Matt Goulding on Why Italian Food Can Evolve [2/2]

Listening to Roads and Kingdom co-founder Matt Goulding talk about the food culture in Italy on this week’s Special Sauce was a real treat for me. Matt spent months eating his way through the country for his extraordinary new book, Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture, and he explains that what he found in his travels was a vibrant and evolving food culture, not one that is frozen in time. Or, as he so eloquently says, “I wanted to toss off this idea of this calcified cuisine that’s encased in amber, that Italian food is a museum piece…So what this book is really about is, yes, the traditions are beautiful and they shouldn’t be screwed with half-heartedly. They need to be taken very seriously, but to say that Italian food is the same as it has always been…overlooks the fact that there are incredible chefs, young and old, and artisans and innovators that are doing amazing things with pizza in Naples or ragu in Emilia-Romagna.”

Matt illustrated the tensions between staying true to time-honored traditions even as younger generations are looking to do something new with an anecdote about a burrata-making family in Puglia. “I realized very quickly that within their own family the entire complexity of this push and pull between past and present and future was contained between mother and father and then their three young sons…The mother and father thought the idea of putting matcha powder into burrata was fucking nuts and grandma’s rolling over in her grave…These guys were like, ‘Well we just came back from Japan. We brought burrata to them and now we want to bring Japan to burrata. Why can’t we do that?'”

I do hope you’ll tune in to this episode, as I expect you’ll find Matt to be as entertaining as he is insightful.


Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce, Serious Eats’ podcast about food and life. Every week on Special Sauce we talk to some of the leading lights of American culture, food folks and non-food folks alike.

Matt Goulding: Pasta carbonara is 60 years old and nobody can even agree on what goes into that dish. So, the second that you get dogmatic about “this is how Italian food must be,” you are wrong.

EL: Our guest is Roads & Kingdoms co-founder, Matt Goulding, the author of the extraordinary new book Pasta, Pane, Vino. Did I get that right?

MG: You got it absolutely right. It’s an extraordinary accent you have there.

EL: That was beautiful. I speak fluent nothing. So, this is the third book, right-

MG: Right.

EL: -that you’ve written in this style? The first one was on Japan as you mentioned in the last episode. Then you wrote one on Spain. When you’re thinking about writing a book like this, like the book you wrote on Italy, what’s your thought process? How does it differ than writing just a series of articles on Roads & Kingdoms?

MG: Well, the idea with the books was really to try … they were never meant to be comprehensive. You can’t possibly be comprehensive unless you want to go live in Italy for 20 years and-

EL: Right. You can be Faith Willinger-

MG: Right. You can be Faith and you can do an anthropologic deep dive into the full taxonomy of Italian cooking, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about using a handful of narrative storytelling opportunities to weave a nuanced tapestry that represents Italian food culture in the modern day.

So, for me that means hitting on a certain number of different angles in terms of food style, but also trying to provide a number of different writing opportunities. Ultimately, that’s the part that keeps me doing these things. As a writer, you sit down and say, “Well, okay. I could structure it like this. I could write about pizza this chapter. I could write about ragu that chapter. I could write about wine in this chapter.” But more than that it was I want to find a certain style of story. From a very intimate, tightly wound family narrative to something that’s much broader and swashbuckling. The book’s really trying to give you that layered approach of “Now I’m reading a story that I’m going to be immersed in as if it were a short story in a book of fiction”.

EL: Well, you know, I have this woman that I’m working with on my book, I call her my book therapist, and she’s just someone who gives me high level feedback. My wife usually does that, but since she’s a character in this book, it’s really hard.

MG: Of course.

EL: One of the things that she said that I think you do so well, it’s like your reader is perched on your shoulder.

MG: Right.

EL: I am not used to writing like that. It’s a very specific skill and it requires a certain kind of discipline. You do that so beautifully and I noticed it because I struggle with it. I think that’s one of the reasons the books work so well is that you have that ability. I felt like I was there with you.

