Simon Doonan has been called "the world's most famous window dresser." He's best known for his work designing elaborate displays in department store windows, especially at Barney’s in New York City. He's also the author of several books, a keen observer of culture in general, and a great storyteller.
Now, to be honest, here on the Sporkful, the fashion world never felt like it was for us. We assumed it was for people obsessed with status, worried about superficial things. Simon has a very different perspective. He talks about the fashion world as his savior, a place full of misfits who welcomed him when no one else would. And he doesn’t consider what you wear to be superficial.
He thinks dressing well -- though not necessarily expensively -- is life-affirming.
A lot of Simon’s approach to fashion – and food – comes from growing up during a very specific period in post World War II England. He’s from Reading, about an hour from London. His parents were in the Royal Air Force during the war. Simon was born in 1953, when the war was still casting a shadow over the country. Simon's mom moved there from Ireland and tapped into fashion as a way to feel good in tough times.
This week, Simon explains his contrasting views on food and fashion, and discusses self-help, Marianne Williamson, and surviving the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
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- This week we're making Gingerbread English Muffin French Toast on Thomas' English Muffin. Get the recipe here: https://thomasbreads.com/recipes/gingerbread-english-muffin-french-toast.
Interstitial music in this show by Black Label Music:
- "Rooftop Instrumental" by Erick Anderson
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- "Nice Kitty" by Black Label Productions
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Photo courtesy of Joe Gaffney.
Speaker 1: Hope you're hungry, because it's time for some ads.
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Dan Pashman: I wore special sneakers for you, Simon. I don't know if you noticed them when you came in. I'll put my foot up on their table.
Simon Doonan: Oh, those are great. Are they knew?
Dan Pashman: This is fashion icon. Simon Doonan. I was eager to get his take on these sneakers that I designed myself on the New Balance website. They're same ones I showed off to Michael Ian Black in an episode last year. And they are pretty colorful.
Simon Doonan: Oh, they're funky.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. You think they work?
Simon Doonan: Well I think if you're going to dress fairly simply, then a good is sneaker a place to turn it out and do have some fun.
Dan Pashman: Right, because I got bright yellow and light blue, and then fire engine red laces.
Simon Doonan: Yeah. Yeah. No, I like it. I call that toddler chic. I myself, am big proponent of toddler chic.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Simon Doonan: It's dressing like a toddler. Give or take a beard.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, I'll take it.
Dan Pashman: This is the Sporkful, it's not for foodies. It's for eaters. I'm Dan Pashman. Each week on our show, we obsess about food to learn more about people. Quick note before we get going here, we have just announced the fall leg of Sporkful world tour 2019. So listen up Charlottesville, Richmond, Washington, DC, we are coming your way. All the dates and ticket info is that sporkful.com/live. More details later in the show.
Dan Pashman: Okay, let's get into this. Food and fashion have a lot in common. On one level, they're both universal. We all eat and we all wear clothes. Although, some of us put more care and effort into those things than others. On another level, food and fashion are both forms of culture. They're both subject to new ideas and trends and the influence of taste makers.
Dan Pashman: I think Simon Doonan understands all of this very well. He's not just a fashion icon and an author of several books, he's a keen observer of culture in general. But he's most famous for his work designing elaborate displays and department store windows, especially at Barney's in New York. He has been called the world's most famous window dresser. He once told an interviewer that if he had to design a window representing his own life, it would look like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Simon was even invited by the Obama's to decorate the white house for Christmas back in 2009. You get it, in the fashion world, he's a big deal. So having him come into the studio was a little intimidating.
Dan Pashman: I was a little worried, I said, I'm going to put on my special sneakers for Simon, and I'm going to try to look good. But then after I left the house, I thought that the shade of red in my shirt doesn't match with my sneakers, it's the wrong shade of red with these sneakers.
Simon Doonan: Well, it's so interesting to me that people always say that to me. Oh, if I'd known I was going to meet you or I prepared, I dressed, which makes me one to, I've done a terrible job of communicating my point of view over the ears because my point of view, it was always, I want people to have, fun clothes as self-expression. There are no rules. So yeah, I'm groovy.
