Articles / Samantha Irby Does Not Enjoy Thinking Too Deeply

Samantha Irby Does Not Enjoy Thinking Too Deeply

Published May 17, 2023

Plus: One of Mark’s favorite pastas, an all-out assault on Big Food, and tough but really good TV

She talks just like she writes, and I could not be happier about that. She’s wickedly smart and perceptive and her humor is exactly the kind of humor I like. Her fifth book, Quietly Hostile, an essay collection that includes topics like her obsession with Dave Matthews, writing for the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That, tracking down a brother she’d never met, and, yes, why she does not enjoy thinking too deeply (at least when it comes to pop culture).

I’m talking about our guest on Food with Mark Bittman today, Samantha Irby, and I’m thrilled to say I’m joined by my wonderful colleague, Holly, whom you all know. We talked for more than two hours; but don’t worry, we cut it down to 30 minutes for you. Enjoy these special ladies! Marksisms below. — Kate

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This Week’s Marksisms

What’s Become of Rome?

I’ve been in Rome for a week now, which means I’ve got a lot of thoughts about the state of the city, its restaurants, and of course its pasta. I’ll be sharing all that tomorrow, but in the meantime—just to pique your interest—here’s a recipe for one of my favorite pastas.

Maccheroni alla San Giovanniello | Pasta with Whole Garlic Cloves

Makes: about 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

A deliciously strong pasta dish, taught to me (as were so many others) by my friend Andrea.


  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed

  • 1⁄2 cup cubes or strips of guanciale, prosciutto, other salted ham, or slab bacon

  • 6 fresh plum tomatoes or 1½ cups canned (drained, liquid reserved)

  • 1 pound cut pasta, such as ziti

  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, Parmesan cheese, or a combination


1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and add salt. Combine the oil, garlic, and ham in a 10-inch skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the garlic becomes deep golden, nearly brown, all over, 10 to 15 minutes.

 2. Chop the plum tomatoes (or crush the canned tomatoes) and add them, along with some salt and pepper, to the skillet; stir and simmer while you cook the pasta.

 3. Drain the pasta when it is done, reserving a little of the cooking water and adding it to the sauce if it appears dry (quite likely if you used fresh tomatoes). Toss the pasta with the sauce and most of the basil, along with the cheese. Mince the remaining basil, garnish the pasta, and serve.

Maccheroni Alla San Giovanniello Pasta With Whole Garlic Cloves
57.7KB ∙ PDF file

An All-Out “Assault” on Big Food

The content below was originally paywalled.

This Guardian piece is, I suppose, is meant to be a review of Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind the Food that Isn’t Food (by Chris van Tulleken, whom we’re hoping to have on the podcast soon), but it’s really an all-out assault on Big Food, which is fine with me. The main argument is that “junk food” isn’t an adequate term for ultra-processed foods (or UPFs, which now comprise 60 percent of all calories in both the US and the UK), but no matter what you call them, they’re now our leading cause of death. Five-minute read, and worth it.

My Sad Basketball Weekend

By now you expect me to comment on the NBA even if you ignore it, but it was a sad weekend for me. The Warriors were favored, but were clearly not as good as the Lakers and could easily have lost in five games (it took six); the Knicks were clearly the inferior team to the Heat, and that was clear almost from the get-go; the 76ers may not have been the inferior team to the Celtics on paper, but they have some head-case issues that may stem from their coach, ol’ Doc Rivers, or from their stars, the perennial also-ran James Harden and the ever-improving-until-he-doesn’t MVP, Joel Embiid. Jayson “Art” Tatum did this very cool thing of having a terrible game that would have cost the Celtics the series, then playing out of his mind for about 30 seconds and winning that game, and then taking over Game 7. This is kind of what Celtics-haters had hoped for from Embiid, but no.

Anyone who cares about all of this is likely to know and agree with the above, which is hardly controversial, except for my fan-ness. But the remaining two series – the Celtics vs. the unpredictable, super-coached Miami Heat, with the overheated (and probably overmatched, now) Jimmy Butler, and the Denver Nuggets, led by a giant, slow, graceful, all-seeing, wizardly hulk, vs. the LeBron Lakers – are interesting and unpredictable. The Celtics and Nuggets have been favorites in every series they’ve played, and although the Celtics should be able to handle the Heat, as Bill Simmons has said from Day One, no one wants to play the Zombie Heat. (Still, Celtics in five.) I have to think that the match between the Lakers and Nuggets is close, but the Lakers do have a little Team of Destiny feel to them right now. (Lakers in six.) My two cents.

Talking Back to Picklepushers

To continue with the sports section, I will not say a word about this pickleball piece, except that you should file it in the “Old Age Is Not for the Weak” Department.

Finally … Tough But Highly Recommended TV

Before we came to Rome, Kathleen and I began watching The Good Mothers (on Disney Plus), the story of a prosecutor who uses the painful oppression of (mostly) Calabrian women by their brothers, fathers, husbands, and random dirtbags (men) in order to try to break up or at least damage the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian equivalent of the Mafia. It is a very, very tough story to watch, not a chuckle ever, real and bleak and seemingly hopeless. But so well done, and so compelling, and so little bullshit. Highly recommended.

See you next week! — Mark