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Food world goes nuts over Ruth Bourdain report

This screen shot made on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 shows part of the Twitter page for fictitious character Ruth Bourdain. The cheeky parody feed is a mash-up of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and the salty talking Anthony Bourdain, a chef, author and host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations.” This screen shot made on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 shows part of the Twitter page for fictitious character Ruth Bourdain. The cheeky parody feed is a mash-up of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and the salty talking Anthony Bourdain, a chef, author and host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations.” (AP Photo/Twitter)
By Leanne Italie
Associated Press / October 7, 2011

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NEW YORK—A Minnesota food editor's game of Clue surmising that restaurant critic Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice is the cheeky, anonymous Ruth Bourdain on Twitter set the food world aflutter Friday.

Denying the claim from Lee Svitak Dean of the Star-Tribune, Sietsema told the food blog Grub Street: "It's not me. I have enough of a handful doing my own tweets."

The Twitter parody is a mashup of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and foodie TV adventurer Anthony Bourdain with more than 45,000 followers and a surreal profile picture melding the two real-life titans on the feed (at)RuthBourdain.

The mix of Reichl-like flowery flourishes ala her own Twitter feed and the salty language of Bourdain surfaced in March 2010 and won a James Beard Foundation award for humor this past May. The Twitter account's motto is a good example of its style: "Comfort me with offal."

So how does Svitak claim to know who's behind Ruth Bourdain?

She said she was sitting in a room listening to a couple of speakers at a conference of the Association of Food Journalists in Charleston, S.C., when she noticed a quick comment posted on the Ruth Bourdain feed about the talk.

"How do I know who Ruth Bourdain is? He was tweeting while listening to the same speaker I was, in a closed room in Charleston, SC, at a conference with the Association of Food Journalists. Ruth, Ruth, Ruth. You wanted to be found out!" Svitak wrote on the Star-Tribune website.

For what it's worth, Sietsema is a native of Eden, Minn., and he used to contribute to Gourmet.

But what makes Svitak think it was Sietsema posting on the Ruth Bourdain feed and not one of the other 60 or so journalists attending the conference?

"It's like playing the game of Clue. You eliminate all the possibilities until you have the most reasonable person," she told The New York Times, one of dozens of media outlets that jumped in on the mystery and Svitak's claim Friday.

"It could have been someone else in the room," she told the Times, "but this was clearly a New York writer, the voice and the references that are made."

Ruth Bourdain often mocks Reichl's tweets in real time and skewered ABC's "All My Children" replacement "The Chew" during a trash fest on Twitter when the food chat show premiered Sept. 26.

Sietsema did not immediately return calls for comment Friday from The Associated Press, nor did Ruth Bourdain respond to a query sent to an email address listed on the Twitter account. The usually lively feed was silent for seven hours until this was posted late Friday afternoon:

"Just woke up from a nap. Had the weirdest dream I was (at)robertsietsema."