Dan Pashman: You were not the sort of fashion guy who does those red carpet shows where they just insult everyone's clothes. Like you're the opposite of that.
Simon Doonan: Well, I years ago, I auditioned for Queer Eye and during the audition they show pictures of overweight guys with Metallica tee shirts with mullets. And I just kept saying, he looks great. There's somebody who looks like themselves. That's always the thing I think people should aspire to, you should look like yourself.
Dan Pashman: A lot of Simon's approach to fashion and food comes from growing up during a very specific time in post world war II England, he's from Redding, it's about an hour from London. His parents were in the Royal Air Force during the war and Simon was born in 1953, when the war was still casting a shadow over the country.
Simon Doonan: The 1950s in England, we were still rationing. Food was very limited. My parents didn't have any money, so I think we were eating mashed potato and spam, because I was the only thing people could get. I don't have recollections of food from the 1950s, and my parents lived in a Garret in an attic with two rooms, no kitchen and bathroom, and they had two children. I remember them schlepping buckets of water up the stairs, and my mom said it was actually a really fun period of their life.
Dan Pashman: Do you believe that?
Simon Doonan: Yeah, because they were young and the war was over, and they were married and they had very low expectations, and they were figuring out who they were, because they've spent the last four or five years fighting World War II.
Dan Pashman: It's interesting to me that you say they had low expectations, because I sort of feel like that's something that's changed over time in the culture as our society has gotten more and more comfortable, our expectations keep going up.
Simon Doonan: Yeah, I think that's a catastrophe. I approach everything with very low expectations. So I fail the 11 plus, which was a critical exam that would decide whether you go to the grammar school or the secondary modern school. So I left school at 16, and my mom got me a job in the factory making bottle tops. So I was actually, I remember the jubilation of getting my first pay packet and I thought, great, I have my own dough. I didn't think, oh my life, what's happened? Why aren't I an influencer, why don't I have a discount at Gucci, blah, blah, blah. I didn't have any of that. So there's something to be said for having low expectations and somehow all after that, managed to claw my way back into the education system and I went to college and then I found my way into retail.
Dan Pashman: Simon's first retail job was in a local department store in Redding. After college, he started designing window displays. Simon was on his way up and so was England, the drab, black and white postwar fifties gave way to the swinging sixties. Everything was in color now, miniskirts were all the rage. The Rolling Stones were the rebellious bad boys of pirate radio stations, and the days of food rationing were over.
Dan Pashman: So the stage was set for one of England's first food TV stars, Fanny Cradock.
Fanny Cradock: Hello and welcome to my little series on Christmas knowhow. We start with the most important of all the Turkey, which is after all the British national bird. Now there's curious pinching movement that I'm doing here ...
Simon Doonan: She had enormous panache. She never wore an apron because she said, I'm not messy, so I'm going to wear an evening dress. But her idea was that everyone should eat nice food. Everyone should eat well prepared food. Vegetables shouldn't be gray, meat shouldn't be over cooked. All the typical crimes of British food. She was determined to eradicate them.
Fanny Cradock: But it doesn't do much for the bird's figure, let's face it. But then on the other hand, it wouldn't do that much for us, would it?
Simon Doonan: She was like a gravelly voiced drag queen. It was a live show. So had these assistants who would be banging oven doors and she was incapable of restraining herself from going, oh, and rolling her eyes. So she was insanely camp. So as a young gay person, I was like, she's fabulous. I kind of get her. But my mom loved it and she used to copy down a lot of Fanny Cradock's recipes, and essentially it was just adding a bit of European panache to food, using tomatoes to just give some color and there were lots of things with ham and tomato. So it looked fresh and-
Dan Pashman: And I have a right, your mom was also very influenced by Gaylord Houser?
Simon Doonan: Oh yeah. Well-
Dan Pashman: Who was one of the original health food gurus of the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s.
Simon Doonan: 100%, well the '60s version of health food, which was wheat germ, brewers yeast, molasses. And all of these ideas came from Gaylord Houser, who was this glamorous friend of Greta Garbos and he'd come from Hollywood and he was showing this big stars in Hollywood how to eat healthy in a way which would make them more beautiful. So my mom and my aunt Phyllis became followers of Gaylord Houser.