MG: Well, I appreciate that. I think that’s, for me, I call this style first-person light. It’s how I’ve defined it, for myself at least, is that it’s not “then I went here and did this. Then I ate that and then you’re going to follow me back to my hotel where I tuck myself into bed. Then the next day-“, which is what oftentimes travel journalism will do.

EL: Yes! Because you’re trying to get to the end of the story.

MG: Yeah. There’s a story and the last meal is the end of the story and there’s the period and then you turn the page into the next story. That’s not this. I’m there, I’m present when I need to be to add some context to take you into a scene, but other than that, everybody else is there to tell you the story.

EL: Absolutely! It is show me not tell me.

MG: Right.

EL: My book therapist always says, “Don’t summarize.” As a journalist, you always tend to summarize. The other thing she’s always telling me is, “Slow the fuck down.”

MG: No, both of those are extraordinarily wise pieces of advice. It seems self-evident when you back away from the computer screen, but when you’re in the midst of it, it’s really hard to-

EL: Oh my God.

MG: -fight those instincts because you’ve been writing in 200 word thought bubbles for the better part of 12 years, or 12 years with Serious Eats and 25 years as a journalist and so, you’re fighting against a lot of that. I think that’s the first thing is to set those parameters in a way that you know exactly why you’re there on the page and what your role is for the reader. I want you to have the most direct access to the smartest people in the world of Japanese food or Spanish food or Italian food and that’s definitely not me.

EL: Right.

MG: Definitely not me. In Spain, I was lucky to spend a week with José Andrés, who was a close friend and became a partner, but he took me through Asturias, where he was born and raised. The last thing I want to do is get in the way of you and José’s experience through Asturias. I want to facilitate that. I’m riding shotgun and you will be riding shotgun by virtue of being a reader with me on this story.

EL: But what’s interesting is you set scene so well and you write so evocatively and, yet, the first thing I notice in every one of your interactions is how much empathy you have for the people that you’re writing about.

MG: It’s a funny little dance. I think about this so much. How the arrangement of certain syllables in a certain way will hit you as a reader in dramatically different fashion even if the end, the information itself is the same. Trying to find a right way to arrange these ideas and trying to find the right way to introduce you to these characters, I think, always starts off with “Who is this person? What has their life really been about? What’s the detail that I can share with you that’s going-“

EL: And why should you care about them?

MG: Right. In Japan, it was an extraordinary challenge because I don’t speak Japanese, but I was head over heels in love with this country, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and wanting to ask questions that I, in a lot of times, couldn’t ask. So, I just had to sit there for hours, weeks, months on end just watching people and convincing them to let me watch them. And trying to then take all of that observation and channel it into a chapter on kaiseki cuisine.

EL: Right.

MG: Or a chapter on the obsessive ramen culture of Fukuoka, in the south of Japan.

EL: Right. In Italy, it’s ragu or pizza.

MG: Right. They’re all just lenses. We can write, I’m a nerd about ragu. We can debate meat grinds and fat content and whether it should be prosciutto or pancetta. Those things are all really important, but what’s much more important to me is what ragu represents in the divide between Emilia and Romagna. What it means historically to this region. Why this nonna made it with pork and why that one made it with beef. What that says about this place. That, to me, is the essence of what Italy and Japan and Spain and all food culture really is about. Particularly, the ones that have such long, deep roots that you can explain the world through a dish of ragu or the Italian world through a dish of ragu or you can explain the history of Spain through a paella pan.

EL: Right.

MG: Let’s go ahead and try to do that in some way.

EL: But what’s interesting about it is what you do in all three books particularly, I’ve noticed it because I recently read the book about Italy, is that you are trying to figure out a way to bridge the past with the present and the future. But so many people look through their lens when they’re looking at Italian food-

MG: Oh man.

EL: -through this rose-colored nonna-based-

MG: Of course.

EL: -love and admiration. And you had that great quote from The Leopard, which you put in the book in both Italian and English. It was something about if we want things to stay as they are things will have to change.

