for the Jet Set, a tiki bar on the Newburgh waterfront from Mike Kelly, of Liberty Street Bistro, and crew. A round of Singapore Slings, please.
Food isn’t just about stuffing your face with the latest pleasure, however. Food is culture, as Marc Ferris beautifully conveys in this month’s feature “A Bittersweet Taste of Home” (page 14). In the backyard of their dry cleaning business Nice & Neat on Route 9 in Cold Spring, exiled Cambodians Sokhara Kim and Chakra Oeur host a weekend Cambodian food pop-up amid a lush oasis complete with a babbling creek, handmade structures, and Buddhist statues.
(If you’re as curious as we are about the region’s constantly evolving food scene, sign-up for our Food Friday newsletter at Chronogram.com/eps.)
Department of Corrections
Last month, in our coverage of the Harvey Fite sculpture exhibit “Let the Stone Tell the Story,” we ran an image of a plaster bust of opera singer Marian Anderson that we attributed to Fite. Turns out it was made by one of his students Margit Malmstrom, under his guidance, and has a neat backstory. Curator Robert Langdon wrote us the following note:
“The work has been in the Fite family’s collection for decades and they believed it to be one of Harvey’s works but we just discovered that, in fact, it is not.
Malmstrom began as a painter but struggled with making round, dimensional figures. Her instructor suggested sculpture and she entered Harvey Fite’s class at Bard where she found her home. During her senior year, Fite suggested she enter the Lady Bird Johnson sculpture contest, part of her Beautify America program, with a sculpture for the Garden of Patriots in Coral Gables, Florida.
Fite suggested she sculpt either Marion Anderson or Everett Dirksen [senator who helped write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964]. She chose Anderson, researched her at the New York Public Library, and on a work-stay arrangement that Fite engineered, she spent her time sculpting the bust of Anderson while being a nanny in the mornings at Fite’s home. She won 2nd prize, $5,000 which financed her first trip to Europe. Margit said she was flattered to think her work would be mistaken for Mr. Fite’s.”