Dan Pashman: I think this is where you see one way that food and fashion are so similar. Fanny Cradock, her approach to food was more like Simon's approach to fashion. Have fun, add some color, [jujz] your food up a bit. You do you.
Dan Pashman: Gaylord Houser was the health food guru. More like one of those judgemental fashion people. Someone who acts like he has all the answers, who tells you what to eat. And he was controversial. He made a lot of health claims despite not being a doctor. So many sketchy claims in fact that the FDA seized one of his books. And as I said to Simon, there are plenty of these sort of messianic food figures today, many of them selling snake oil. I was curious to get his take. What is it about the culture? What is it about these people in particular that allows them to become the latest trend?
Simon Doonan: They're all kind of glamorous or charismatic. And then you've got to remember this is when religion is starting to be less central in people's lives. And you know the expression that they're saying, when people stop believing God, they don't believe in nothing. They believe in anything. So there were many factors that came together to make people susceptible. But you're right, it continues to today. I mean you've got Maryanne Williamson running for president. Hello, she's a self help guru. I don't know if she would describe herself that way. Going back to the late '80s early '90s, she teaches this thing called the course in miracles.
Dan Pashman: And do you believe in that?
Simon Doonan: Well I'm fascinated by her.
Dan Pashman: Why?
Simon Doonan: Well, she became big during the AIDS crisis because people were lost and it was so terrible. My cohort, we were decimated during the AIDS crisis. So a friend of mine said to me, Oh, we're all going to this church in Hollywood, in West Hollywood and Maryanne Williamson is speaking, and everywhere I'd heard about this woman. And she did perform a very major function back then for gay people that were lost. You would get diagnosed with AIDS and people would say, well, are you religious? Because there were no treatments.
Dan Pashman: I know you've talked about during the time of the AIDS crisis that because there were no treatments, and there was such desperation to try to find, to do something, anything that you and others turn to food and thought maybe we could help people by changing people's diets.
Simon Doonan: Well, I remember vividly, very early on with a guy who I was living with, who had been my boyfriend and I took him to the doctor, he'd had a biopsy done on this lesion on his back and he said, come with me. I didn't quite know what to expect. So he had said it might be AIDS, and we were really freaking out. So we had this conversation with the doctor and I said, "So where can we get referrals?" And he said, they're on a referrals. That was a chilling moment that I'll never forget. And we left, my friend is devastated. So I said, let's go to the health food restaurant. And on the notice board it said, macrobiotics will help alleviate AIDS, blah, blah, blah. And I said, let's go. And my friend learnt cook macrobiotic and it was, I will say, I don't think it was great for him physically, but it was great emotionally.
Simon Doonan: I mean somebody was saying we can help you. And so many of my friends, their families distanced themselves from them. They died on their own. They didn't have funerals because their friends had died and there was no one to show up, buried in unmarked graves. I still deal with the trauma from that period.
Dan Pashman: So you've heard about Simon's approach to fashion and the foods he grew up with. Coming up, we'll talk about his attitude towards food today.
Simon Doonan: When it comes to food, I am prosaic, provincial, boring.
Dan Pashman: Plus we'll talk about the role food plays in Simon's marriage to designer Jonathan Adler.
Simon Doonan: As you'll hear, they have some very different ideas about eating. Stick around.
Speaker 1: Time to cook up some advertisements.
Dan Pashman: What are the components of a great eating experience? I mean, you've got to have the right food, right? Something delicious. You're excited to eat. Ambiance helps, a nice, comfortable environment, whether it's a good restaurant or a friend's house or your own sofa. Of course, it's nice to have someone you care about there with you. But there's one thing we've forgotten, teeth. You need teeth for a good eating experience. You need functional teeth. Brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth, flossing, all that as important. But you also have to visit your American Dental Association dentist regularly. Regular checkups could help uncover cavities or other conditions early before you need more extensive and expensive treatment. But how do you find the right dentist? That's where the American dental association's find dentist tool comes in. You just put in your zip code and the qualifications you're looking for, from general dentistry, oral surgery, pediatrics, and you'll get a list of dentists for you.