MG: Exactly.

EL: That is so much of what your books are all about. I also think it’s what, I’m going to make a leap here-

MG: Please.

EL: When I think about Serious Eats or Roads & Kingdoms that’s also what’s true about a living breathing website-

MG: Yup.

EL: -whatever business of any kind because, especially in 2018, the velocity of change is staggering. So, how do you stay true to your values-

MG: Yup.

EL: -true to the things that matter to you and still move forward?

MG: That’s exactly right. Listen, that is the core challenge and the core opportunity for Italian cuisine and Italian culture right now. The idea of writing about Italy is somewhat frightening, for one, because it’s been written about a million times by a lot of really great writers, and for two, because Italians are so protective over their cuisine. The last thing I want to do is offend, horrify, or denigrate, in any possible way, especially because a lot of my closest friends are, indeed, Italian. I wanted to toss off this idea of this calcified cuisine that’s encased in amber, that Italian food as a museum piece.

EL: Right.

MG: We all want to believe that because, even Italians do, it seems as if it was begotten not made, forged in some moment of divine inspiration. That’s absolutely not true. Pasta carbonara is 60 years old and nobody can even agree on what goes into that dish.

EL: Right.

MG: So, the second that you get dogmatic about “this is how Italian food must be”, you are wrong. You are immediately wrong.

EL: Yeah.

MG: So, what this book is really about is, yes, the traditions are beautiful and they shouldn’t be screwed with half-heartedly. They need to be taken very seriously, but to say that Italian food is the same as it has and needs to remain that way would be to overlook the fact that there are incredible young chefs, young and old, and artisans and innovators that are doing amazing things with pizza in Naples.

EL: Yes!

MG: Or doing amazing things with ragu in Emilia-Romagna.

EL: Yeah.

MG: It’s all happening there. It really is.

EL: It’s true. I’ve written about this before about Russ & Daughters. What’s great is that they didn’t keep it a museum.

MG: Yup.

EL: It’s still evolving. It’s not that they don’t acknowledge the past and they don’t celebrate the past and that’s the truth in every chapter. Celebrate the past and that’s the truth in every chapter in the book about Italy.

MG: Right, right. The funny thing is is that it was not intentional. At least it didn’t begin that way. There was no thesis to this book, but halfway through it I realized every one of these sort of lenses that I’ve chosen, in the case of Puglia, it was burrata, so I found these three brothers who make burrata in hilltop town on the edge of Puglia. I sort of embedded with them and spent many, many days making burrata and watching them do this thing and I realized very quickly that within their own family the entire complexity of this push and pull between past and present and future was contained between mother and father and then the three young sons.

MG: Mother and father thought the idea of putting matcha powder into burrata was fucking nuts and grandma’s rolling over in her grave, and then probably true. These guys were like, “Well we just came back from Japan. We brought burrata to them and now we want to bring Japan to burrata.” Why can’t we do that?

EL: It’s true.

MG: Why not?

EL: You had this great quote from Massimo Bottura, the famous Italian chef, which explains this. He says that vision is the crossroads between the rational and the emotional.

MG: An amazing quote.

EL: Which is really an amazing quote because it fits so many situations.

MG: It really does.

EL: And explains so much, including them putting matcha in the burrata.

MG: It does. The thing is, and as I saw this happen many times in the cheese shop, they were walking in and looking at these things that they recognize as artifacts of their culture that had been dramatically transformed, like, “Why is this burrata green?” They’re scratching their head and thinking, “Oh my god. These young boys are just losing it.”

MG: They worked so hard to pull at that burrata from the case and say, “Senora, try this.” Once you try it and still end up buying the regular burrata anyways, but the next day they come in and be like a little more open and a little bit more open. It’s a long, slow process of evolution in a cuisine and culture as well-developed as Italy is, but it’s happening. It really is. That means doing some crazy, sometimes weird and senseless stuff, like putting matcha on your burrata.

