EDIT 3pm ET: alright kids i have to go do some work, but i'll swing by before st patrick's day drunk time to hit whatever questions i miss :') thanks for so many great questions!

Hey y'all! I'm Rax King a James Beard Award-nominated writer, author of Tacky, and host of the Low Culture Boil podcast. Last week, I attempted to cook a three-course meal that matched the 1980s excess and grandeur of the food described in American Psycho, both that of the book and featured in the movie. You can find pictures and the writeup on MEL Magazine linked here.

Feel free to ask me anything about recreating this three-course Very Romantic and Totally Normal American Psycho dinner for yourself or a loved one -- or about food, food culture, or writing about food in general!

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/bug5auyy5un81.jpg

Comments: 229 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

TomJoad1994295 karma

Hello, Rax! First off, required fanboying: your Guy Fieri piece is one of my all-time favorite essays. Also, I lol'd HARD at the time you tried broth-based cocktails.

Anyway, a simple question: how to write **emotionally** about food without sounding corny? I love the way you seamlessly weave your love for "low-brow" food with autobiographical writing + genuinely good descriptions. What's your writing process? And how to think of food beyond its ingredients or the way our taste buds perceive them?

raxkingisdead204 karma

ooh this is a tough one, i like it! in my classes on writing personal essays, when students want to talk about food writing, i actually advise them to try extra hard to describe exactly how their taste buds perceive food — terms like 'rich' and 'depth of flavor' that you see in so much food writing don't pertain all that closely to a food's taste when you sit down and interrogate them, do they? but if you close your eyes and hew to exactly what your taste buds are really telling you about a food's acidity or heat level or texture, you're likely to come up with something more interesting that people can relate to. (david kaplan's "the philosophy of food" was a fun read for helping me to interrogate my own food writing cliches!)

basically, when i write something personal about food, i have two aims: describe the food in a way readers can relate to, without leaning too heavily on food-writing cliches, in the hopes of getting them on board with my ideas about why the food is important. and then use that food to call back to my own memories. and i try to always excavate deeper memories than the most obvious ones, especially in food writing. "eating tootsie rolls always reminds me of when my mom would take me trick-or-treating" is nice enough stuff, but doesn't make for exciting writing — ideally, you're writing about a food that's pinned to something deeper and more human than that

Ruckusseur151 karma

Am I paying too much for crab insurance?

raxkingisdead158 karma

if you didn't get it from me then yes, absolutely

ds20an98 karma

What's a food related issue you that you want to take your soap box out for the most? Not necessarily something that is realistic or practical. Like mine would be: sardines should be more widely eaten and available as a protein option on menus (in US), especially for sandwiches. They are nutritious, more sustainable, and delicious.

raxkingisdead363 karma

i agree wholeheartedly with your soapbox issue!

i guess mine would be: food simply shouldn't be this cheap. meat especially shouldn't be this cheap. most of us were born into an aberrant form of prosperity that sees cheap tomatoes in the winter or cheap steaks at every supermarket as its birthright. that prosperity can only be won on the backs of workers far more immiserated than most of us are, and by straining the environment and the supply chain both to their absolute limit.

superchaddi95 karma

Giddy with the power of having arrived at this AMA early, I'm going to double dip and ask another question:

What dish did your time as a service industry worker ruin for you? Conversely, which dish did you leave that time of work with a newfound respect for? I'm curious about the effect of 'how the sausage is made' of non-sausages.

raxkingisdead153 karma

mm salad is pretty well ruined for me. i've worked at restaurants with salad bars and can confirm that the lettuce bowls get washed once in awhile, maybe. people always worry about getting food borne illnesses from undercooked meat and fish but a huge amount of them come from raw vegetables that haven't been washed properly!

hard to say what the inverse would be — i have a huge amount of respect for what line cooks are able to do considering the stress that's inherent to their job! to me, it's impressive that anyone is able to cook any food under a professional-level time crunch lol

jezra85 karma

Do you have plans to recreate the famous meal from Silence of the Lambs? :D

raxkingisdead175 karma

lmao i need any law enforcement types who are reading this to know that NO I DO NOT

mcdiego72 karma

Hi Rax! Big fan of your work. I've been too afraid to ask this on Twitter, so here goes nothing:

How did the crab insurance bit get started?

raxkingisdead143 karma

haha i was doing a beach hike with my boyfriend in an area with a lot of crabs running around, and i just started...singing the song. i wish there was more context to this unspeakably stupid bit but there's not. the song came out fully formed much like athena from the head of zeus

millionbear65 karma

could you get a reservation at Dorsia?

raxkingisdead112 karma

buddy i can't even get anyone to get me into Rao's lol

DangerousPuhson54 karma

Hi Rax,

What's your go-to comfort food?

Follow-up: would you say there's room in fine dining for comfort foods (like a really gooey grilled cheese or something), or is that all considered a bit too "low-brow" in the industry?

raxkingisdead114 karma

my go-to comfort food is definitely a big greasy sloppy American-cheese cheeseburger! I see similar comfort foods on fine dining menus all the time, actually (the $30 burger and whatnot) and I have to say that the prettied-up version rarely compares to the greasy-spoon version, on top of being much more expensive. but then again, our definition of "junk" or "peasant" or "comfort" food changes all the time — brisket used to be a cheap cut of meat, and now it's pretty high-end!

dw_cloudwalker49 karma

Did you know that Rax is the name of a chain of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants in Finland? https://www.rax.fi/

raxkingisdead63 karma

i didn't! i only knew about the chain of fast food roast beef restaurants called Rax, in the midwest!

Frajer35 karma

Hi Rax what are your favorite Diners Drive Ins and Dives and Jersey Shore moments?

raxkingisdead91 karma

DDD — can't get enough of the episode that features both Mick Fleetwood and Sammy Hagar, it looks like Guy is in absolute dad rock heaven and it's just darling imo

Jersey Shore — absolutely anything involving J-WOWW and Snooki, my beloved dynamic duo. alternately, the season 1 classic when Vinnie gets pink-eye from dancing underneath someone's ass (?)

maybeinoregon35 karma

So does a food writer just write about food, or do you step into the food critics world? Or both? Also, in your opinion, why are so many afraid to try new things? We are called food snobs by our friends because we’ll try many many different types of packaged pasta, to find our favorite, even if it means driving two hours to buy it. And to them cost, is the #1 deciding factor when choosing food.

raxkingisdead52 karma

i'm certainly no restaurant critic — i don't have a particularly professional palate! my "angle" in food writing tends to be more personal, though i do know a lot of food and restaurant history from being a huge history nerd.

i am, however, definitely someone who would drive two hours to eat pasta if i had reason to believe it was The Best! i can't resist The Best of anything, be it pizza, pasta, a burger, whatever. but cost is always a factor too — being a freelance food writer doesn't pay as many of the bills as one might think 😜

excusemefucker33 karma

How do you balance your fever dream Twitter covering crab insurance to offering topless photos for donations with getting opportunities with larger/more mainstream websites and publications?

I really enjoyed Tacky, I won a copy with a temp tattoo and gave the copy I bought to a friend to enjoy.

raxkingisdead45 karma

aww i'm so glad you enjoyed my book! thank you so much!

honestly, i never think about it in terms of balancing my deranged twitter hornyposting with my career, which probably has hamstrung my career. i'm very proud of the work i do, but if i knew how to keep my mouth shut, i could probably land some of the so-called prestige gigs. i like to mouth off too much!

superchaddi20 karma

I'm rarely this early to an AMA, so hope I can get my question in.

I deeply enjoy your celebration of non-fancy things! Do you have a favourite combination of fancy and non-fancy? A wine pairing for a diner burger? I'm curious about what the ideal 'mixed meal' would look like for you, if you had to obey no constraints to prepare it.

