We may not have heard the last of Ruth Bourdain. When Josh Friedland, the author of the long-running Twitter parody decloaked Thursday in the New York Times, some assumed he might be hanging it up for good. In fact, Friedman himself might have assumed that. But today he’s already having second thoughts. Much to the relief of tens of thousands of followers.
“I’m leaving my options open,” Friedland said from his home in Maplewood, N.J. “This [decloaking] wasn’t necessarily coupled with a plan to end it. On the other hand, I thought I’d just about done everything I could do with the character.
“I think I’ll probably just sit back a little bit and take in the reaction. A lot of people have written to me saying, ‘I hope you keep going.’ Of course, there’s also been a handful of people who have written saying, ‘I hope you die.’ I’m not going to take either too seriously.
“Honestly, the threshold for tweeting is extremely low. I could tell you in all seriousness that I’m not going to do it anymore, then in an hour something will hit me and I’ll do it again. I’m just not really sure.”
For years, the question of Ruth Bourdain’s true identity has been a popular parlor game for foodists. The posts were hilarious, a mash-up of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s poesy food haiku and popular bad-boy author and television star Anthony Bourdain’s fear-and-loathing-drenched rants. It was topped by a nightmare-inducing Photoshop mash-up of the two.
The tweets appeared as if out of the blue and proved almost instantly popular. The Ruth Bourdain Twitter account has more than 70,000 followers – numbers most writers would kill for (Friedland’s personal account, inactive since 2010, has only 300).
At one point, then-Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema was believed to be the author. Saintly Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters — known for many things before her sense of humor — once claimed to be the one (or at least someone on her Twitter account did). When Ruth Bourdain won a James Beard award in 2011, everyone waited to see who would accept. No one did.
“I stayed home and read the news on Twitter as I sat in my darkened daughter’s room putting her to sleep!” Friedland emailed.
Ruth Bourdain even got a book deal — something that the real Friedland is still working on. Last year “Comfort Me With Offal,” an expanded version of the tweets, was published to largely favorable reviews.
Then last week the seemingly mild-mannered author of the long-running food blog the Food Section stepped forward.
“The timing was right,” he says. “Until now I’d kept the secret to increase the interest in the character. There was an air of mystery around it. When I wrote the book, we weighed the options of revealing and not revealing. We finally decided not to go public because it would be a potential distraction from the book.
“This was never something I was going to take to my grave. The stakes are just not that high; otherwise I’d be seeking asylum in a foreign country. At some point I was going to reveal it and now seemed like a good time.”
Now, Friedland says, he’s going to focus on reviving the Food Section, which he says he’s neglected while pursuing his freelance writing, the book, and his Twitter career.
But before he signs off entirely, even if only temporarily, here are his six favorite Ruth Bourdain tweets — at least of those that can be published on a family website.
I just got Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, and I have to say it’s very illuminating. That’s because I set it on fire.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) April 7, 2011
In a major blow, butter has just canceled its relationship with Paula Deen.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) June 29, 2013
We need a WikiLeaks to explain how McRibs get made.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) December 3, 2010
For what it’s worth, I want to make it clear that I don’t hate vegetarians. In fact, I love grass-fed meat.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) September 28, 2010
Seattle surprise. Hungover. The sweet sexy shock of finding tiny Olympia oysters in your underwear. Money shot of mignonette.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) October 1, 2012
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.— Ruth Bourdain (@RuthBourdain) June 27, 2013