Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tales from Dinner Parties Past

Tattered Tales from Bygone Dinner Parties

Last year as we were moving house, downsizing and trying to purge, my neighbor was doing the same.  She was moving from her family home where she had raised her children and enjoyed a wonderful life with her husband, dogs and giant yard for over 50 years.  They travelled, collected art, furniture and books.  He had been a photographer who had worked for Life Magazine shooting iconic photos such as one of my favorite of Martin Luther King that hung in their home.  She told me of the containers of furniture she purchased in at an old farm in France and shipped on her journey on The Queen Elizabeth.

We often spoke over the fence while I was tending to Ivarene Farms.  I would offer her a purple carrot freshly plucked from the ground, and she would entertain me with stories about her life, dogs, horses, children, grand daughter.  We shared a love to food and good living.  One year as she was preparing to take Peking Duck to a Thanksgiving celebration she called to ask if I would like the  carcasses to render for stock- I did!   It made the best stock, and I used the fat for frying potatoes the result was incredibly decadent.

She was moving back east to be closer to her children and grand daughter.  Did I mention she had fantastic style and taste? When the estate sale was over she invited me to take what was still there before it was donated.

I was reluctant until I opened cupboards to find Bauhaus plates, English crockery, French bakeware, and a variety of other goodies.  I couldn't just leave the stuff.... In the next room there were shelves lined with art books by just about every artist I had ever heard of or not.  The pantry was chocked full of cookbooks by the likes of Alice Waters, Julia Child, James Beard and countless others.  She had warned me that there was never anything that her husband liked and bought that he didn't buy two of,  she was right!


John decided to curate what we would take.  No pristine cookbooks here - the books showed signs of love, pages splashed with ingredients, covers torn and stained.  It was a treasure trove.  
annotated recipes
Do You think Toulouse-Lautrec Cooked in his Spare Time?

The books are beautiful, their spotted pages spin tales of long forgotten dinners.

Treasure Maps to Fabled Dinner Party's 

His Voice Echos from the Pages

Favorite Recipes Hidden in Books

I opened the tattered covers to find pages stuffed with recipes torn from old newspapers.  An article on getting your child to mind you hidden in the midst of one cookbook.  More than recipes live in these pages, memories of dinner party's past, meals shared with friends and families, celebrations.  Ghosts of lost evenings of cigarette filled air, spilled wine on tablecloths dishes left to do until mornings black coffee had taken affect.


Beautifully Illustrated 
Beautifully illustrated recipes

They inspire us to recreate and continue our devotion to cooks from eras past, present and future.  Throw parties, make recipes, leave the dishes until tomorrow..

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