#TPBTH Meet: HANNA RASKIN
Name, craft/industry/blog/passion, most popular handle/website:
Food editor and critic, The Post and Courier
@hannaraskin / postandcourier.com/food
How did you get started?
For my eighth birthday party, I asked my parents to arrange a chocolate-chip cookie tasting. I remember I didn’t rate my mother’s homemade contribution very highly, which was probably my first brave act as a critic. But that didn’t lead directly to a paid gig (although a few years later, I sent a letter to Roadfood’s Jane and Michael Stern, asking if they’d drafted a succession plan. I still haven’t heard back.)
Like most food writers, I got my professional start as a writer, not a cook. My first job out of college was at The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, Miss. After that, I covered crime for The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. But looking at the newsroom lifers persuaded me that I didn’t want to spend decades churning out stories that were forgotten the next day, so I went back to school for a museum studies degree; I thought I might like developing exhibits that would stay glued to the wall for a year or two. It turned out I didn’t, but while at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, I wrote my master’s thesis on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, which vaulted me into the food history community back when it was still tiny.
After grad school, I moved to Asheville, N.C. to lead mountain bike trips. I ended up staying there for about eight years. I waitressed; sold wedding dresses; taught fitness classes; ran political campaigns; coordinated culinary tours and freelanced for the local alt-weekly, which eventually hired me as its first food writer.
What or who influenced you the most as you were developing your craft?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Zingerman’s opened in 1982. (I was six.) Now Zingerman’s encompasses a sit-down restaurant; a corporate training school; a farm; a creamery; a massive mail-order operation and Lord knows what else. Back then, though, it was a cramped little deli that stocked the best cheese, olive oil and vinegar that the owners could find. Remember, nobody then was thinking about these things. But Ari Weinzweig was charging across Europe, ferreting out unknown producers who cared deeply about their products. At the time, I was probably too young to appreciate the difference between two different kinds of Stilton. Yet I was riveted by stories about those collecting trips, published in Zingerman’s monthly newsletter. I’m sure I couldn’t have articulated my interest any more than I could have provided tasting notes for blue cheese, but I credit Zingerman’s with teaching me about the personal connections, insights and joy that come from looking for something good to eat.
Why do you love your job?
There is no topic that can’t be explored through food.
What inspires you?
The chance to learn something new.
5 words that describe who you are:
My biggest fans are septuagenarian men.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
A librarian by day and detective by night. I think that’s about as close as a child can come to describing what a journalist does.
3 things you aspire to be or do:
Fair, honest and fearless. I’d also like to go to Portugal; master table tennis and do better in my next Scrabble tournament.
(Fill in the blank) I appreciate _________ in my life, because__________.
Bike lanes/ I don’t have a car
What was one of the hardest lessons or toughest obstacles you had to overcome?
I can’t in good conscience describe anything in my life as hard or tough.
Advice for someone who is looking to begin a new hobby/job/life pursuit:
Find someone in the field whose work you admire, and tell him or her so. Ask that person to lunch. Have fun.
Something your followers would be surprised to learn about you:
I have a knack for gambling on college basketball (and winning.)
Beefeater’s martini, equal parts.
Right now, anything off the Hamilton soundtrack.
“The day is short, the work is much, the workers are sluggish and the master is pressing.” (Pirkei Avot)