Photograph by Troy Stains
13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs and industry folk 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Christiane Lauterbach is Atlanta magazine’s restaurant columnist and the longtime editor of Knife & Fork. A native of Paris, Lauterbach has been covering the region’s food scene for more than 30 years.
What do you do for fun?
I garden. Only edible things—even if they’re flowers, they must be edible flowers. I balance all the rich stuff I have to eat by eating raw things in my garden. I never buy anything that comes in a cardboard box. That’s the secret of my diet.
What’s one ingredient you can’t stand?
Prepared food is kind of nauseating to me. Pasta salad is a horror to me. The one thing I cannot eat is ketchup. It’s sweet and disgusting.
If you weren’t a food critic, what would you be?
I’d be a permanent student, taking classes on literature, nothing super practical. Learning is my addiction.
What was the best book you read recently?
I really gravitate toward nonfiction. I just read an absolutely enormous Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia. It’s amazing. Siberia is just gigantic, and the description, he injects so much personality in something he knows so little about.
What do you miss the most about Paris?
The way you’re surrounded by food. I really miss the raw milk cheeses and the crackling fresh bread that you buy three times a day. You cannot not engage with food there. Here, it’s such a production.
What’s your guilty pleasure snack food?
I am not that kind of person. My guilty pleasure is eating nutritional yeast popcorn. There is nothing from fast food place that I consider a treat. I was shocked that Americans ate everything out of round bread. My ex-husband once took me to an Arby’s. Do not tell me that this is roast beef. I haven’t been to an Arby’s in 40 years. I do stop at a convenience store and buy candy. After you eat fish, you have to stop and have candy. I like sour stuff and squishy stuff like Swedish Fish and Mike and Ike.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a pretty good knitter. I love knitting socks. And thrift store shopping—it’s really relaxing to me. I’m moderately obsessed with finding glassware from Finland called Iittala.
What’s the best thing you can cook at home?
I am only interested in stuff that takes two minutes or three days: bone broth, sauerkraut with sausages, couscous from scratch. My couscous is steamed three times. It must never come in contact with hot water. Couscous is not an easy dish, and anybody who eats it with hot water is a personal enemy of mine.
What’s the last TV show you bingewatched?
I just watched House of Cards, but I’m kind of contemptuous of it because the British House of Cards is amazing. What I’m binge-watching at the moment is Better Call Saul.
What’s your favorite city to travel to?
New York, Paris, and Barcelona—they’re really world-class culinary places with very distinctive food scenes. If I lived in Manhattan, I really love the East Village, or I always thought I would retire in Brooklyn. When I arrived in New York, I was amazed at the diversity of food. In Paris, you had French food, which is amazing, but it’s limited.
What was the last movie you saw?
I used to know every movie that was playing in town, but the last movie I saw was Star Wars. I loved it. I’ve never owned a TV, but I do stream. The world of TV is very new to me. There’s so much smart stuff happening on TV.
If you could move to any city and crack its food scene, where would that be?
Tokyo is unbelievably magical. But you have no idea what things will cost. I love, love Japanese food, especially fishball cooked in dashi in a broth called oden.
Is there any rant you regret?
Not really, I have a new pet peeve every day.