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In honor of Julia Child’s 100th Birthday… August • 16 • 2012

Posted by Valerie in Books, Film & TV, Food & Drink, In the News....
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… I’m re-publishing a post I wrote awhile back about Julia Child and book publishing:

Last night, I was fortunate to be a guest at a Julie & Julia film screening for Random House employees. The profusion of press coverage has focused on topics like the gloriously mouth-watering food-on-film (warning: do not see it on an empty stomach!); the joys of a warm, mutually supportive marriage; the fantastic performances, including Meryl Streep’s transformation into Julia Child, etc., etc.

Of course, I was struck by the spot-on portrayal of… book publishing!Julia Child's The Way to Cook

In my former life on the other side of the publishing fence, I briefly worked with Julia Child, marketing reprints of two of her books for a division of Random House. She was delightful and I enthusiastically joined the cult of JC, embracing her The Way to Cook as an everyday, go-to reference. (For those who think she’s all duck-de-boning and saving the liver, fyi: her method of hard-boiling eggs ensures there’s no green rim around the yolk, and that the suckers are E-Z-2-peel for your humble egg salad.)

After that, Julia was unbelievably gracious when I saw or wrote her–which was amazing, given the number of people with whom she was acquainted and with whom she corresponded. A few years later, when I was Doubleday, I marketed Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, by Noel Riley Fitch and became immersed in Julia’s life story, then re-visited it through her own eyes (in collaboration with her grand-nephew, Alex Prud’Homme) in the more recent My Life in France–one of the two books on which Julie & Julia is based. Admirably true to the facts of Julia’s story, among many other delights, the film  gives audiences a realistic peek into the trials and tribulations of writing a book and getting it published. In addition to the joy of seeing one’s first book accepted–and then in print–filmgoers will see some of the down-and-dirty details aspiring writers may not realize:

• Julia’s magnum opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking took eight intense years (and two other people) to write.

• Julia struggled to play fair while resenting that one of her two co-authors doesn’t do nearly her share of the work.

• The book gets dumped by its first publisher–even Julia Child struggled with rejection and self-doubt.

• An intensive, eight-year project nets three first-time authors a $1,500 advance in 1960

The Joy of Cooking 1931• Related bonus cookbook publishing trivia: Irma Rombauer paid $3,000 to self-publish The Joy of Cooking in 1931. (I’m guessing that detail is from Stand Facing the Stove, a book about the publication of the Rombauer classic. And I loved the brilliant Frances Sternhagen–a.k.a. Brenda Lee Johnson’s mother in one of my favorite TV shows The Closer–as Mrs. Rombauer, who apparently didn’t feel the need to test all the recipes–caveat cooker.)

• Judith Jones, Julia’s editor, uses a morass of index cards to come up with the best title for the book–a method based pretty much on gut instinct and, for some,  “what does sales think?” and which, to this day, remains unchanged save for the invention of word processing. (Judith Jones’ food memoir, The Tenth Muse, offers her own perspective on publishing Julia Child, among other cookbook writers and, in advance of her forthcoming second book, launched her own blog called judithjonescooks.com. FYI, today’s post includes her thoughts about the movie.)

Ms. Jones also has a presence in the “Julie” portion of the film. Taken from Julie & Julia, Julie Powell’s memoir of her year cooking and blogging through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that storyline follows the title character (played by Amy Adams) projecting a more current version of writerly angst. You see the hope, then wonder, then self-satisfaction when an underemployed, born-writer finds out there are people following her life and work on her blog. And you see a writer who’s not immune to disappointment, even with sudden and obviously gratifying media attention and the promise of a book advance presumably much more generous than Julia’s was.

I’ve been a fan of Nora Ephron since I read–and laughed and cried over–her roman à clef Heartburn during my very first job out of college at Random House (and I couldn’t help but think about that book–and her own history–when I later taped Carl Bernstein for a Doubleday video). So I like to think that, in addition to her storytelling talent and her filmmaking skills and her ability to convey the passions of lives well-lived and to capture some deliciously gorgeous food, Ephron’s firsthand knowledge of publishing and love of books informed her writing and directing this seriously delectable film.

And I like to remember that, before there was a Julie & Julia on the big screen, there were all those great books!


