"You'll be drooling over Julie & Julia!"
- Rex Reed, The New York Observer
The new hit film "Julie & Julia", starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child, is causing quite a "stir" around the country - stirring up fun, prompting "bring a dish get-togethers," and reminding us that butter is a necessity! Child was a visionary woman with discipline, desire and the guts to take the lobster by the tail. And Streep plays her to perfection, expertly inhabiting her characteristic voice, gestures and iconic self-confidence as she turns out culinary pearls.... As Savarin writes "To know how to eat is essential to knowing how to live."
And live it up we do at my house in East Hampton every year. Last week and every year, my family descends on my country home, where there is fun, relaxation and of course...family dinners! Only with the help of chef Mark Sanné, who has worked for me on all such occasions for - I can't believe it, 17 years! My sister Martha, who is an avid cook (caterer and private chef in a previous life), always contributes. This year she made white peach cobbler and blueberry cobbler from my mother's original recipes. Have you ever had blueberry cobbler à la mode for breakfast? My husband has....
Julia Child understood the power of good food, as do many women who have written on the subject. Among them Lesley Blanch (Around the World in 80 Dishes), the prolific Elizabeth David, who sums up her love of cooking most perfectly in An Omelette & A Glass of Wine, and MFK Fisher (The Gastronomical Me, Consider the Oyster, The Art of Eating). These women understood that the arts of living embrace an understanding and appreciation of decorating, fashion and good food, combined with hospitality.
In her introduction to The Gastronomical Me, MFK Fisher writes -
"People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?
They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.
The easiest way to answer is to say that, like most humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it, and the hunger for it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied...and it is all one."
Simply serving food to eat is a bore. One of the best parts of cooking, dining and entertaining for me is creating a beautiful presentation at the table. Setting the table for two or twenty is everyday decorating, an opportunity to create something beautiful, however simple or elaborate as you choose to be.
When I travel, I am always looking for beautiful things for my table. On a recent trip to Italy, I went straight into Milan after a long overnight flight to several shops, including G. Lorenzi. Lorenzi has the most gorgeous implements for the dining table, writing, shaving, knitting, you name it! The selection is broad - mother of pearl, horn, bone, bamboo, bronze, forged steel, carved wood - all of it DELIZIOSO!
All collections develop over time. Whenever I find myself in a flea market or a country antique fair, even if I am on the hunt for a specific thing, one must always be prepared to expect the unexpected. Stay open-minded, be spontaneous, consider things with possibilities - and above all, enjoy the hunt.
Some Wit & Wisdom on Cooking, Eating & Entertaining -
"Food must be succulent, nutritious, properly balanced, and as pretty as one can make it. We eat with our eyes, you know, and you can't starve them." - Van Day Truex
"In my philosophy of food, the perfect meal is the short meal, and at every meal there should be a surprise - a dish that, if possible, is a new dish presented in a new manner. We have tables with different size tops, and we choose colors, table linen, and china to suit the moment." - Fleur Cowles
"Etiquette means being thoughtful." - Joan Rivers
"If you accept a dinner invitation, you have a moral obligation to be amusing." - The Duchess of Windsor
"Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity." - Frank Lloyd Wright
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Wolff
"A hostess must be like a duck - calm and unruffled on the surface, and paddling like hell underneath." - Anonymous
"A host is like a general - it takes a mishap to reveal his genius." - Horace
AND A FEW LAUGHS, TOO -
"Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat." - Fran Lebowitz
"Anyone who believes for one second that the nouvelle cuisine has had any impact on the way Americans eat in their homes is crazy. It has nothing to do with anyone except possibly ten people who have chefs and are silly enough to think raspberries go with meat and kiwi with shrimp." - Nora Ephron
"If you throw a lamb chop in the oven, what's to keep it from getting done?" -Joan Crawford, in the movie The Women
"Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water." - W.C. Fields
"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard
As quoted in Monday's NEW YORK TIMES (8/24/09), Nora Ephron said,
"This was a secret dream, that the movie would sell a lot of books... I'm completely delighted that people are walking out of the multiplex and into the bookstore."
AND WHAT COULD BE BETTER?