Malcolm Gladwell on Learning to Cook and the Only 4 Things He'll Drink
Malcolm Gladwell is a rare person who doesn’t need an introduction. You’re probably familiar with his work, whether it’s through one of his five best-selling books like The Tipping Point or Outliers, his essays for The New Yorker – he’s been a staff writer there since 1996 – or lectures for TED. And it’s his boundless curiosity and energy to take on a breadth of topics, from the seemingly mundane (like the pursuit of the best spaghetti sauce) to the delicate and highly charged, as evidenced by his recent New Yorker article on school shootings.
Last week, we caught up with Gladwell at The White Hart Inn in Salisbury, Connecticut. He’s one of ten investors – they’re comprised of local residents and friends including Redbook Editor-in-Chief Meredith Rollins and Chef Annie Wayte – in the historic 16-room inn, a beloved local institution that reopened last year after undergoing an extensive and elegant renovation. (Plus: the Inn’s two highly-praised restaurants, the Tap Room and Dining Room, are led by Chef Wayte and reasons alone to make the trip.)
Here, Malcolm dishes on why he got involved in the Inn, his love of yogurt and the only four beverages who is willing to consume.
How did you get in involved in White Hart Inn?
I know Conley (Collins) and his wife (Meredith Rollins), they’re old friends of mine. It was completely random and fun. And it just seemed cool, the idea of reviving a local landmark. I liked the idea of being involved in this new community I’ve become a part of. These kinds of places are real cultural hubs. They’re valuable.
And on a lighter note, if you had to eat one thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh god, that’s really hard. I’m going to say yogurt. I can’t imagine getting sick of it.
What are your favorite cities to eat in America?
Oddly, I would not say New York. I travel a fair amount and get to sample food in various places. But if you said North America, I would say Toronto. I’m Canadian, so I would have to say Toronto. I also had one of the best meals of the past couple years in Kansas City. I do not remember the name of the place, but it was an amazing little place in the middle of nowhere, by the tracks. I also had an incredibly great meal in Atlanta. In fact, I would put Atlanta at number one, as a place where interesting things are happening food wise.
What was your food favorite growing up?
My mother’s Jamaican, so probably spicy peas.
When you go to the movies, do you get popcorn or candy?
I never go to the movies.
What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long day?
A nice plate of pasta is my idea of comfort food.
Go out, take out, or cook at home?
Lately, I’ve gotten very interested in cooking. Last weekend, I made a big thing of goat curry, which I divided it into portions. I intend to sit and eat it this weekend. I’m not a very good cook yet, but I have enthusiasm.
And what do you like about cooking?
I need to be busy. And it’s enormously satisfying to cook a couple nights a week, particularly if you’re in the country. In New York, it’s very easy to go to local restaurants. But I think the point of living in the country is you should want to cook more.
Do you have a favorite junk food or guilty pleasure?
I don’t really eat junk food. I’m a big runner. Once you get involved in obsessive things like sports, that obsession spreads to things like diet. Truth be told, even as a kid, I never ate junk food. We lived in the country and never had junk food at home.
What are your top three foods?
Fish. I like salmon, properly done. I’ll go back to my yogurt. Greek yogurt with some fruit. But now I’m sounding very prissy and boring. I’m hoping my goat curry turns out all right. I’m a big fan of goat. Jamaicans eat a lot of goat.
Any other quirky food-related things we should know about you?
I only drink four beverages. They are tea, coffee, red wine, and water.
(I point to his scotch.)
I know. This is astonishing, this is the exception. I have not ventured outside those four beverages in like six months.