Dan Pashman: The great thing is, you get all the profiles of these dentists. You can see their websites, you can call their offices to make an appointment and you get all the info you need with help from the American Dental Association's find a dentist tool. Visit ADA.org/sporkful today. That's ADA.org/sporkful.
Dan Pashman: Thomas' English muffins wants to know what your ideal morning would look like if anything were possible. I'll tell you about my ideal morning. Start with a Thomas' English muffin, fork split, preserve the nooks and crannies, toast it up, get those nice crispy Brown peaks. Then, hmm, what should we do with it? It's still kind of tomato season, but I want some funky cheese today, so I'm going to put a nice thin layer of some sharp, strong funky cheese on top of that English muffin, and then I'm going to put a nice thick slice of juicy, fresh tomato, on top of that, sprinkle of cheese.
Dan Pashman: Then you've got it all going on. You've got that funk, you got that creaminess, you get the acidity and the sweetness of the tomato, and of course you have the crunch, and the chewiness, and the satisfaction of the nooks and crannies that come with a Thomas' English muffin. So that's what my ideal morning would look like. What about yours? How would you get to work? Where would you work? Who would your boss be? And what kind of Thomas' English muffin breakfast would you have? Tell me on social media, and I'll post a recipe in the show notes for all of you to check out. Thomas', wake up to what's possible.
Dan Pashman: We just did some work in my house, spruced up the kitchen. One of the big decisions we made was that we switched the floors in the kitchen from tile to hardwood. That was a tough call, as my friend, Mike D'Angelo, who did the work for us with say, tile is bulletproof. Hardwood requires a little more care, and it's in the kitchen, which is a high impact area. That's why I'm so thankful for my Bona hardwood floor cleaner, and believe me I need it because I cook a lot. Janie cooks a lot. We got little kids, and our hardwood floors take a beating. It's just like sort of a mop device with the cleaner built in so you just pull the trigger on the end of the stick of the mop. It shoots the cleaner, the towel wipes it around, and it's clean. Bottom line, my hardwood floors look great. Oh and my kids spill something on them, I don't have to stress about it because I got my Bona floor cleaner. Bona hardwood floor cleaner is available at most retailers where floor cleaning products are sold, on amazon and on Bona.com. There are also products available for your other hard surface floors, like stone, tile, laminate, and vinyl. For cleaning tips and exclusive offers, Visit Bona.com/sporkful. That's Bona.com/sporkful.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to the Sporkful. I'm Dan Pashman. Now I know you love when my kids are on the podcast, so make sure you stay tuned to the end of this episode for a special segment featuring their taste test of Sir Kensington's new salad dressings, which include a delicious variation on Italian dressing, and something called pizza ranch. That's at the end of this episode.
Dan Pashman: One more quick note, just a couple of weeks until our live show in Charlottesville at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. I'll be speaking with Gail Jesup White, direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson and of enslaved chef Peter Hemmings, brother to James and Sally Hemings. It's part of Monticello's heritage harvest festival. They'll have a ton of great speakers there, including Alice Waters and Michael Twitty, and a chance to sample food from Monticello farm table. It's a cafe inspired by Jefferson's own passion for local agriculture. It's all happening Saturday, September 21st. Get info on this and all our live shows at sporkful.com/live.
Dan Pashman: Okay. Back to my conversation with Simon Doonan. Now, I'll be honest, the fashion world never felt like it was for me. I always felt like it was for people obsessed with status, worried about superficial things. Of course, some people might say the same thing about the food world. Anyway, Simon, he has a very different perspective. He talks about the fashion world is his savior, a place full of misfits who welcomed him when no one else would, and he doesn't consider what you wear to be superficial. That goes back to his childhood.
Simon Doonan: So how my momma transformed herself, she grew up in rural Northern Ireland and she'd made herself into a glamour puss and it was very important to her, the way she put herself together and and her vanity, I saw it as a life affirming thing, a positive thing, how you can transform the way you look. I saw it as being a defense against the awful things that can happen to people if they fall off the edge, you pull your look together, you gird up your loins every day. That's what my mom did, and she would make herself look great, jump on the back of my dad's motorbike and off she would go, and I think go Betty.
