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27 June 2012

She Could Write, She Could Direct, She Could Cook

Writer and director Nora Ephron passed away, leaving behind a great oeuvre of novels, screenplays, films, essays, memoir and more.  I first encountered her when she divorced from Carl Bernstein (of Washington Post, Watergate and All the President's Men fame) and wrote about it in the novel she called, Heartburn.  In this unabashedly autobiographical novel was the very first time I had ever seen recipes in a setting outside of a cookbook.  Atop that, she wrote the recipe in prose.  For example, for Key Lime Pie, which the narrator had made for a dessert at dinner with friends, only to throw at the unfaithful husband from whom she would soon flee,  she wrote,
If I had to do over again, I would have made a different kind of pie.  The pie I threw at Mark made a terrific mess, but a blueberry pie would have been even better, since it would have permanently ruined his new blazer, the one he bought with Thelma.  But Betty said bring a Key lime pie, so I did.  The Key lime pie is very simple to make.  First, you line a 9-inch pie plate with a graham cracker crust.  Then beat 6 egg yolks.  Add 1 cup lime juice (even bottled lime juice will do), ...
There is an index at the end of the book, giving the reader the page number where instructions for each recipe that Ephron described in the prose.  The conversational style of this book sets the tone of rapport and the narrator's reputation as a storyteller.  Instead of making lemonade from lemons, she is creating a story from a low point in her life and as a typical Jewish mother, she is relating everything to food.  I have not found anyone since who has come close to this wonderfully chummy style.  This style comes through again through her writing and directing the film, Julie & Julia, combining food and camaraderie, relationships and storytelling.

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