We recapped the best of Nora Ephron’s food moments when the rom-com queen passed away June 26. This Monday night, Ephron was remembered by her family, her friends, and some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Famous faces and classic Ephron favorites like Bette Midler, Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, Meg Ryan, Steven Spielberg, and more were in attendance to talk the about the romance enthusiast and food lover.
Between the memories and the anecdotes were recipes and stories of bountiful dishes. In the program was a recipe for brisket, "prepared with garlic cloves, olive oil, diced tomatoes, red wine, carrots, and just the right amount of salt and ground pepper to taste," Women's Wear Daily reports.
One would think that many of Ephron’s former actors would recount classic scenes or witty behind-the-scenes banter, but what they really talked about was her love for food. Butter, Ephron’s chosen religion, was referenced a number of times, as was a fondness for fresh pineapple juice, terrible pizza in Naples, and Ephron’s ongoing issue with hazelnuts in European chocolate.
Martin Short recalled his wife Nancy’s passing and how Ephron responded: "Nick [Pileggi, Ephron’s husband] and Nora showed up with food and commiseration, and they did the second night, and third night," Short said. "On the fourth night, she arrives with a giant plate of fried chicken. I said, 'Nora, it’s just the kids tonight and we have so much food already.' She handed me the platter and said, 'And now you have more food.' That was Nora’s style."
Her son Jacob Bernstein said that amongst all the things he will miss about his mother are "her roast beef with Yorkshire pudding" and "the way she had at least 10 different kinds of jam in her refrigerator."
Other speakers included Meryl Streep, Rosie O’Donnell, and Ephron's sister Delia, who talked about Ephron’s skills at eating a tomato. "My first memory of us, Nora bit into a tomato in such a perfect way as to be able to squirt the juice into my eye," she said.
More than just a sad memorial, the gathering was filled with hilarity, sarcasm, food memories, and a celebration of a film legend, a great friend, and a fabulous cook.
A Feast for Nora Ephron
The article, written by Frank Bruni in the Diner’s Journal also makes reference to the film Julie & Julia, which Ephron produced, and recalls her excitement around a scene involving butter. It made me smile as I remembered my own encounter with Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron and butter, at Le Cordon Bleu Paris when I, along with 16 other women, who like Julia Child are expat wives, made a pilgrimage to the world’s premier culinary institute and Julia’s alma mater for a cooking class inspired by the film.
Upon arriving at Le Cordon Bleu, we were divided into two groups, each with our own instructor and English translator (because everyone knows that French is the culinary lingua franca), and sent to our kitchens where we washed our hands, tied our aprons, sharpened our knives and embarked on our epicurean adventure hoping to discover Julia Child’s Chef’s Secrets.
At our workstations we found a cutting board, utensils, cooking oil, and of course, classic white wine and beurre blanc, the basis for so many of the fabulously calorific sauces the French are famous for. Julia would be proud. Also at our workstations were “Le Cordon Bleu Paris” tea towels a recipe sheet for the dish we were to prepare: Navarin Printanier (lamb stew with spring vegetables). This recipe, a favorite of Julie & Julia producer Nora Ephron, is a Julia Child classic.
Seeing the recipe sheet immediately caused panic as it did not provide instructions on how to prepare the meal, only a list of the necessary ingredients. The how-to would have to be gleaned by watching the chef, asking questions and taking copious notes. Or, like me, you can take the 21st-century approach and Google the complete recipe when you get home.
In an effort to save time, the lamb was already prepared for us, fat removed and cut into pieces. The pearl onions were also prepared and the tomatoes were peeled, seeded and chopped. For the next two hours, we browned, boiled and simmered the meat in its juices. Peeled, turned and prepared the vegetables. We added the vegetables to the pot and placed the stew in the oven to let the flavors meld.
As we finished dining on our culinary masterpieces, we were each called to the front of the room where our instructor shook our hand and presented us with a certificate of participation. Passion. Ambition. Butter. Cordon Bleu credentials. We most definitely have what it takes.
Nora Ephron pre-planned her own memorial
Even from beyond, Nora Ephron was busy and in charge, writing and directing and throwing the perfect party with utmost expertise.
Ephron, who died June 26 of complications from Leukemia, pre-planned her entire memorial service, which took place on Monday in New York she selected the list of speakers and even assigning how much time they'd each have to talk. This provided laughs but nary a protest at Alice Tulley Hall, an unmistakable landmark that looms over and lights the Upper West Side’s skyline with the same allure and brightness that Ephron gave to the neighborhood’s myth.