Simon Doonan: Vivienne Westwood, who's completely crazy, but brilliant, years ago she said, people who wear impressive clothes have better lives. And I think that there's something very fundamental about that. And she didn't say expensive clothes, she said, just make an impression. That you orchestrate yourself through self-expression and you'll have a better life, and do you think that applies to food?
Dan Pashman: I think that my mood definitely affects what I eat. I definitely eat less healthy things when I'm over tired. Like, I don't have the energy to cook and I just kind want them and comforting and that's what I'm more likely to shove a bunch of pizza and ice cream in my face, whereas when I'm feeling good or kind of got an extra pep in my step, I'd be like, you know what? I'm going to go out and buy a nice piece of fish at the fish market, and I'm going to grill it up, and I'm going to roast some vegetables, and it's going to be healthy, and delicious and it's going to be fantastic, and I get excited about it.
Simon Doonan: Yeah. When I think about making food impressive, I actually think about my husband because he makes all these incredible dishes. Very often when we're out at the beach, we'll get prepared food from this great place in Shelter Island called Marie Eifell, but when we get home and it's in its containers and stuff, some of my friends are like, oh, let's just eat it, don't dirty the dishes. I'm like, are you insane? We take it and make it look really great, which is very easy to do when you've got all these, so I think the meal is more fun, our lives are better because we took the time to just cut things up, arrange them on Johnny's platters and dishes and napkins.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, putting things on serving trays, and putting them in bowls, not in the containers, is like, I hate doing dishes and it's a pain, but it does make such a difference in how the entire experience feels.
Simon Doonan: Yeah. That doesn't mean, there's nothing more horrifying than those formal dining things with stemware everywhere and too many knives and forks, no, that's not where it's at.
Dan Pashman: Right, right, right.
Simon Doonan: No, it's just like, ta-dah, here's the food. Every meal should be a celebration. That was a plug for my husband's dishes, wasn't it?
Dan Pashman: That was great. Yeah.
Simon Doonan: [Findley Vale 00:22:03]
Dan Pashman: Simon's husband is the designer and decor expert, Jonathan Adler, his stores and website offer furniture, serving trays, all sorts of very popular housewares. I have to say this part of the conversation with Simon really made an impression on me. It reminded me of our Wendy's Shabbat episode when I spoke with a woman in her eighties named Roberta. She talked about why she still makes her bed every day, because if you don't, she says, then pretty soon you don't get dressed, you don't leave the house, you lose your purpose, your drive to keep going. I like Simon's idea that dressing well, putting in that bit of extra effort is life affirming. You're not doing it to impress others, you're doing it for yourself, and he's right that this is the same principle as putting leftovers on a serving dish instead of eating them out of the container, or like cloth napkins.
Dan Pashman: We did a Thanksgiving show a while back, and New York Times food editor, Sam Sifton and talked about the power of cloth napkins. He was so right. Yeah, washing them is a pain, but the tactile experience of using cloth napkins makes you feel like you're eating at the Ritz. You should do it when you can, for yourself, and if you're looking for nice napkins or serving dishes, as Simon said, you'd do well to get them from his husband, Jonathan Adler. Simon and Jonathan had been happily married since 2008, but that doesn't mean they have the same relationship with food.
Simon Doonan: He grew up in Southern New Jersey in a little farm town. So he said, Oh, we'll go home, meet my family. Great. So we get there and there was this enormous focus on food. What are we having? His mom set the table, her neighbor, Mrs Goldstein came in and did the flowers, and it looked sensational, and his mom made fantastic food and everybody was very food focused. The bit that was a bit jarring for me was his mom insisting that I hadn't eaten enough, wasn't eating enough, should eat more, blah, blah, blah. Which in my mother never said to us, she was like, meh. So it took me a while to understand this is a cultural thing. I thought, oh, I'm disappointing her. I have to eat more, but I don't want to eat more. It was just that, [foreign language 00:24:18], see I know my Yiddish, that [foreign language 00:24:22] thing of wanting people to eat. It's very sweet and I got to understand it pretty quickly.
