Big cheese - Issue 10 - Magazine | Monocle

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“I’m Greek and for me it’s all about relationships. I need to be surrounded by family. For my last meal, I want to be at Toscana. It’s just around the corner from my home. I come here a lot with my daughters. When you come in, Francesco embraces you and you feel you’re part of the family. And you never know who you’re going to run into here.

We do takeout too. My daughters will say, ‘Mommy, I want the steak from Toscana.’ So we order takeout for the family – it’s very chic! And we know the menu by heart; we know that on Sunday they have brisquet. Sunday night here at five it looks like a playground, there are so many children running around. Ultimately, my children are the centre of my life. Christina is 18 and Isabella is 16.

Today, I’ll have the John Dory and I love spinach. I’ll have the spinach without garlic and no potatoes. I don’t eat bread, but I love coffee and tea. This morning I had my English breakfast tea with milk and honey. I drink coffee when I’m really tired but I try to get enough sleep now. That’s my campaign – against sleep deprivation. I think we all feel like we’re doing more if we don’t sleep as much. And you don’t. Plus you don’t enjoy life. When I’m tired I become moodier and more ­reactive to what happens.

I also think that we’ll never be able to solve the healthcare crisis if people don’t take responsibility for how they live or what they eat. My trainer is a blogger – because everybody in my life blogs for the Huffington Post, the same way everything that happens to me is an excuse for more blogging. My trainer is writing a blog on how the diet industry in America is a $55bn industry with a 95 per cent failure rate. These diets don’t work. I think that makes a difference, everybody writing about their experience.

I have an addictive personality. So I have just given up food groups! I gave up dessert but I don’t miss it. It’s not a diet thing. I’ll have my caffè lattes. That’s my dessert. I love salads. I don’t know – how did I train myself to love what is good for me? My comfort food is cheese – that’s my weakness. So if I’m tired, or sad, I’ll have cheese. A great brie on a cracker, or Parmesan. It’s OK though, it’s not like eating chocolate cake. I also love healthy nuts, like almonds. When I’m flying I take almonds and sunflower seeds and sesame seeds with me and then I don’t have to eat terrible plane food. I mean, even in first class it’s a nightmare. I use a lot of lemon and I love an aged balsamic vinegar, one that’s almost sweet.

I’ve never cooked. You know I married late. I used to live on cheese and crackers – and brown rice, I had a macrobiotic diet for a while. But my downfall has always been good cheeses. They have a great burrata here. My last meal would involve a lot of cheese. It would be… probably just cheese.

I’d definitely invite the Huffington Post team for my last meal. I would invite our editor, Roy Sekoff, who’s also a great friend who has worked with me for eight years, and my business partner, Ken Lerer. We would make it about, ‘OK, this is my last meal, this is what you need to do when I’m gone.’ And I’d definitely include Willow Bay, she’s our senior editor in charge of all the non-political blogs. We’re also friends. We go hiking together. It’s great working with friends.

Huffington Post now has “verticals” – sections on media, business entertainment and a section on living, which is where I’m putting a lot of my energy.

I feel that what we’re doing in the living section is going to be increasingly important because people are looking for ways to disconnect from our connected life.

At my last supper, I would definitely have Anya Strzemien, our living editor, and Willow and talk about what are we doing in that section. So, it would be, let’s do a section on death and dying. I’d do a final blog on death and dying.

But I don’t believe in death – that the soul ever dies. So I’d write about that. I believe in reincarnation. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation – it’s hard for me to look at life and not believe that it didn’t have any purpose, that it didn’t have any continuity. I can’t believe that all things have a short time and then it’s all over.

I’m amazed that people who think it all ends with death can accept that. Socrates, my compatriot, used to say, ‘practise death daily’. He didn’t mean it in a morbid way, he meant if you practise death daily, then you put everything that happens to your life in perspective. My last meal wouldn’t be morbid.”

The venue

Toscana, Los Angeles

One of Brentwood’s original Italians, Toscana celebrates almost 20 years in the business. A well-oiled machine, the restaurant is known for its attentive staff. Abuzz with boisterous regulars, deal-making businessmen and various celebrities, the open kitchen with its wood-fire oven serves honest Tuscan fare. Loyal fans return for the bistecca con fagioli, risotto ai funghi and freshly-made pasta courses. With its simple décor, it’s a glossy LA version of a trattoria.
Toscana, 11633 San Vicente Boulevard, Brentwood, LA+ 1 310 820 2448

Election: dream team

Huffington’s ideal administration

In my dream administration we’d have a philosopher king as the president. Someone like Bill Moyer [the US journalist and commentator] who has been so passionate and eloquent and in touch with what needs to be done. I would have Oprah as secretary of state. It would be great for the country, she can make connections the way she does and have a lot of authority. For vice president I would choose a Republican who has taken a bold stance on the war.

The war is a critical issue and we have to get it right. It’s important to move beyond right/left – being against the war is not being on the left, it’s acknowledging reality. I would pick senator Chuck Hagel, who’s been bold in standing up to this administration on the war and on civil liberties. He’s a Republican but I think it’s important to realise that the Republicans cannot allow the lunatic fringe of society to be pushing the government.

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