For Times readers on Nov. 15, 1981, Ms. Sheraton caught the moods of open markets from Africa to Asia: “In Calcutta, graceful women in silken saris are colorful competition for the pyramided cones of earth-toned spices they sell in the markets. The Indian women provide a sharp contrast to the workmen in the Tsukiji wholesale fish market in Tokyo, who can be seen taking naps on the concrete platforms at 2 or 3 in the morning, curled up against giant sharks that look no less menacing for being dead. Vendors in the souks of Marrakesh, selling lemons, mint, coriander, grilled meat and nougat candy, look as if they had stepped out of biblical times.”
Ms. Sheraton often ate four meals a day, at venues ranging from pushcarts to palatial restaurants. But she usually chose little-known places with good food and dined with a few quickly recruited colleagues or friends. She paid for meals in cash. She never took notes in a restaurant but had a remarkable memory for flavors, aromas, service and ambience. After years of using a typewriter, she resisted computers for a time, dictating reviews by phone, as her civilized world turned digital.
Ms. Sheraton also reviewed foods served in schools, hospitals and prisons, and she consulted with those institutions to improve their menus. Her frequent trips abroad prompted her to write books and articles on the cuisines of Germany, France, Italy, China, Russia and Vietnam, and on markets and specialty foods.
For her book “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World” (2000), she scoured Europe, Israel and Argentina for authentic versions of the Jewish round breads sprinkled with onions and spices. She found they were no longer made in Bialystok, Poland, where the Nazis had burned to death 2,000 Jews in a synagogue in 1941. But among the diaspora of bakers, she found the best bialys on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
She was born Miriam Solomon in Brooklyn on Feb. 10, 1926, one of two children of Joseph and Beatrice (Breit) Solomon. Her father sold produce in Manhattan, and her mother was an excellent cook. Their nonkosher Jewish family talked avidly of food and cooking. For Mimi and her brother, Arthur, summers meant Lundy’s seafood in Sheepshead Bay and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs in Coney Island. She graduated from Midwood High School in 1943 and from New York University in 1947.