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Meet Francis Lam

Can someone half your age be a personal hero?


And it can happen in a twinkling. OK, 90 minutes.

I went out to meet Francis Lam one recent Wednesday, prepared to lavish praise on him for nothing more than the ease with which he writes about food and the people who eat and enjoy it. Then this impossibly thin young New Yorker told me how he had come to spend six months in East Biloxi, how he found friendship and love and a sense of community there, how he intends to return, and now he's a hero.

Here's how it happened.

Every early morning, after some really strong coffee to help get my heart started, I check out a whole flock of Web sites including Gourmet magazine. I first went there for one very simple reason: the value of reading the best examples of what I try -- often with limited success -- to do myself.

Architects want to study the most inventive building designs, right? Not the crappiest ones. People whose mission is to write about food want to read such writing done well.

The Gourmet Web site is where I "met" Francis Lam.

—Jean P.