EL: It’s also weird. It’s like any art form. I used to talk about I was involved in the jazz business for a long time and listened a lot to John Coltrane. People used to say that Coltrane stretched the music so far, maybe too far, but you need someone like that because then everyone else can fill in the blanks.

MG: That’s right. Massimo has been the Coltrane for Italians. He was denigrated mercilessly for the longest time. Now he’s maestro to everybody. It took that type of mind, that kind of ambition, to play with the rules, to stretch the borders of this cuisine until they break, then for everyone else to come back in and find out that actually there’s some more gentle, gradual steps that we can take that are going to get us to where we want to go.

EL: Exactly. One of the great things about the book is you do merge the political with the culinary. You wrote about the mayor of Palermo, I think.

MG: Yes.

EL: You said, “In the short time I spend with Sindaco Orlando I find myself persuaded by his vision for the new world, one in which borders slowly dissolve and which cultures blend into tapestries and which mayors have more power than presidents and prime ministers, but I am outsider, free to bask in the glow of Orlando’s vision without suffering through the grinding reality of daily life in Palermo. Who to believe? The immigrant cook, the world where a taxi driver with an unemployed son and a family to feed, the overzealous mayor?” When I thought it was like how resonant that is with what we are living through here and in Italy with Berlusconi wanting to throw out every immigrant? Then you introduce us to this mayor of Palermo, which is inundated with immigrants.

MG: Going through a dramatic transformation and it’s become such a massive global issue, but a massive local issue for Sicily. I think what Mayor Orlando, who’s a wild personality, just an incredible character, the kind of guy as a writer you’re just like, “I want to abandon this book and just write a book about Orlando.” I was in his office for 20 minutes. I was just like, “Good lord. Let me follow this guy, preferably with a camera. I’ll turn it into a show.”

MG: What he realizes is that Sicily is an island that was born through the cross-cultural nexus that was Arabic culture, Northern African cultures, the Venetians. That’s how this happened and to try to close the borders, close up shop, put a bubble over your island is to deny the inexorable march of history.

EL: Right.

MG: You’re not going to ever, ever win that, whether we’re talking about walls along the border or whatever it is that you’re …

EL: It’s true. It’s funny, Louis DiPalo from DiPalo Dairy used to talk about when I asked him if he resented the fact that he was on the last east-west block of Little Italy, and he said, “No. I’m sure whoever was here before the Italians felt the same way. Who am I to be bothered by the fact that it’s now many more Asian people and Chinese people? That’s just the way it goes.”

MG: I think that we are trying to sort of create laws and rules that protect us from this rather than looking at it as an opportunity. I think that Orlando and that particular part of Italy is trying to find the way to do this that everybody benefits from. I know that’s a really complex calculus, but I’ll give you an example.

I went to a town in central part of Sicily that had been abandoned because of the grinding poverty that was taking place for the better half of the second half of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st. The town had basically become a ghost town. What they decided to do was to bring this massive flood of immigrants to take a number of them and begin to fold them into these communities. Suddenly you have African immigrants, refugees starting restaurants or working in a restaurant and influencing ever so slowly the way that food is served.

EL: Of using eggplant.

MG: Right, right, the sweet and sour notes of those cultures in Northern Africa, but then you suddenly have them on the table next to these new manifestations of recently arrived refugee cuisine essentially. You just know that incredible things are going to happen when those flavors and those cultures and those stories begin to mesh.

EL: It’s so weird because it’s so relevant to what’s going on in Italy and here, for that matter. I’m sure that the election results in Italy must have really cut you to the quick.

MG: It’s really tough because in Barcelona I feel like somehow I’ve ended up in an Italian community there, largely because people don’t want to be a part of that country at this moment in time. I think people are so fed up with so much that’s happened there. It’s tough because it still is truly one of the most beautiful and extraordinary countries in the world that kind of heartbreaking to see, just as heartbreaking to see what’s happening in this country, the polarization of opinion. The sort of suddenly unbridgeable divide between two Americas. It feels like this is not the trajectory that history was telling us was inevitable, right?

