Margo Schachter is a real food-lancer who loves wandering among starred restaurants and places you would never enter, without giving up (especially at this moment) take-away food. Margo has been involved in cooking at 360° since 2007, writing about cooking to talk about other things, futile things in a very serious way (and the other way round). She is a food trend philologist and a “lifestyle” journalist for La Cucina Italiana and Vanity Fair, Acqua by Vogue, Fine Dining Lovers, Enjoy Living Italy Segreta, Identità Golose and more. She is Milanese, and no, she never cooks.
Why did you choose to talk about food and cuisine?
Margo Schachter: «Because I’m interested in disseminating knowledge and talking about food is an excellent means of communication, it is a universal language. I like to think of cooking as a bridge, as an expression of society, not as an art for its own sake.
Talking about cuisine does not mean limiting oneself to the usual starred chefs who, although being excellent, represent less than 1% of the catering sector. Writing about cooking means discussing different topics like history, culture and innovation. The food sector is made up of many professionals who work in synergy, often behind the scenes».
What is the future of cooking?
Margo Schachter: «I imagine a hyper-connected cuisine, firm in tradition, but capable of including new experiences, technologies, ingredients. As for Italy, I think that, finally, the tendency to emphasize forced regionalisms will be overcome. There’s still the tendency to differentiate products that are basically the same, such as cappelletti and tortellini. It’s safe to say that food is an expression of human history, and soon we will realize how many things we have in common with the past and with the future».
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What do you think of culinary globalization?
Margo Schachter: «Cuisine is a cultural expression, something that you carry around and share with other people. Some foods came to us because cooking represented a secure employment after moving to a new country. Cooking is a way of finding work when there are a few alternatives.
As in all integration processes, cuisine was driven by a desire to be understood by other people, to explain itself. So, the most immediate thing to do is to opt for flavors that can be understood by the new country, it is not an absolutely negative thing, also because tradition is nothing but a successful innovation. Carbonara, in the end, is only 50 years old! The concept of the original at all costs must always be taken with a grain of salt. Everything is the result of an encounter between different cultures and continuous influences. And this also applies to our cuisine abroad, which has had the opportunity to evolve and which has made us evolve».
You are passionate about oriental food. What strikes you most about it in Italy?
Margo Schachter: «I’ve tasted a brand new fortune cookie made by Ravioleria Sarpi together with the Davide Longoni Bakery, shaped like a Chinese lucky coin, but with Italian ingredients. The fortune cookie is an example of a recipe born from a contamination.
Not everyone knows that the fortune cookie as we know it, does not exist in China, it is a tradition which was born abroad. Fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco after World War II. When I bought fortune cookies for the first time in a Chinese store, the shop assistants had no idea what they were! They sold them without knowing them».
What is your relationship with travel?
Margo Schachter: «I can’t say if I travel more for business or pleasure, these are two things that go hand in hand, before the health emergency I used to spend about 10 days a month abroad. I traveled mainly for work, with the aim of discovering new places and tell everything about them once I come home. I travel very often, even alone, without having any problems. I work with a mobile phone and a MacBook, my office is everywhere. I am a person who can definitely work anywhere».
What do you always carry with you?
Margo Schachter: «The mobile phone, my computer and a complete set of sockets, adapters and batteries. The great thing is that you just need three things to work anywhere, enjoying your travel in a different way. If you go on a trip and start writing only after your return home, you enjoy the experience less. Traveling is not just about collecting data and information. You have to experience the journey. With the agenda always on the go, you have to give yourself time to work in the cafes».
The strangest place where you ended up working?
Margo Schachter: «In Tel Aviv on the beach (there is Wi-Fi). I often went there for working-holidays, moving for about ten days a month. When you go to a place many times you do not experience it as a tourist, you start experiencing the real essence of the place. Places are not just artifacts; it is unthinkable to go to Rome and only see the Forum and the Colosseum, without living the real Roman life. We must not focus ourselves exclusively on the traces of the past, travelers are changing and are looking for an authentic experience, they want to do unique things. Take a tour of the Tangheri market, take the subway in Mumbai, be intrigued by things you don’t understand.
I hope that during the 2020 lockdown, those who have tried to work as a digital nomad have realized how this can change life for the better. Work anytime, anywhere and wherever it happens. Being able to manage yourself is a wonderful opportunity and will be the future way way of working. What is paid is the energy, competence and the result. We’ve been digital nomads at home, after a month of working in my studio I started exploring the various rooms of the house. Changing the workplace is always nice».
What are the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten?
Margo Schachter: «Rather than strange foods, it is more correct to talk about strange places, even behind my house. Once in Umbria I stopped in a remote place I met by chance and then discovered that they made the best Torta al Testo in the region (as well as being a former brothel with a very long story behind).
Among the restaurants that can give you wonderful experiences you must always include the crowded gas stations, you certainly eat well there. Food is made up of places, even where you eat them and what happens to you while eating have their importance. Food allows you to make unique encounters. It is not a taboo subject, everyone is ready to talk about it, it is a common language; an experience that we all share».
But do you cook?
Margo Schachter: «No, I’m actually bad at cooking. This year has been strange, especially for me, but I have found a new dimension. I’m not talking about work, which has always been like this for me, I’m talking about the culinary experience. During the first lockdown I think I tried about 70 take-away restaurants, I started right away. I also found myself testing for some restaurants that were approaching take-away. I also tried some cooking kits but, apart from them, I held out and didn’t cook».