Thank you for sharing your joys and sadnesses, Rax. You're a gifted writer and I think more people should read you.

raxkingisdead39 karma

ooh this is a great question! taking my beloved cheeseburger as an example for the 'mixed meal,' i think the best possible element to splurge on is the beef — a great butcher will hand-grind beef for you, and you can absolutely taste the difference. overthinking the cheese in a burger is stupid, American's the best. overthinking the toppings is just hubris. i'll tolerate a fancy bun but i don't think you can really beat a Martin's potato roll. but a really nice hand-ground beef patty is worth fancying up, and worth spending extra money on if you can!

SoBitterAboutButtons18 karma

I love your name. Is there a story behind it?

raxkingisdead25 karma

not an interesting one 🥰

teamregime15 karma

Rax, what's your go to order at the Cheesecale Factory?

raxkingisdead40 karma

DRINK: mojito, they're massive! APPETIZER: avocado egg rolls ENTREE: Louisiana Chicken Pasta, it comes with two breaded chicken breast portions so I always doggie bag one of them along with my... DESSERT: ...Adam's Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple Cheesecake! accept no substitutes!

Alex_GordonAMA14 karma

What are the “cons” of owning a hedgehog? (Maybe calling them cons isn’t the right choice of words, but maybe things you have to tolerate as a hedge parent)

raxkingisdead29 karma

one significant con was that hedgehogs are illegal in NYC! we had a great exotic animal vet for ours, but that was annoying as hell.

i also think people see them acting cute and sociable on IG and think that's how all hedgehogs are, which is not true! ours was unusually sociable and even he needed a huge amount of solo time. they're not particularly social creatures, whereas some other small animals (especially rats) are. if you want a hog to socialize with you, you'll need to put in a huge amount of work and it still may not be the amount of pet-friendliness you were hoping for!

dreamdusk11 karma

Hi Rax! I hope you are having a great day!

What is your favorite recipe that involves crab?

raxkingisdead27 karma

i don't cook crab all that often living in New York — all those years in Maryland and DC spoiled me rotten — but it's hard to beat a really great crab cake sandwich, isn't it?

herberstank10 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this. I married a vegan 5 years ago and do most of the cooking. What's your take on veganizing foods and is there room for opulence in a vegan diet? How do?

raxkingisdead38 karma

i may be the wrong person to ask since i'm not a vegan myself and don't know the vegan-cooking tricks that help one to replicate cheesiness and creaminess and so forth! (I do subscribe to Alicia Kennedy's newsletter which often has really tasty and even opulent-seeming vegan recipes, though!)

however, i do try to cook pretty veggie-forward at home and save the meat for when i'm going out to eat, and in my experience the best way to avoid missing meat is to avoid trying to create substitutes for it. my favorite vegetarian/vegan dishes are those that bring out the best in legumes or tofu or mushrooms, rather than those that try to disguise em as meat. just one meat-eater's opinion!

NFRNL138 karma

Hey Rax, how's your business card?

raxkingisdead17 karma

the honest answer to this question is that i watched that scene like 10 times, the one time in my life that i thought i might need to have business cards made

SoldierHawk8 karma

Did Guy Fieri ever read your essay about him and reach out? I'd love to know what that was like, if so <3.

Fantastic essay by the way. One of my favorites.

raxkingisdead11 karma

no idea if he's read it, but he hasn't reached out about it! when it got nominated for that award i sent it to his publicist and everything lol but the only interaction we've ever had was when i showed up at his book signing in a faux fur coat and he told me 'wow you win the jacket award'

Bobby-Big-Wheel7 karma

How much time do you spend choosing which restaurant you go to when you're traveling? And how do you decide?

raxkingisdead31 karma

haha i am the most decisive restaurant picker ever, actually — i can't stand those long meandering group conversations where nobody wants to just say where they want to eat. i trust Eater and, for cities that still have alt weeklies, the alt weekly's restaurant critic. Yelp restaurant reviews all seem to come from people who have never been around other people before...

J_Bagelsby7 karma

Is your refrigerator running?

raxkingisdead22 karma

then i better go catch it?