EL: Right.

MG: The arc of history bends towards justice or whatever. I feel like this is suddenly a big huge blip in that trajectory.

EL: It’s true and it’s terrifying. I have to talk about the pizza chapter because I wrote a whole book about pizza.

MG: Yes, please.

EL: You wrote something that if you had written it before I wrote the pizza book I would’ve put it in. You said, “What is the best pizza you’ve ever eaten? If you’re anything like me the question will invite a flood of sweet memories, the exclamation point of a game well played, the umbrella in stormy weather, the scratching of an insatiable itch, but not an answer. That’s because it’s impossible to answer, impossible to separate quality from context, too many slices, styles, shapes, emotions, circumstances. Too many big moments. What is the best pizza in the world? If a tree falls in the woods the sound of one hand clapping, if anything it’s bizarre or zen exercise not to clear your mind, but to fill it with warm, toasty, cheesy memories,” which I thought was so beautifully written.

Sam Siften wrote a piece for my pizza book about the pizza cognition theory, which said that the first pizza you taste becomes your paradigmatic pizza in your mind, and everything else is not pizza. That’s essentially what you’re saying there?

MG: That’s right.

EL: That pizza’s all about context?

MG: It is, it is. More than I think almost any food on the planet, because if we’re lucky we eat it in extraordinary variety of contexts. When you shuffle through the memories and the archives of your mind, you’re not thinking specifically necessarily about the architecture of that slice, but the architecture of that moment in your life. Those are the ones that really penetrate.

Everyone, when you go to Naples, and when you read about places people are always trying to ask you, “Where’s the best pizza? Who’s making the best pizza? What is the greatest slice,” or this or that. There’s no answer to that question. There absolutely is there’s no way to look at that from any level of objectivity.

For me, Naples is a very personal story because I had gone there in 2011. I was thinking actually after some of the crazy this and that stuff, maybe going back into the restaurant world. I went to go study under the AVPN.

EL: I called them the pizza police.

MG: They are the pizza police. They are.

EL: With all the positives and negatives associated with that.

MG: No, and honestly it’s a great organization in many ways. But I went in, I did the full class, I worked in the heart of Naples, and that was it. I was like okay I’m going to get my oven, my Ferraro oven, I’m going to have it shipped across the Atlantic, or back to Barcelona, or wherever it’s going to be, and I’m going to make pizzas and maybe write a little bit here and there. So I had shelled that story forever, I never told it. And, then I went back to Naples which was five years, six years later, and it seemed that actually the pizza scene was going through an incredible moment of transition there because Neapolitan pizza culture as incredible, and beautiful, and wonderful as it is, for a lot of time really was stuck in time.

EL: Absolutely, and was on cruise control.

MG: Exactly, thank you. That is the way to describe it. It was cruise control. Everybody used Caputo because Caputo is a mafia, everyone made pizza the same way, you didn’t invest in a quality ingredient. The standard pizza that came out of the oven there is excellent, it’s wonderful, but you barely, rarely find something that’s better than a seven and a half or an eight. People aren’t even really trying.

EL: Absolutely. And it’s soupy, and as you point out in the book they’re not even using olive oil.

MG: No, they’re using-

EL: And there’s this moat in the middle of the pizza.

MG: Right. And so it wasn’t until I think especially over the last five or six, seven years when not just Franco Pepe, but particularly him on the outskirts-

EL: Yeah, for sure.

MG: Beyond Naples-

EL: Which I’m dying to go to.

MG: He went out there and just said you know what, I’m going to give the level of thought to every single element of this tradition. I’m going to still, going back to this idea of bridging past, and present, and future, staying the same for him meant making a dough by hand.

EL: Right.

