by Corbo Eng
My name is Corbo Eng, and I’m a food writer. Here, on this site, readers will find my collected work: profile articles, reported features, round-ups, essays, think-pieces about people, food, and culture as well as stories documenting my travels and food adventures. I have written for Serious Eats, The Local Palate, Life & Thyme, The Cleaver Quarterly, Northern Virginia Magazine, and Edible DC among others. Besides writing for magazines and online food sites, I also help chefs write cookbooks.
Why is this website called “Vablonsky?” Well, if this were a food blog, for example, I might have followed the practice of naming it after a catchy turn-of-phrase or a food-related pun. But, since this isn’t a blog, I didn’t do that. On the other hand, as a personal website, I could have named the website for myself (which would have been utterly logical) and emblazoned “Corbo Eng” in a large font across the masthead. But, I didn’t go in that direction either. Instead, I thought, “what if I gave the website a name of its own?” For instance, I’ve always liked the incisiveness of naming something for a person—often, using a surname. Examples like “Toyota,” “Bulova,” and “Prada” come to mind. Top magazines such as “Forbes” or “Maclean’s” follow this model too.
This is how Maurice Edmond Sailland factors in. Sailland was a great French gourmand and a pioneering food writer of the first half of the 20th Century who was known as the “Prince of Gastronomy.” Using two Latin stems (“cur” and “non”) and the “sky” common at the end of many Russian surnames, Sailland concocted and adopted the single name pseudonym “Curnonsky.” In 1895, when Sailland coined the moniker, Russian names invoked a level of sophistication. Russian literature and culture, after all, were very much in vogue in France at the time—although “Curnonsky,” to those hearing or reading it, just as likely suggested something vaguely Polish or Ukrainian instead.
Well, now, Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish sounding names may not be all the rage like they once were; but, interestingly, many contemporary writers that I admire have last names that end in “sky”—for example, Carol Helstosky, Mark Kurlansky, Peter Kaminsky, and Josh Ozersky. These names, for me, echo the spirit of “Curnonsky.” So, with “Vablonsky,” I’m invoking the talent of these esteemed writers and paying homage to them.
Additionally, I’ve had people confuse “Vablonsky” for my name. They’ve taken the name of the website and transposed it onto me, an understandable move. Not that I intended the misperception, but, the incongruity of a Chinese guy having a Russian name and one that is Jewish at that, frankly, appeals to me.
Many Jewish celebrities of the past, in order to broaden their appeal and be accepted by the public, adopted anglicized names. Benny Kubelsky became “Jack Benny.” Milton Berlinger became “Milton Berle.” Jerome Levitch became “Jerry Lewis.” Charles Buchinsky became “Charles Bronson.” These are just a handful of examples. It’s just that, in choosing “Vablonsky,” I have, seemingly, gone in the opposite direction. But, that’s okay. It fits me.
Please read my post entitled, “Meeting a Vulture Trainer” on the Vablonsky homepage for additional biographical information.