The Monday Media Diet with Matt Rodbard
On Kalamazoo, great food newsletters, and NTS
Matt Rodbard (MR) is a longtime WITI reader and has a great new book that comes out Tuesday: Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts. Go buy it! He put a lot of time and energy into this and we’re very happy to have him on the page today. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Matt Rodbard. I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan and lived in New York City for 19 years—Carroll Gardens for 16. I’m currently living in Orange County, NY (the new, possibly better, O.C.), and I really dig it. I’m the editor-in-chief and founder of TASTE, an online food and culture magazine that just celebrated five years of publishing. I’m also the co-author of Koreatown: A Cookbook (with my buddy chef Deuki Hong) and the brand-new Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answer, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts (with my other buddy chef Daniel Holzman). I also co-host the TASTE Podcast with my wonderful colleague Anna Hezel.
At the beginning of my career, I worked in television and magazines, and I currently write, though less frequently, for places like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, and music magazines in a former life. I’m also currently working on a follow-up to Koreatown, Koreaworld, with Deuki and the amazing photographer Alex Lau. That will be out in 2024.
Describe your media diet.
I’ve been an editor consistently since college (shout out to the Badger Herald), so staying in touch with the game isn’t just a pastime but part of the job. I love it so much. My morning starts with newsletters, podcasts, and on the weekends, something involving dead trees. For newsletters, I religiously read anything Craig Mod and Kara Swisher writes, WITI (obvs, and thank you), The Ankler, The Small Bow, The Monocle Weekend Edition (mainly salty Andrew Tuck on Saturdays and spicy Tyler Brûlé on Sundays), and the New York Times The Morning and Theater Update.
I wrote a long story on TASTE about how the future of food media is in your inbox, and am still pretty good with the take. For food, I subscribe and regularly read Vittles, Alison Roman’s A Newsletter, Family Meal, Alicia Kennedy, Ruth Reichl's La Briffe, NYT Cooking (special shoutout to Tejal Rao’s The Veggie), Five Things I Ate, Snack Cart, David Lebovitz, L.A. Taco, Eat Voraciously, and Stained Pages News.
For podcasts, I’m religious about Pivot. Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher are chocolate and peanut butter (to quote Galloway). So good. I’ve been properly sucked into the Ringer podcast multiverse, and I thoroughly enjoy The Watch and The Big Picture. I’m not a screenwriter, but I really love the Hollywood (with a conscious) vibe of Scriptnotes. How Long Gone my god, get Chris and Jason a TV show already? (Ed: Shout out friends of WITI Chris and TJ) I’ll drop most things for a new Acquired episode and will drop all things for the unfolding Dead Eyes saga.
Hosting a food-adjacent podcast sorta takes me out of the food podcast consuming game, but I’ve always enjoyed Evan Kleiman on Good Food, Francis Lam on Splendid Table, Dan Pashman on Sporkful, David Chang and Chris Ying together on mic on the David Chang Show, and the duo on A Hog Dog Is a Sandwich.
Print! I read the print New York Times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and New York Magazine on all platforms. I let my Racquet sub slide, which was a mistake. BA, Food and Wine, Milk Street. They all come and I enjoy them all.
Lastly, music is always at the center of my world and I am a pretty loyal NTS listener and subscriber. Moxie is a Wednesday morning treat and Mishka and I return to this 2020 XTC special often. XTC is the second greatest band in the world (see below for the greatest). While working I stream Long Beach’s KJAZZ and France’s FIP Jazz pretty much nonstop. In the car, it is WFMU (shoutout to the Rockland County tower), WAMC, and Richard Blade on Sirius XM First Wave.
What’s the last great book you read?
I’m a pretty big Gary Shteyngart stan and enjoyed My Country Friends. He really nails 2020/21 Hudson Valley life, which we talked a bit about when he joined me on the TASTE Podcast recently. I also really have enjoyed picking up, putting down, and picking up Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris. Nichols's early Chicago days are so interesting. My wife is a pretty big Hanya head and picked up To Paradise at our local bookstore. A Little Life has been beckoning for years, so I’m planning on reading both of those. Aren’t we always planning to read?
What are you reading now?
I should have read Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke in one sitting but I got distracted and regret only going halfway. I plan to restart soon. I’ve really enjoyed two books by Korean author Han Kang (The Vegetarian and Human Acts) and I’ve just started her latest The White Book. To me, Human Acts is one of the greatly overlooked books in a long time, as is the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, the under-reported (at least in the west), and devastating student massacre in which the book is based.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
An editor is always going to editor, so I look at the bylines for familiar names.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
People familiar with food media will know this, but New York Times reporter Eric Kim has such a cool and honest approach to his essay writing. Yes, his recipes are pretty genius, but I respect Eric’s observations and writing style even more than his microwaved steamed egg recipe. His debut cookbook is dropping in March.
And I have to call out Craig Mod. His recent walk 10-city, 30-day walk across Japan was part journalism, part ethnography, part performance/endurance art piece and was absolutely captivating. To summarize, Mod has lived in Japan for 20+ years and is a walker, writer, photographer, and kind soul. A few times a year, and supported by his Special Projects members, he goes on a walk and writes a daily journal. I’ve followed a couple and they were pretty cool for sure, but this past one was The Leap (sports reference). Starting in Hokkaido and heading to rusty Sakata, magical Matsumoto, across the Seto Naikai inland sea, and capturing many surprises along the way, the daily writing had urgency at times, and quiet banality at others. Mod's voice is so crystal clear, and his daily deadline writing on this trip was a real masterclass on how to keep your newsletter subscribers engaged and opening.
What’s the best nonfamous app on your phone?
Can we just give it up for BestParking. I never really owned a car while living in NYC, but now make trips often and find the weirdest little garages to park for cheap.
Plane or train?
I grew up in the Midwest and was fortunate to have parents who believed that road trips build character, so I’ve seen a lot of this fine country from four wheels. You haven’t lived as a 12-year-old until you point your Plymouth Voyager towards Wall, South Dakota and start driving. This is to say that planes and airports are my favorite. Even the little pouches of Sabra.
What is one place everyone should visit?
There’s only one answer to this question, and the answer is Korea. I’ve visited many times over the years while working on Koreatown and other projects, and was really, really lucky to get a quarantine waiver and visit this past fall—just before Omicron shut things down once again. I wrote about a new wave of Korean temple chefs, and visited temples in Jeolla Province and north of Seoul. The country expresses itself in multitudes, blending deep traditions with the most modern concept of good living that one can imagine. This trip I got to spend some quality time in Seongsu and revisit the ever-transforming Itaewon. The coffee culture is out of control good. There are more high-quality roasters and cafes in one neighborhood, say Dohwah, than in entire American cities. With Koreaworld, we hope to capture the energy of Korean urbanism—where food and drink is really placed at the center of life in the coolest way.
Tell us a story of a rabbit home you feel deep into.
I love the Canadian band Sloan in a very special way. They really are the greatest band in the world, as the fine dudes who present the Sloancast podcast cite often. The band just dropped a rare 2000 performance from their Between the Bridges era and debuted it via Sidedoor—with a nerdy fan chat with the band during the stream. This took me down a crazy Sloan YouTube rabbit hole in search of any clips from what I would call their best NYC performance in the past 20 years, a loud and wild set at Southpaw in Park Slope (RIP) on May 11, 2007. I could only find one thing that wasn’t great. Any Sloan fans can hit me up and I’d be very grateful. (MR)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Matt (MR)
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