MG: Hundreds of pizzas worth of dough by hand every single day in the madia, which is the old wooden box they use to proof dough. But, I’m going to find the future, and by going out there, and researching ingredients, and working directly with providers and farmers to do things that nobody in the pizza world had ever done in Italy. Because pizza there meant four Euros for your Margherita, if you charge more than that you’re not going to find the business. It’s a business that’s built on quantity-

EL: Right, not quality.

MG: It’s fine, it’s a good pizza. On a great day it’s a good pizza. But that does not exactly in gender creative nuances, or evolution-

EL: No. No.

MG: And it wasn’t until this types of efforts that happened from other people.

EL: Right.

MG: And Gino Sorbillo that really forced people to suddenly look at themselves and say wait a second, maybe we should take this car off cruise control and put our foot on the gas.

EL: Yeah. It’s true. We’re doing a story actually with Adam Kuban and Scott Wiener, the guy who does pizza tours-

MG: Yeah. Yeah.

EL: On the state of the slice. And the exact same thing is happening with the slice. How long has the New York slice been on cruise control?

MG: Oh man.

EL: And now you have people doing great slices. Corner Slice, which is Ivan Ramen’s guy.

MG: Yeah. I haven’t been. Is it good?

EL: It’s great. And there’s New Roman style pizza guy. The Botsy guys haven’t come here, they’ve gone to Chicago-

MG: Chicago.

EL: But one of the other guys, I just went yesterday, 85th and 2nd, it’s awesome. So people are reinventing it because we’ve actually gone back and looked at all the old school Brooklyn slice places and they’re fine. It’s not, as you say, they’re the slice equivalent of Tommy Kelly.

MG: Yeah.

EL: They are the slice equivalent of Tommy Kelly, but there are people … You know Paulie Gee, who started as a commenter on Slice.

MG: Of course.

EL: Is opening a slice place-

MG: Amazing.

EL: And it’s going to be awesome.

MG: Of course it’s going to be awesome.

EL: So that’s exactly what’s happened. So when I read your chapter about pizza I was like wow, this is exactly what I’m writing about.

MG: What happens in these situations is it takes, it really takes some type of outside force to influence … Has the physical and figurative distance to look at something and say wait a second, this could be better.

EL: Right.

MG: And in the case of Naples that was not just a guy like Franco Pepe, but this was Gabriele Bonci in Rome, and Stephan Calleati … Guys who had the distance and the way with all this to say you know what, I’m not bound by the strange rules of Naples pizza, I’m going to actually go find out my own flour and have a guy grind it for me.

EL: There’s a guy on Orchid Street, I don’t know if you know this, just north of Canal, he’s grinding his own flour.

MG: No way.

EL: For slices. Okay.

MG: Really?

EL: Let’s talk about that.

MG: Wow.

EL: It’s crazy, and nobody knows about it.

MG: What’s he charging for a slice?

EL: He’s charging like, I want to say $3. So he did show me a grandma slice that he was using buffalo mozzarella. He said I got to charge $4.75 for this. But it’s amazing. There’s stuff like that going on all over. So, I so want to get on a plane right now, and I’ll do whatever you want me to in exchange Matt, for you just hooking me up with some of the people in the book.

MG: Let’s do it.

EL: All right.

MG: Please. I would love to do that. It would be an incredible honor. And honestly, it would be totally appropriate because if I didn’t say it clearly enough in the chapter I should say it here that so much of my thinking about pizza comes from your world specifically. I was the nerd reading in Paulie Gee’s comments and reading about the architecture of slices, and how they should be considered, and how they analyze. And again, it made me feel like it was okay to spend endless hours obsessing over the height of a corny show name.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s true, you are able to geek out. Well, you did pay us back. You gave us some props.

MG: Serious Eaters.

EL: I know you were just doing that.

MG: Oh man.

EL: So you knew you were going to come on Special Sauce.

MG: That was for you. That was for you Ed.

EL: So now it’s time for the Special Sauce All You Can Answer Buffet. Who was at your last supper, no family allowed, could be anybody? Four people.