Dan Pashman: And you guys have been together now what, 20 something years?
Simon Doonan: Yeah, we've been together like 25 years.
Dan Pashman: Right, and over that time, how have you changed? Has his family's culture changed your eating?
Simon Doonan: Yeah, I don't know. I don't think so. I think I'm abstemious by nature and that's very neurotic and not particularly life enhancing, but that's just the way it is. I try not to eat, I don't rush into Billy's Cupcakes and come out with a huge box. I remember Johnny said to me once, pick up some cupcakes, and I thought, oh, there's six people, I'll got six cupcakes. And he was like, I cannot believe that you only got six. What are we going to do? Like yeah, that's one each, on earth. So we're a good counterpart for each other. We both have the same reaction when we go out to eat, when food is too complicated, or millions of improbable ingredients that you don't even know what they are. We're always looking at that Brooklyn menu generator thing. Have you ever done that?
Dan Pashman: No.
Simon Doonan: Oh, it's hilarious. It's like curdled fiddlehead ferns with octopus testicles, deep fried.
Dan Pashman: It's like a roulette thing, or like a spinning wheel thing.
Simon Doonan: Yeah, evermore improbable provenance crazy stuff.
Dan Pashman: Right. So but this is something that's interesting to me Simon. So it feels to me like you seem to love that style in fashion, but yet not in food.
Simon Doonan: You have just nailed me to the wall.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Simon Doonan: That could not be more true. I have no holds barred when ti to fashion. Really, Leigh Bowery to me it looks normal. People that-
Dan Pashman: I don't know who that is, but I'll assume it's someone who doesn't-
Simon Doonan: Oh, he was that performance artist who'd spill paint on his head and wear huge platform shoes. He was great.
Dan Pashman: And you're like, okay, that's a nice equilibrium.
Simon Doonan: I have no ceiling when it terms to how avant guard, how crazy anybody wants to dress. I'm completely fine with it. When it comes to food, I am prosaic, provincial, boring and I go out, I think, Oh chicken pot pie, great. But the crust is underneath and the pie, like, oh no, I ordered the chicken pot pie. Oh this is how we do it now. I think creativity is the enemy of good food. I think self expression is horrifying in food.
Dan Pashman: Yet you love it in clothing, you think it's the essence of fashion.
Simon Doonan: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: You want everyone to express themselves.
Simon Doonan: So, I'm a total hypocrite. And I recognize that this is a personal failing.
Dan Pashman: I don't necessarily think you're a hypocrite. I wouldn't call it a personal failing that you have such different approaches to fashion and to food. But I am curious to try to understand why. Why is it that you are so accepting of any kind of expression in one area and so opposed to it in the other?
Simon Doonan: I think my mom got really good at cooking and she would cook the same thing. So the familiarity of food is something that I like. I think, let's go there cause they have a great blah, blah blah. And if things change, then I have a nervous breakdown.
Dan Pashman: So clearly in some ways, Simon's approach to food is very different from his approach to fashion, and from my approach to food. I love trying new things, but as Simon pointed out to me, in other ways, we are the same. In food and fashion, Simon and I both hate pretentiousness, and we don't really care what other people think of our choices.
Simon Doonan: I'm always shocked when I go to eat with a group of people that I know really well, who are very maybe empowered, pushy, fabulous people that I know and they're like, "What are you ordering?" And like, "If I tell you what I'm ordering, you are just going to whine and say I'm boring. So no, I'm not telling you what I'm ordering." You know like, "Oh what are you wearing?" Part of that is just conversational glue that keeps people alive, but you and I are very, very special because we don't have that need. I honestly, I'm maybe I'm a horrible person, I don't give a shit what other people are going to order, because they're, I'm assuming they're ordering something they fancy.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Simon Doonan: I've had that experience where I'm very, I'm like, "Oh no, I'm having that," and then people will order and say, "Oh, I wish I hadn't ordered that. Why didn't I get pasta?" And yeah, why didn't you?
