Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Q&A with Ben Katchor

Ben Katchor is the author of the new book The Dairy Restaurant. His other books include The Cardboard Valise and The Jew of New York. He teaches at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Q: Why did you decide to write The Dairy Restaurant, and over how long a period did you work on it?

A: I’ve had a lifelong fascination with dairy restaurants and wanted to understand their place in Western culture. I’ve been working, on and off, over several decades on this book.

Q: The book begins with the Garden of Eden and progresses over the centuries. How did you research this book, and did you learn anything that particularly surprised you?

A: I spent a lot of time in libraries and online archives looking for information in unlikely places. I was surprised by the infinite variety of Jews and their interests.

Q: How would you describe the popularity of dairy restaurants over the last century or so?

A: The dairy restaurant was a place to escape the world of appetitive action. A place for rumination and blintzes.

Q: What do you see looking ahead for the concept of dairy restaurants?

A: I see a revival of Eastern-European style dairy restaurants along with the growing interest in Yiddish and Eastern European Jewish culture, Jewish communism and atheism.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m collecting several years of a weekly strip called “Hotel & Farm” into a book with some new material. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I can’t wait to hear from readers about dairy restaurants around the world that I didn’t include in this book and their personal experiences in those restaurants.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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