Interview with Elizabeth LaBan, Author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife
28 Jan 2016
My new book is about Lila Soto, who finds herself in a new city with a young daughter, a brand new baby and a husband who is taking his job much too seriously for her taste. She never expected to settle down in the first place, and since they moved to Philadelphia where Sam is the restaurant critic, her family life starts to feel more like a prison every day. Sam wants Lila to stay out of the spotlight so he can remain unknown to the restaurant community – in his defense he sees it as a chance he will have only once – but it means no work and few friends for Lila. That leads her down a path where she questions everything and works to figure out what it means to really be happy.
If you could invent anything, what would it be?
The first things that come to my mind are a machine that cures cancer or a saying that would make everyone in the world get along. But most people would want to invent those things, so I’ll choose something that will tell you a little more about me. I would invent a worry machine. It would be something that could take my worries away, and anyone’s worries, by absorbing them into the machine and then turning them into some sort of usable power.
Which books would we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I have all our favorite board and picture books from when my kids were tiny. More More More Said The Baby and Skippyjon Jones are among them. I still quote some of them when I talk to my now teenage kids (This is little guy…).
How do you like to spend a rainy day?
With my family, having lunch at our favorite
Vietnamese pho place in South Philadelphia and then seeing a movie at The Riverview movie theater, also in South Philadelphia. The last rainy day we saw Creed – it was so good!
Where’s your favorite place to eat?
That is an impossible question to answer, since I have so many favorite places to eat. At the way top, if it is on our own dime and not a work meal for my husband, I would say Villa di Roma in the Italian Market. I can’t find better meatballs (except the ones my friend Dawn makes!).
What’s something you’re truly terrible at doing?
Singing. I am a terrible singer. The rest of my family is very musical and they can all sing quite well. It’s too bad for all of us because, despite my lack of ability, I still love to sing. The other day we went to the Comcast Center to see their holiday spectacular. This year they added a short singalong at the end. I can’t resist that kind of thing. My kids pretended they didn’t know me.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Restaurant Critic’s Wife?
There is a moment in the book when Lila, who used to be an executive at a big hotel and resort chain, enters a hotel in Philadelphia. She misses her old life and craves how working used to make her feel, and being back in a hotel reminds her of all that. When she walks in to the lobby she stops and takes in the hotel smell the way someone else might breathe in the sea air. For some reason I just love that moment.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Yes. When my husband and I first started journalism school we went to an orientation. We didn’t know each other yet, but we both happened to hear an alumna give a speech, and it stuck with both us. We quote what she said regularly, and have unofficially adopted it as our rules to live by. Keep in mind we are both writers. They are: good quotes up top, show don’t tell, and go to the bathroom when you can!
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