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Lee Reitelman

tutor, writer, musician, chef

Lee was born in New York City and raised near Detroit. He attended Cranbrook Schools, where he captained the varsity golf team and led the school’s jazz band on the trumpet and guitar. He pursued his undergraduate studies at Princeton, where he majored in comparative literature, with a focus on French and German literature and philosophy. At Princeton, he was the editor of Troubadour, a campus literary and travel magazine, as well as the president of the Princeton Tigertones, the university’s famed a capella group. Since graduating from Princeton in 2007, Lee has pursued diverse passions in music, writing, and food. As a musician, he has gained a loyal following in New York City and Los Angeles, releasing an album of original music in 2014. In 2018, he composed and recorded the soundtrack for the forthcoming feature film, The Pleasure of Your Presence, slated for release in late 2019. Lee is also the co-author of the Greenhouse Cookbook, a bestselling cookbook of vegetable-based recipes published by Penguin Canada in 2017. In 2016, he launched Caravan, a pop-up, farm-based restaurant and grocery in Amagansett, NY. Lee is also the co-founder of Herbert, a functional beverage company based in Toronto; Nutu, a social business focused on products derived from the moringa tree; and Plant Paper, a tree-free toilet paper company.
…a text I love to teach

“On Self-Respect” by Joan Didion. On the other side of its stylistic complexity, this is an essay that addresses some of the most basic but least voiced concerns of middle- and high-school students: Who am I? What am I worth? Didion’s unremitting self-scrutiny and bracing imagery have the potential to shake a student’s very foundations and, in the process, show him or her what great writing can be: not something you merely read, but something you undergo.

…a favorite place I’ve visited

One of the coolest places I’ve visited recently is the neighborhood of Sacromonte, in Granada, Spain: its inhabitants (I was fortunate briefly to be one) live in caves carved into the side of a mountain that overlooks the Alhambra and echoes with the sounds of flamenco music, a style that was developed in the region.

…eight people living or dead I’d invite to my ideal dinner party

George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans), Leonard Cohen, M. F. K. Fisher, Elena Ferrante, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Jacques Pepin, Oscar Wilde, Brian Eno

…something I can’t stop thinking about

It may be the most cliché of all answers to this question, but it is also probably the most honest: the thing that most consistently occupies my thoughts is food. It wasn’t always this way. I didn’t grow up in a family that paid any special attention to food. Nobody made a big deal of particular recipes or dishes or restaurants. But in recent years, I’ve come to see eating–and relatedly, cooking–as one of the inexhaustibly great pleasures of being human (along with reading and music-listening). Eating is no longer just about satiating my hunger, but about bringing my full attention to my senses, bringing my mind in closer touch with my body, with the earth. Taking food seriously has grounded me, taught me to to live more deliberately and helped me take nothing for granted. It provides a daily opportunity to bring a little creativity to bear on even most primal and inescapable component of being alive.