Visit Peterson’s at… June • 13 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in Books, Food & Drink.
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Loyal readers! I’m now blogging over at Peterson’s Happy Hour. While I’ll be posting non-cocktail items here, chances are for the next couple of months (read: during heavy book promotion time), much will be cocktail related!

Mint Juleps at post time… May • 2 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in Cocktails, In the News..., Recipes.
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Suzanne's vintage ice shaver

Makes ice as light as snow...

At Suzanne’s annual Kentucky Derby party, the guests toasted the winners of the 136th “Run for the Roses”–horse Super Saver, jockey Calvin Borel, and trainer Todd Pletcher–with refreshing, minty-bourbon juleps. The cocktail dates back to the late 1790s (!), but hasn’t waned in popularity–and, of course, it’s the Official Cocktail at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May… Suzanne’s  vintage ice shaver (purchased at Housing Works) helped create the slushee-like treats.

Classic Mint Julep

1 ounce simple syrup

mint sprig (5-6 leaves), plus two more for garnish

2 1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon

Place simple syrup and mint sprig in the bottom of a highball glass; bruise mint lightly to release the oils, then remove the sprig. Add 1 1/2 ounces of the bourbon to glass; pack 3/4 full with crushed ice; stir carefully. Pack the glass full with more crushed ice; top the ice with the remaining 1 ounce of bourbon. Garnish with additional mint sprigs.

Jane Austen… we hardly knew ye? May • 2 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in Books, Jane Austen.
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Arnie with "friend"

NYTimes crossword puzzle solver, real estate lawyer, independent scholar and literary sleuth Arnie Perlstein spoke at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s New York Metropolitan Region’s May 1 meeting… His topic was “shadow stories” in J.A.’s works and his talk was as intriguing and stimulating as it was explosively controversial (hint: Jane “hid” an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in every novel and leaves clues to a real-life baby…) Even if partially true, his theories show our Ms. Austen to be smarter, defter with the pen, and exponentially more fascinating than previously imagined… which is, of course, completely believable.

Jane Austen portrait

Arnie's muse

Smells like 116th Street spirit… May • 2 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in Everyday Marvels, NYC life.
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Urban Cow... boy?

En route to JASNA meeting, got on the #2 train by accident (it was running one the #1 train–who knew?), and had to trek westward on 116th Street, past “the usual”…  cows, sheep and horses? The Columbia Greenhouse Nursery School was hosting it’s Spring Fair.

Goats chillin'

Bleecker Street views… April • 9 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in Everyday Marvels, NYC life.
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NYU's garden on Bleecker Street

Spring (and NYU) flings color...

Mustang Vally March • 30 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in 1, In the News....
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Valerie's Mustang

RIP Donald N. Frey who, according to The New York Times “spearheaded the design and development of the Mustang, the spunky, stylish, affordably priced ‘pony car’ that the Ford Motor Company rolled out in the mid-1960s in one of the most successful car introductions in automotive history…”

The man on the street… and on the buildings March • 25 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in 1, Everyday Marvels, NYC life.
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The Mitzvah Tank Parade made a noisy lunchtime  trip down 5th Avenue in honor of Rabbi Lubavitch’s birthday… And, just when it seemed the day couldn’t get more art-filled, I stumbled on the Antony Gormley installations. The pedestrian me couldn’t miss the statue on the sidewalk, but it took a kindly fellow New Yorker to point out they were on top of buildings, too.

Mitzvah Tank parades down 5th Avenue

Antony Gormley's statue

One New Yorker not rushing...

Antony Gormley

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Antony Gormley statue on the Flatiron Building

Observing from the top of the Flatiron Building...

Antony Gormley's sculpture over red building

Overlooking 5th Avenue

What do you mean, “no cocktail shakers”? March • 10 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in 1, Cocktails, Film & TV, In the News....
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I was appalled that this breaking Barbie news did not make any of the New York Times’ “Most Popular” lists for articles e-mailed, blogged or searched, so I’m doing my part… ‘Mad Men’ Dolls in Barbie’s World, but Cocktails Stay Behind.

Barbie Dolls as characters from Mad Men AMC televsion show

No cigarettes, no martini glasses... and Joan Holloway doesn't seem anatomically correct.

A sign of approaching Spring… March • 9 • 2010

Posted by Valerie in 1, Establishments, Everyday Marvels, NYC life.
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… the line at the Shake Shack.

The line at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

Snaking Shake Shack snackers

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