MG: Four people.

EL: Yeah.

MG: Barack Obama, Leonardo Da Vinci, Aceyalone, incredible hip hop artist from southern California-

EL: What’s his name?

MG: Aceyalone, like the most overlooked hip hop-

EL: All right.

MG: I’m a hip hop nerd.

EL: All right.

MG: I just want to see this crazy confluence of the people at one table.

EL: Good. And one more.

MG: And one more, if I could just be totally cliché and say Ernest Hemingway because I’m fascinated by the man’s life. I’m sorry, I have to just say it.

EL: No women at the table?

MG: Wait, did I not? Oh my God.

EL: You need one. I’ll give you an extra place setting.

MG: I’m sorry.

EL: All right, give us one.

MG: Oh man. Maya Angelou, can I have her there at the table with me?

EL: All right. You can have them-

MG: So many. So-

EL: So what are you eating?

MG: I’m eating a pizza. Absolutely.

EL: Okay.

MG: I probably need, and this will be somewhat controversial for some of viewing or listeners, but I needed an In-N-Out Double Double because I was born and raised, and it is what a burger is to me.

EL: Right.

MG: And I’ll probably take a scoop of vanilla gelato with really great peppery, like I’m bringing olive oil and sea salt.

EL: Oh, I love this.

MG: Just to finish.

EL: I’m coming. I’m telling you right now. What music would be playing?

MG: Aceyalone’s A Book of Human Language, the greatest hip hop album that ever made. An extraordinary work of art, and one of the most overlooked pieces of art honestly. So I’m sorry.

EL: Do you have a guilty pleasure?

MG: Do I have any pleasures that aren’t guilty is the better question. Yeah, sure I do. I eat … My wife and I love to eat McDonald’s every time that we fly out of Barcelona. Every time that we fly anywhere, which honestly is like 50 days out of the year. So it’s probably beyond guilty pleasure and some disturbing pattern behavior.

EL: But that definitely qualifies really. That may require therapy.

MG: Sausage McMuffin is my pre-boarding routine every time I leave that city.

EL: All right. What book or books have you read that profoundly influenced your life? If there are two or three books, you probably have a lot of books but,-

MG: Oh man. Anything from Carl Sagan early on. My 18 year old mind was just grasping for some existential me to sink my teeth into. The Sun Also Rises because it introduced me to, I don’t know, a style of writing and looking at the world from a perspective from a foreigner abroad that really opened up all kinds of doors of possibilities. So those would be two that come immediately to mind.

EL: That’s great. It’s been declared Matt Goulding Day all over the world. What’s happening on that day?

MG: Let’s see, burgers, pizza, olive oil, gelato … I mean, if it’s Matt Goulding Day it’s going to be everyone’s going to wake up really, really early because I’m a super crazy morning person.

EL: Okay.

MG: And we’re all going to go on a walk.

EL: Okay.

MG: And it’s going to be a little bit defeating the purpose because the reason that I do that is because I try to beat everybody out of bed so that I can enjoy Barcelona by myself with my wife. But then we’re going to have at least three or four excellent cups of coffee in different forms and iterations. We’re going to have a lunch that doesn’t start until two and doesn’t end until like six, like the great Spanish lunch. It’s going to have a lot of wine, we’re barely going to take a nap before dinner starts again at eight, which will not end anytime soon. Hopefully there will be an impromptu dance party with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack playing. We’re kind of all reliving some kind of strange Patrick Swayze nobody puts baby in a corner fantasy. I don’t know, something like that.

EL: That sounds good man. Thank you so much for sharing your special sauce with us. Matt Goulding, it’s been a gas. Log onto Roads and Kingdoms whenever you want to travel vicariously through the magic of words and images. And by all means check out all of Matt’s books, including the new one Pasta, Pane, Vino, which may be one of my favorite food travel books of all time. So long Serious Eaters, and thanks again Matt. And we’ll see you next time.

MG: Thanks so much Ed.