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NORA EPHRON IS one of a few writers who make me laugh out loud. The New Yorker recently republished a perfect example of this in her “Serial Monogamy,” originally published February 5, 2006. Tidbits here are gleaned from this article, together with my own musings about affaires de cookbooks.
Historic Events. “Just before I moved to New York,” Nora wrote in The New Yorker, “two historic events occurred: The birth-control pill was invented and the first Julia Child cookbook was published. As a result, everyone was having sex, and when the sex was over you cooked something.”
I guess I don’t remember it exactly that way. But then during the time I was an undergrad/grad-school math major.
Advice from Elders. Nora said, “One of my girlfriends moved in with a man she was in love with. Her mother was distraught and warned that he would never marry her, because she had already slept with him. ‘Whatever you do,’ my friend’s mother said, ‘don’t cook for him.’ But it was too late. She cooked for him. He married her anyway.”
Nora was thrice married, the middle husband Carl Bernstein of Bernstein and Woodward/Watergate fame. Prior to her “serial monogamy,” Nora knew “a powerful older woman I’ll call Jane, whom I met that summer in the city. She was twenty-five….”
One Away. “Jane,” Nora said, “also introduced me to the concept of One Away. You were One Away from someone if you had both slept with the same man.”
This reminds me of Simon Bell’s entertaining book Who’s Had Who, In Association with Berk’s Rogerage, An Historical Rogester containing Official Lay Lines of History from the Beginning of Time to the Present Day, which poses a similar relational metric.
Indeed, Bell’s book prompted my own modest literary effort “A ‘Spruce Goose’ Fantasy.”
Cooking for Oneself. “By the mid-sixties,” Nora recalled, “Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking,’ Craig Claiborne’s ‘New York Times Cook Book,’ and Michael Field’s ‘Cooking School’ had become the holy trinity of cookbooks. At this point, I was working as a reporter at the Post and living in the Village…. If I was home alone at night, I cooked myself an entire meal from one of these cookbooks. Then I sat down in front of the television set and ate it. I felt very brave and plucky as I ate my perfect dinner.”
“O.K.,” Nora continued, “I didn’t have a date, but at least I wasn’t one of those lonely women who sat home with a pathetic container of yogurt. Eating a meal for four that I had cooked for myself was probably equally pathetic, but it never crossed my mind.”
On Originality. Nora recalled the angst of “whipping up Chinese eggrolls from scratch. A recipe for them appears on page 36 of the book [The Gourmet Cookbook, her first of the genre], but it doesn’t begin to convey how stressful and time-consuming an endeavor it is to make eggrolls, nor does it begin to suggest how much tension a person can create in a household by serving eggrolls that take hours to make and are not nearly as good as Chinese takeout.”
At a crucial junction of life, Nora realized she ought to serve “something that was ‘my’ recipe, but I didn’t have any recipes that were truly mine—with the possible exception of my mother’s barbecue sauce, which mostly consisted of Heinz catsup.”
Yes, been there. However, I do recall my first original recipe: White Rice with Peas and Pineapple. It’s quick and easy, minimalist, and surprisingly tasty. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021