On Sunday, we had a houseful of guests one moment, and empty rooms the next. Within 5 minutes, our exhausted baby embraced a beautiful afternoon nap, Danny and I packed leftovers into the fridge, and I threw on a pair of jeans and various blindly-grabbed-for layers, and ran out to see a pretty amazing panel put on by the Chicago chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Though I was kicking myself once I got there for not dragging a friend along, I surprised myself by happily sitting off to the side, sipping wine and taking in the bits of conversation happening around me. These were people who owned catering companies, restaurants, women who were cookbook editors, agents, writers, and so on. I was the Least Cool Girl in the room, surrounded by women I basically wanted to be when I grow up.
The last time I walked into a room full of people I didn’t know, it was the first day of grad school and I was paralyzed with anxiety. Thankfully, last night was just as humbling, but somehow not at all terrifying. (Call it the wisdom of age? The presence of a distraction, aka smartphone? Or the absence of stiflingly high expectations? You decide!) On both occasions, it didn’t take long for a kind and funny woman to pluck me out of solitude and start a conversation. Last night that woman was, it turns out, the owner of one of my very favorite restaurants near where I live – which I love not only for its food but also for the lovely vibe she has clearly so carefully cultivated over the years. She recently opened a cooking school, exciting news I had evidently missed during this past Summer of Baby Jack.
Inspired by the weekend’s events and other recent bits & pieces on, by, and for women in and outside of food, here’s my lady-centric reading list for the week and beyond.
Eater’s piece on legendary cookbook editor Judith Jones. A look at a mega significant woman behind so many cookbooks and other food writing. It’s true that we focus so much on the byline and often forget about the geniuses behind the scenes. Also, Jones was apparently on a nickname basis with “Jim Beard,” which is pretty righteous.
Lena Dunham’s interview with Gloria Steinem. I’m really enjoying these Lenny letters, which have so far brought superstar badass ladies together with girls who ask the questions I’d ask if I were a little more clever. Highlights: power accessories, angry tears, and wasting time as dumb life choice.
Lucky Peach’s interview with Deborah Madison. I love reading about people’s long and winding roads through what, cosmically and delightfully, turn out to be significant and worth-studying careers in food. I got Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone last year for Christmas, and many of her beautiful recipes are on my fall cooking list.
Les Dames d’Escoffier, Chicago chapter. Though membership is invitation-only (#goals), their events are often open to the public.
Another Eater piece, an interview with Ina Garten (who is also the muse of this week’s midweek recipe post). With Ina, I think one finds one’s way to love. For someone who is younger and poorer than her, who has never set foot in the Hamptons, it takes reading her cookbooks and interviews – at least in my experience, rather than watching her show, which is nice but still sleek and so aspirational – to realize that you’d actually probably be best friends IRL. This interview was a wonderful way to get to know about Ina’s life before and during her food career.
Illustration of Deborah Madison from Lucky Peach