Meet the Bloggers: Tamara Palmer
Beats: Street food, underground dining, restaurants
Tamara Palmer is the first to admit she's been blessed. In a world where the printed word comes cheap and easy, where the Internet is clogged with wannabe scribes who dream of breaking big, Tamara is a bona fide food and music writer, full-time. She's caught some lucky breaks, sure, but she's also tireless, with boundless appetites and an old-fashioned knack for knowing where the story is. On a drizzly Tuesday evening, I took the N Judah to the Outer Sunset for charbroiled pork vermicelli and tea at Tamara's favorite local haunt.
Jesse: How did you catch your first break as a writer?
Tamara: While I was studying at UCLA I interned at URB, an electronic music and hip-hop magazine. I got hired full-time after graduation. Music had always been huge in my life. Growing up here (yeah, I'm one of the few San Francisco natives), I got to see tons of amazing live music. I mean, Marvin Gaye was one of my first concerts at the age of 9. URB was pretty much a dream job for a scrappy 21-year-old.
After six years in L.A. it was time to leave. Don't get me wrong ― I love L.A., and there are things about that city that I seriously miss. But Northern and Southern California are two different worlds, and I was ready to come home. Luckily URB was willing to let me be their correspondent up here.
I heard you wrote a book?
I'm still pretty incredulous I can say that. It's a book on Southern hip-hop called Country Fried Soul. I wrote it in 2004 for a British publishing house that was mostly known for, like, technical manuals on guitar. They liked my style and I kind of convinced them it was a topic that would make a great book. I interviewed over 25 people to write it, like Cee Lo, Ludacris, Lil Jon ... it was a blast.
How did you end up in food writing?
I had been writing about music for SF Weekly for awhile, with the occasional short food piece for one of their Best Of roundups. Then I did this piece in 2006 on the Center for Culinary Development, which is this company that basically predicts what the next big trend will be in food. They're the guys who are like, "You know how chipotle is everywhere now? Yeah, that was us." They sell their results to big chains who would otherwise be pretty clueless. After I did that story I started getting more serious about food writing.
Would you say you're an adventurous eater?
Ha, yes, that's kind of my reputation. I'm big on seeking out the weird stuff, things I've never had before. I'm into a lot of different kinds of food but I really like oddities and underground foods. That's why I really like what Jon [Kauffman] brought to SF Weekly. He's the type of critic who seeks out stuff outside the accepted nice restaurants in town. He'll travel out to the forgotten neighborhoods for little holes-in-the-wall.
Any foods you won't eat?
Oh man, this is pretty embarrassing. I'm someone who will eat raw beef-heart tartare, who has no problem eating bugs, but I actually don't eat ... chicken. See, I used to eat it every day when I was younger, until I got really sick of it and ended up going vegetarian for awhile. Then I started creeping back towards meat ― a pot sticker here, a little bacon there, but I never got back into chicken. I really just can't stand it. My parents think I'm effing crazy. They think I'm missing out on life. I'm like, "Mom. Dad. Do you see what I get to eat on a regular basis? I am not deprived."
I'm definitely biased, but I'd go with Outer Sunset all the way. I think I had to leave San Francisco to appreciate how awesome an area it is. I love that we're marginalized, forgotten about, that people talk shit about it. We've got some of the best food, the ocean's right there, and there's a ton going on that doesn't get a lot of attention. Seriously, this neighborhood rules.
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