Simon Doonan: I can go into a restaurant and order what I fancy, and I don't really need other people to validate it. Same with stuff I wear. When I did that book, Excentric Glamour, it's a story that I told at the beginning of that book about being dressed up as the queen of England, I won't go into why I was doing that, on a two o'clock on-
Dan Pashman: We'll assume it was a very good reason.
Simon Doonan: No, actually. Just dying to do it. It was on a Saturday afternoon at two o'clock, I'm leaving my building in full [inaudible 00:29:44]. I'm thinking, Oh, I'm never going to live this down. My doorman, they're going to take the piss out of me forever for this. So as I'm leaving the building, sash, septa all crown, he says to me, "Do you want your mail now or when you come back?" So I always tell people that story as to liberate them.
Dan Pashman: Simon keeps telling stories like this, and yet as he said, people keep expecting him to judge them for what they're wearing, even though he doesn't care. And as I told him, I have a similar issue in food. We say the sporkful is not for foodies, it's for eaters. And yet people are scared to cook for me, because they think I'll judge them, even though the reality is I'll eat whatever you put in front of me.
Simon Doonan: It speaks to something very masochistic in people that they're always looking for some sort of a Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada, some authority figure who's going to rip them to shreds. And if you tell them, no, I'm not that person, they're actually quite bewildered. But I know now I'm old enough to realize that that's actually a very fundamental thing. I'm a lot more sympathetic to it than I used to be.
Dan Pashman: So Simon is more understanding now of people who want to be told what to wear or what to eat, even though he's not one of those people, he's comfortable in his own skin.
Simon Doonan: I didn't know what your excuse is, but some of my independent attitudes come from the fact that growing up gay, when it was illegal to be gay, you had to learn to love yourself and feel that you were okay, and kind of almost firewall off other people's perceptions and opinions.
Simon Doonan: If you went to the top floor of our house where my aunt Phyllis lived and looked out, you could see Redding jail. And I remember my dad saying to me, "Oh, that's Redding jail, where Oscar Wilde was in jail because he was one of them." I think my dad could tell I was getting a bit light in the loafers. And he said, "Homosexuals have horrible lives. They often kill themselves. And a lot of them end up in a mental hospital." And I was like, oh great. Welcome to my future.
Simon Doonan: And then I became aware that there were gay people that weren't in prison or in mental hospitals. And then you go to a gay bar and suddenly there they all are. Then you think, oh, all of those people in this little world are extremely disdainful about people in the straight world. There are all these words to describe straight people as the no nothings, and my mom was from Belfast, and we lived in England, and back then that said, no blacks, no Irish outside pubs. So Irish people were actively discriminated again and she had the same thing. She was like, English people are the worst. They're dreary. They have no imagination. They're not interesting. Wait till we go to Ireland. You'll see. So I got from her as well the idea that even if you're part of this group that everyone seems to be really down on, screw them.
Dan Pashman: That's Simon Doonan, his new book Drag, the Complete Story, comes out September 17th.
Simon Doonan: I think a lot of young people might not know about, they might watch RuPaul's Drag Race but they don't know about Dionysus and they don't know about Tiresias, and the ancient history of drag and how far it goes back and I thought, I'm going to write about this in a playful, interesting, accessible way that gets younger people excited about history.
Dan Pashman: Again, the book is called Drag, the Complete Story, all proceeds from the book will go to the Ali Forney Center, which provides shelter and support for homeless LGBTQ youth. If you want to win a copy of Simon's book, sign up for our email newsletter. If you're already on the list, you're automatically entered into this and all our giveaways. If you're not, sign up now at sporkful.com/newsletter.
Dan Pashman: In case you missed it, make sure you check out last week's episode with husband and wife, comedians and Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher. My wife Janie calls into the show, and Natasha and Moshe offer us relationship advice. In particular about how to work well together when hosting a dinner party. But I sometimes get a little bit worked up about, I want the food to be just right and I want it to be delicious, and I want people to eat when it's hot.
Janie: By a little worked up, he means days of anxiety.
Dan Pashman: That episode is up now, check it out. This show is produced by me along with senior producer-
Speaker 6: [Ann Sane 00:00:34:26].
Dan Pashman: And associate producer-
Speaker 7: [Gofenn Aputubuale 00:00:34:28].