EWVGL7 karma

What writers most made, or continue to make, you want to be a writer?

raxkingisdead27 karma

as usual, i can't say enough about how grateful I am to have stumbled on the writings of the great Lisa Carver in college. she's probably the single writer who's most inspired my own work and she doesn't get enough credit for my taste. Eve Babitz is a classic inspiration for me too, in much the same vein. lately I'm writing a novel so I've been looking to some of our great novelists (Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, Gayl Jones) for some creative guidance

franklyokay7 karma

how many of these recipes involved cocaine?

raxkingisdead36 karma

i'm not one to ruin good coke by cooking it or attempting to eat while using it, so zero!

PhoneJazz7 karma

Hey Rax! In your Hot Topic essay, was your neighbor “Big Joe” a pseudonym for the legendary 9:30 club bouncer Josh Burdette (may he Rest In Peace)?

raxkingisdead9 karma

i will neither confirm nor deny anyone's identity in my book but i will absolutely join you in pouring one out for josh, such a legend

haydenseek6 karma

hey Rax what was the origin of the Rax/Mel/crazy food articles?

raxkingisdead19 karma

the very first pitch i ever sent my former editor Alana was a crazy food pitch — the infamous beef hand. it was a recipe that had been going viral and i had all this stuff i wanted to say about the insane nature of viral-video-cooking, but i also thought it'd be funny if i said it by actually cooking the beef hand, to see whether a recipe designed for no purpose but virality would even be usable. it turns out it was in fact very funny and i was right about everything as always. so i shall keep these james beard award nominations, every one!

HomersNotHereMan5 karma

My pro chef friends think I'm crazy for boiling chicken in Buffalo sauce and shredding it. What's the more pro chef way to make shredded Buffalo chicken and get them to shut up?

raxkingisdead3 karma

i can't speak to a cheffier way to make shredded buffalo chicken but i can say i don't see anything wrong with this approach as long as that chicken isn't on, like, a hard rolling boil

jncc5 karma

Why did you choose to post that on a site that has popups that are annoying as fuck?

raxkingisdead11 karma

because every online media publisher has popups that are annoying as fuck, and this one never asks me to rein it in with the swearing or the weird food articles

slowslowdisco4 karma

Hi Rax, love your writing — feel like your Patreon writing always makes me Think About My Life (I think about your dishwashing essay every time I wash the dishes).

Anyway, question: what's your take on perfume? Do you have any favourite scents?

raxkingisdead5 karma

i've been a daisy by marc jacobs girl for about a decade now, but i'll always have a soft spot for the original juicy couture perfume that all the mean bitches used to wear

Cunt_Thunderman4 karma

Hi Rax! TY for answering our questions! Ive a boring one but how did you get started like when did u know food writing was something u could do ful-time? And was there a fav piece u wrote that solidified that you wabnted to keep doing it?

raxkingisdead15 karma

i should probably be as clear as possible here and say that food writing isn't actually something I do do full time! it's my favorite vein to work in, but if i limited myself to only writing about food i don't know that i'd be able to make a living — my weekly newsletter is my bread and butter, and it's hard to do as much food writing as i'd like over there.

that said, i'm proud of all my food writing, from the Guy Fieri essay that everyone already knows to some of the more obscure history deep-dives i do on my newsletter. there was no one piece that convinced me to keep going — i needed no convincing!

cuntyroastedpeanuts4 karma

What would be the most difficult film to recreate culinarily, and why is it Babette’s Feast?

raxkingisdead6 karma

my honest albeit very stupid answer is A Goofy Movie for that crazy-looking cartoon pizza. i have never seen a real-life human pizza look as good as that cartoon pizza did, and it torments me all the time

PolymathEquation4 karma

What do you typically like to eat for lunch?

