The Longtime Editor of The Nation has a Progressive Palate

Victor Navasky makes Daddy Eggs and orders takeout.

Victor Navasky began his long association with The Nation magazine–“the flagship of the left”–in 1978 when he left the New York Times to serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and subsequently publisher. In 2005 he became publisher emeritus and is now a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Navasky is the author, among other books, of Kennedy Justice (1971), Naming Names (National Book Award, 1982) and A Matter of Opinion (George Polk Book Award, 2005) and is co-author with Christopher Cerf of Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak (2008). There’s nothing conservative about his politics, nor his palate. “I like everything but beets. As a child I got sick once from eating them. And I’ve stopped eating them ever since.”

Mao’s Revenge

I’ve gotten to the stage and age where I try to eat multigrain or whole-grain or whole-wheat things. This morning I had wholegrain cereal. Sometimes I have it with apple juice rather than milk, and maybe put some fruit in it. I don’t think of it as compensating for any wild eating in the past. I think that it’s being healthy. And why not?

I recently went to China as a guest of a company that’s publishing a Mandarin-language edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. I was also there to give an address at what they modestly call “The World Media Summit.” They took us to Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing. We had four banquets a day. There were many delicacies that to even mention them might make you a little sick to your stomach. I don’t relish the idea of eating intestines or things like that, but I was being a very good guest. When I returned home, my tour guide sent me e-mails saying, “You’re very brave. You tried everything and I admire you very much.” When I came back I felt so bloaty.

The Food Guru

I have rheumatoid arthritis, which was diagnosed about 20 years ago. I had red-hot swollen joints when I woke up in the morning. My doctor told me that the way to treat it is to take 22 injections of gold. I said, “What?” He said “G-O-L-D.” I came back to my office and I got a call, quite fortunately, from a friend who said to me, “Before you do anything you have to see my friend down in Washington. He’s a graduate of Harvard Medical School and for the last 10 years he has been practicing under Dr. Shyam Singha– a holistic medicine person from England, Indian by birth, who’s practiced in China for 15 years. Shyam comes to this country twice a year and he’s a healer.” So I went down to Washington to see this Harvard doctor. He shook my hand and then continued to hold it and said, “You have a lot of rage inside of you…When Shyam comes to the U.S. you should arrange to see him.”

I saw him. He was great. He put me on this regimen of 18 grilled oranges a day for eight days, followed by something like eight pounds of grapes a day–I’m not getting it quite right–followed by 70 percent raw and 30 percent cooked food, each day for three weeks. I figured out that the way to do it was eat sushi.

I said to Shyam, “Can I drink?” He said, “Look. If you want to drink hard alcohol, drink vodka. It has fewer impurities. Otherwise, the better the Champagne the better it is for you.” At the end of the year, my red-hot swollen joints went away. And I still don’t take drugs for the arthritis.

Eating Out. Ordering In.

Mostly, I work. My wife works, and my kids are off living on their own. So we eat out a lot, and we order in a lot. When my wife’s away I frequently order out for breakfast. I’ll order from Europan. They have everything. I’ll get an egg-white omelet or on Sunday a smoked salmon and bagel platter. There’s a new deli called Lansky’s that opened on Columbus, and you can get pastrami and eggs from them.

I’m old-fashioned and love steak and lobster. And I order out from Shun Lee West a lot, a few blocks from here. My favorite dish is sesame chicken–Craig Claiborne said it was the best in the country. I don’t know if he was right, but I get it almost every time. And Fiorello’s makes great pizza. Problem is that by the time it gets here, it’s not hot anymore.

Daddy Eggs

When my children were very young I would make for them what became known as Daddy Eggs. Daddy Eggs consisted of eggs. Then you take whatever is in the refrigerator. You take cheese. You take ham. Whatever is in there that lends itself to the occasion. And then you add celery salt. It was one of the highlights of Sunday.

The Spice Cabinet

The celery salt is in here somewhere. Cinnamon? That was not in Daddy Eggs.

Cookbooks

This is my wife’s collection of cookbooks. I don’t read cookbooks, but I do read Ruth Reichl’s memoirs. She’s a very good writer, and I’ve had her lecture at the journalism school.

The Refrigerator

There’s cheese in here and there and there.

When we order out we’ll have leftover food and I’ll take it all out and mix it all up.

Bottle of Lillet

I started drinking Lillet in law school. I had a friend who introduced me to the finer things in life, and Lillet was one of them.

The Conscience of a Progressive

I don’t discriminate against companies whose social policies I don’t like. For example, I drink Coors Lite Beer even though I detest the politics of Coors. So my political beliefs, which are strong, don’t extend to my beer preference. It’s just another one of my character flaws.

Photo credit: Carolyn Fong

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Maureen Brennan writes about food and dining trends in the New York metro area for small publications with big appetites. Although diamonds may be some girls' BFF, Maureen would prefer the companionship of a bowl of matzo ball soup.