Dan Pashman: Our engineer is-
Jared O'Connell: Jared O'Connell.
Dan Pashman: Music help from Black Label Music. Our editor is Peter Clowney. The Sporkful is a production of Stitcher. Our executive producers are Daisy Rosario and Chris Bannon. Until next time, I'm Dan Pashman.
Noni: And I'm Noni from New York City, reminding you to eat more, eat better and eat more better.
Speaker 1: It's time to open up a can of advertisements.
Dan Pashman: All right kids, we have a new advertiser on the Sporkful, and it's someone you know well, but in a different form. I have a bag here. Reach into it and pull out.
Dan Pashman: Hello, it is I, Sir Kensington. You may remember me from your favorite ketchup. Now, I come in salad dressings.
Becky: How did you become a salad dressing in literally like two weeks?
Dan Pashman: Sir Kensington has multiplied, Becky.
Becky: Okay, so before we try this, you kids both like salads. Emily, even you're only six years old and you eat salads, what do you love about salads?
Emily: Because little kids don't like salad, so I want people to see me eating salads so they know I'm a big kid. I wanted to try it and when I tried it with good.
Dan Pashman: Becky, what are your feelings about salads?
Becky: If I had salad without the dressing I probably wouldn't like it because I feel like sometimes the lettuce is watery and then tastes kind of dry, but the dressing gives it flavor.
Dan Pashman: My favorite thing about salad is when you pair it with something that is buttery, or a little rich, or a little heavy, and the salad is just so crisp, and cool, and acidic, and bright and it is just the perfect compliment.
Dan Pashman: All right kids, let's try some of these dressings, for you two I have a special Sir Kensington's dressing called pizza ranch. It's a ranch dressing with crushed red pepper, and oregano, and yeast. So it has a little bit of a Parmesan kind of flavor, but it's dairy free. So I want you guys to try this.
Becky: I haven't exactly tasted something like it before but it does taste really good.
Dan Pashman: Emily? I three times I said don't take another bite, because I need you to talk you you keep taking more bites.
Emily: It's good.
Dan Pashman: Oh, because it's so good. Okay. What do you think about it?
Emily: Good dressing.
Dan Pashman: I'm going to try the pepperoni Italian first, because it's going to be a little spicy, and it's also got a nice vinegarette acidity. It's got the Italian but it's got that back of the throat peppery.
Dan Pashman: Emily, what would you say to someone who said that salads are no fun?
Emily: Fix your mind comes to mind. Go to the doctor and the doctor will take a wrench.
Dan Pashman: The doctor's going to get a wrench?
Emily: Yeah, to fix your head, and then she would come somewhere and be like, do you like salads? Because they're awesome.
Dan Pashman: Okay. Yes, Becky?
Becky: So my thoughts on this is that that's a little harsh but I would probably say, well I look salad and you don't have to, but it still tastes good.
Dan Pashman: Well children, thank you so much for trying all my lovely new salad dressings.
Becky: You're welcome Sir Kensington.
Dan Pashman: You think salads are the boring bland choice? Take it from Emily, fix your mind. Try the Sir Kensington salad dressings. They also have ranch dressings in classic, avocado oil and Buffalo. Then there's raspberry pink peppercorn, golden citrus and more. And I cannot wait to try that pizza ranch on pizza, and as a dip. And you know, Sir Kensington's is always non-GMO with simple quality ingredients, sourcing only certified humane eggs. That's the highest grade in the industry. So let your salad flag fly, and get a dollar off your next purchase when you go to SirKensington's.com/Sporkful. that's SirKensington's.com/Sporkful. Sir Kensington's, abandon all bland.
Dan Pashman: Oh man. I just finished my toasted nooks and crannies Thomas' English muffin with that funky cheese and the tomato. Janie wasn't thrilled with the funky cheese, because she just doesn't love very strong smelling foods in general. But I'm not complaining. I tell you it was delicious. And what happened was, I didn't even anticipate was that the heat of the English muffin turned the cheese soft and then it got into the nooks and crannies and that was fantastic. Thomas', wake up to what's possible.
Speaker 1: Stitcher.