Letters to the Editor

Food, humor and The New Yorker cover

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My mom did not take my brother and me out for fancy meals growing up. Or, if she did, there was nothing memorable about it. My mom was in sales, and raising us alone meant long hours at work.The responsibility of dinner would fall on my brother and me. We became proficient at spinach lasagna and pasta with Le Seure baby peas.

But Linda did have a sense of humor, and during our upbringing, my brother and I picked up some of that humor. I try it out more than my brother, but it usually fails. I experimented with irony and satire to no avail; my favorite for a long time was sarcasm.

In terms of humor, it took a while to get to irony, the sweetest, I think, of all. Sarcasm is easy because there is always a defenseless opponent on the other end of it.

Culinarily, it took me a long time to get to braised endives with goat cheese. It was a long journey filled with many curves and obstacles (namely, a period of veganism). I didn’t spend much time trying to explore the outer realms of a vegan diet (mostly I ate rice and drank beer). It has taken a lot of meals and interactions with a lot of friends who cook, who grow their food and who are culinary risk-takers, to get me to the endive. It also took practice. I remember a meal at Lampreia, a Seattle restaurant, where after one of the courses was complete I said to my wife, “I didn’t get that one.” But somehow, somewhere I learned something.

Some are born with a palate, others must strive to achieve one. But I think it can be cultivated. I’m not sure humor works the same way. In an age and a region where political correctness trumps all, a joke that a wide range of people will find funny is exceedingly rare.

What is most fabulous to me about the New Yorker cover is the joke is not on the Obamas, but on us.

It must be exciting to try a joke out nationally. I know I am not gutsy enough for it. But I am glad they are.

­— Matt Lawrence

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