Do you ever get the feeling "I know I COULD make something fancy and delicious, but that's a lot of work. I'd rather just have a sandwich/hot dog/bowl of cereal"?

raxkingisdead3 karma

to the latter question, yes, absolutely. i still eat eggs for dinner all the time just because it's easy, although i've tried to mostly replace that instinct with making more complete meals that are still easy (especially fond of spreading white beans with spinach & garlic on toast)

i'm not a big lunch girl, though! i like a great big breakfast and a great big dinner, and maybe some yogurt with granola in between

echiker3 karma

I have wondered this for a long time but never had an avenue to ask: Is "Rax" a short for a longer name? A nickname? If not what is its origin? It's a very uncommon given name.

raxkingisdead6 karma

no exciting stories about this one, sorry! it's just my name :')

sumelar3 karma

and I don’t love you guys enough to make it from scratch.

Well you lost my vote.

You mentioned thai peanut dishes, and thai peanut sauce is one of my favorite condiments ever. Can you recommend a recipe that even an amateur couldn't screw up too much?

raxkingisdead2 karma

this recipe is p close to my basic peanut sauce, although i think it makes a big difference to use natural peanut butter without added sugar even though the recipe doesn't say to, and i also don't use any brown sugar. and if you don't have a blender or food processor i can't see any reason not to just dice the ginger and garlic as finely as you can (especially the garlic, you don't want fat chunks of raw garlic in peanut sauce). you can add curry paste for a little warmth, sometimes i do and sometimes not

Useful-ldiot3 karma

I host a tasting menu typically in the 6-8 course range for friends about once every 6 weeks. Am I a serial killer?

raxkingisdead5 karma


XmasJ3 karma

Hi Rax, I think you're an entertaining writer and I enjoyed (and got hungry) reading your American Psycho dinner article.

My question to you is: waffles or pancakes?

Have a blessed rest of the week.

raxkingisdead3 karma

i prefer pancakes to belgian waffles, but waffle house-style waffles to pancakes. unless the pancakes have either blueberries or chocolate chips, but you didn't mention those, so i'm not including them in my assessment

wroday3 karma

What's your favorite Creed song?

raxkingisdead16 karma

MY SACRIFICE 🤘 it tickles me to see that it's become a tiktok meme

BottledUp2 karma

Why did you not like the book? I found it amazing.

raxkingisdead5 karma

you know how the movie cuts out like 75% of the book's killings, sexings, and meals? i think the movie made the right call (although i do wish it had incorporated a few more meals lol)

ProducerPants2 karma

Southwest eggrolls or Reuben eggrolls?

raxkingisdead10 karma

southwest — i've never actually tried reuben egg rolls (when i was doing my egg roll taste test the cheesecake factory didn't have any in its sampler), but the idea genuinely turns my stomach for some reason. and i love reubens!

SnortWasabi2 karma

which high profile Wallstreet/Hedgefund manager would you say most closely resembles the character played by Christian Bale, today?

raxkingisdead4 karma

honestly i can't name a single hedge fund manager so they could all be out there slaughtering people with impunity as we speak and i wouldn't know a thing about it

Paradoxicorn2 karma

What is the best sandwich recipe?

raxkingisdead4 karma

i adore this chickpea salad sandwich, i make it all the time because it's packed with so many vegetables and i'm not always so good about eating my vegetables lol. it doesn't sound like much from the description but it's really fresh-tasting and crunchy and perfect

alternately, a reuben. just a big fucking reuben

helium_ravioli2 karma

Favorite book by Chuck Palanhiuk?

raxkingisdead8 karma

he was never my favorite writer! i do remember liking Diary quite a bit when it came out

thelongernow1 karma

How is stinky? I miss that dog :(

raxkingisdead2 karma

i am so sorry to be the bearer of this terrible news but stinky passed a couple years ago :( i think she was like 15 years old so she had the fullest life anyone could ask for, but i know that sidewalk is much less safe without her patrolling it

peterwhitefanclub1 karma

Rax, have you ever eaten at Rax? They had a $3 special student combo meal located across the street from my high school, unfortunately that location has closed. It's a great option when Arby's is too fancy.

raxkingisdead10 karma

i haven't! it seems as if most of their locations have closed, and i've never found myself near one of the last men standing. i'm no great fan of arby's though which leads me to believe it's not for me

potato11teen-8 karma

What is your opinion on counting micros?

raxkingisdead7 karma

my opinion is that i'm not sure what that is!