Food & Drink

Maplewood's Josh Friedland Reveals He is the Mysterious Writer Behind "Ruth Bourdain"

July 24, 2013 at 3:59 PM

MAPLEWOOD, NJ – After writing more than 2,700 tweets over the last three years, Maplewood resident Josh Friedland has finally revealed himself to be the creator of the fictional Twitter persona Ruth Bourdain, a comedic mash-up of the mellifluous food writer Ruth Reichl and the more ribald writer/television host Anthony Bourdain (link: https://twitter.com/RuthBourdain).

Here’s a sampling of the real Ruth Reichl on Twitter: “Hot. Still. Empty city streets. River like a mirror. Dog barks. Walking along the water, eating lemon ice. Cold.Tart. A mouthful of summer.”

And now, Ruth Bourdain, “Gray. Hot as Mario Batali's underwear. Walking along the river licking a lemon ice, considering a 3-way with Mr. Softee and a choco taco.”

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Interestingly, the above Reichl tweet came about three weeks after that of Ruth Bourdain.  Perhaps they are inspiring each other at this point.

Friedland’s often lyrical and usually profane tweets as Ruth Bourdain have earned him (and her?) almost 72,000 followers, a James Beard Award and a book deal.  “Comfort Me with Offal; Ruth Bourdain’s Guide to Gatronomy,” was published last fall, and is a logical extension of the humorous tweets, which skewer celebrity chefs and the more pretentious aspects of foodie culture.  The title is a play on Ms. Reichl’s book “Comfort Me with Apples” and Mr. Bourdain’s well-documented love of organ meats.

Making his true identity known was not an easy decision for Friedland.

“There is an argument out there that says with an anonymously done parody account, you can’t continue if you come out,” Fredland said.  “It won’t be funny anymore, and the suspension of disbelief is gone.  In my case, there was some mystery and intrigue around it.”

Indeed, it became a bit of a sport among the culinary set to try and identify the person behind the Ruth Bourdain mask, with former Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema being the most often (wrongly) cited.

Interest hit a new high when Ruth Bourdain won the first-ever award for humor in food writing given by the James Beard Foundation in 2011.  Friedman knew he had been nominated, but decided not to attend the ceremony.  The absence of someone to accept the award only stoked interest in the character.  Friedland did not know he was going to win and wanted to remain anonymous because he was working on the book deal that led to “Comfort Me with Offal.”

Now that he has come forward (the exclusive reveal was published in the New York Times a little more than a week ago), he said he was not sure if he would continue writing the tweets.

“I’ve been on hiatus, trying to absorb the reaction.  We’ll see,” he said on Tuesday.  Then, about three hours later, a flurry of new tweets arrived, including, “CNN reporting that Will and Kate have returned home and are feeding the ‪#royalbaby diamond-encrusted cronuts.”  The hiatus appears to be over.

Friedland said he does want to move on to other types of writing, however. For ten years, he wrote the blog, “The Food Section,” which contained more serious articles about the food world, the type of writing Friedland says that Ruth Bourdain would ridicule. A freelancer by trade, his work spans many genres and topics beyond food.  He has been consulting with a New York hospital as well as the website Epicurious.com and another on meditation.  His interests are many and he is open to whatever inspiration may strike. 

Going public with his true identity has not slowed down comedy writer and Maplewood native David Javerbaum, who writes quite hilariously as God (on Twitter - https://twitter.com/TheTweetOfGod - and in the book, “The Last Testament”).  So who knows, perhaps we will be fortunate enough to continue getting more comedic culinary jolts from  Ruth Bordain.

Check out the book, “Comfort Me with Offal,” here: http://www.comfortmewithoffal.com .

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