Skoaling

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A few weeks ago, Steven Shaw of eGullet invited me, along with Adam Kuban and Deb Perelman, to speak to his food blogging class at the French Culinary Institute. After we answered his student’s questions about traffic and advertising (quick tip: if you want to make money, don’t go into food blogging!), we were ushered into a secret room where we were asked to skoal on camera. “Skoal?” we asked. “Skoal!” they answered and we all looked at each other, wondering if our reputations would ever recover. And then they explained skoaling and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

You see, skoaling is a Scandinavian ritual derived from their word for making a toast: Skål. Two chefs at the French Culinary Institute, Nils Noren and Dave Arnold (who I had the pleasure of dining with later), developed The Skoal Project as an homage to that most masterful skoal-er, Max Von Sydow (who you see in the above photograph, skoaling with style).

The way it works, when you’re brought into the secret skoaling room, is they pour you a small glass of Aquavit (caraway flavored liquor). You are told to gaze at the camera seductively, as von Sydow does in the first photo, then to tilt your head back and down the Aquavit (which most certainly burns your throat), and, finally, to look back at the camera defiantly. Nils and Dave spell it out quite clearly on their blog:

“Skoaling is serious business. Don’t be goofy; don’t smile like it’s prom night. On the other hand, there is no reason to be morose or look like a psycho. Remember: You are sharing a drink-and a little bit of yourself—with the viewer.”

Deb, who’s pregnant, was able to opt out of the skoal, but Adam Kuban and I quickly took our positions. (For Adam’s account, click here.)

The best part of the whole experience, though, is to study the archive of those who’ve skoaled before us; luminaries, not just in food, but in every field, including morning talk show hosting.

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Yes that’s Regis, and here’s Christine Baranski.

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And one of my writing heros, Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote my favorite movie, “Annie Hall”:

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Here’s Jeffery Steingarten:

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And Jacques Pepin:

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At last, Adam Kuban of Serious Eats:

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And yours truly, skoaling like no one’s skoaled before:

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So thanks to the good people at the French Culinary Institute for letting me skoal. It’s an honor to be in such distinguished company; I shall skoal my thanks to you presently. Cheers!

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