Ephron's one mistake: though she once told her son that she wanted a funeral where everyone would be made "basket cases" by sadness, the late journalist, writer and director simply left too many great anecdotes for her selected speakers to share reverence for her spirit staved off any sustained tears from those in the audience.
“I believe that when people pass, they zoom into the people that love them the most. So, if that’s the case, then all of us here have a piece of Nora,” Martin Short, the morning’s first speaker, said in a poignant moment. “And that's the way it should be. Because life would just seem all too mundane without her. And if she’s a part of us, we must be more like her: read everything, savor everything, talk to the person on your left, embrace laughter like it’s a drug, drink more pink champagne, and yes, brush up your style.”
She was the subject of countless wry anecdotes that she no doubt could have told with more verve and charisma herself, but the loving efforts drew plenty of laughs anyway. There was her sister Delia’s recollection of her first days in New York City, when Nora whisked her around the city in search of an apartment and resorted to kidnapping a landlord so that they could get the lease Richard Cohen remembering that, when asked by Vanity Fair what Ephron would be doing if not making films, he answered, “That’s Easy. Dictator of Argentina” her sons Jacob and Max lauding her quiet bravery as her long struggle with illness reached its final, painful days.
“She was the most fantastic blend of joy and cynicism. She was my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and a total drill sergeant, which is basically what a great parent is supposed to be," Jacob added. "Some other things I will miss about mom: her roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, the way she kept at least 10 different kinds of jam in her refrigerator, how we wept and we cried together upon finding out that Pat Buchanan would no longer be a regular on Rachel Maddow . and the fact that we cannot discuss the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ marriage, and the fact that she would have found that just as fascinating as the fact that John Roberts was the deciding vote on healthcare."
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson provided a tribute to both Ephron and her husband, the author Nick Pileggi, putting on a sketch that lovingly juxtaposed the worldly Jewish Ephron and her excitable, Italian partner of 28 years, a team that Hanks and Wilson said seemed to have been lifelong soulmates from the moment they met.
Meryl Streep, the star of such Ephron films as "Silkwood," "Heartburn" and "Julie & Julia," sounded a wistful tone, praising her good friend while almost shedding tears in thinking back to a particular conversation they had last winter.
"She really did catch us napping. She pulled a fast one on all of us. It’s really stupid to be mad at somebody who died but somehow I have managed it," the Oscar-winning actress said. "This winter, after I gave her the DGA honors, and she toasted me at the Kennedy Center, we promised each other that this would be the last in a long series of such events, and that we would never ever pay tribute to each other again. And she made me promise this, knowing that she’d already put me on this list."
She left her mark in New York as a young newspaper and magazine writer (and lifelong evangelist of the magic of
Manhattan), and indelibly chaned Hollywood with her three Oscar nominations and role as one of the industry’s trailblazing women directors, and so Ephron’s mourners poured in from around the country. Names such as Sen. Al Franken, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Alan Alda, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, Rob Reiner, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt and frequent collaborator Scott Rudin filed in respectively, laughing along and drinking pink champagne as the service ended.
It was a sunny day on New York’s Upper West Side, and there were conversations and lunches and memories to be made. And for those that needed a little help, Ephron included a different recipe from her personal collection in the little pamphlet given to each one of her friends.
A Literary Feast: The Making of a Thanksgiving Meal
In Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal, we found sustenance in poetry, essays, fiction, and cookbooks that embed recipes. This Thanksgiving, we are returning to the books and authors whose work is within Books that Cook to find inspiration for our Thanksgiving tables. We hope you’ll find these dishes as delectable to read, cook, and share as we do.
“Turkey Bone Gumbo” from Sara Roahen’s Gumbo Tales
While Books that Cook includes a step-by-step recipe for how to make a “Roast Turkey” from Irma Rombauer’s famed cookbook The Joy of Cooking, Sara Roahen offers a different ritual for giving thanks: cooking up some “Turkey Bone Gumbo.” It’s a recipe that helps to remind her that she can “eat and drink like a New Orleanian” wherever she might find herself, even after leaving behind her beloved city after hurricane Katrina decimated homes, neighborhoods, marriages, and mental states.
Turkey Bone Gumbo is a dish to make the day after Thanksgiving—for, as Roahen says, “[l]ike turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches, cold pumpkin pie, and Stove Top re-mish-mash-mushed with creamed onions and sweet potatoes.”
She makes the gumbo because “Thanksgiving dinner is always better the second time around no matter where you live” (266).
When Roahen serves this dish in Wisconsin to her extended family, she has an epiphany. She assumed a meal like this one, taken out of context, wouldn’t be as meaningful. But she was wrong. She realizes that food is about the connection that happens when people cook and eat together, and that making her gumbo not only evokes her lost life in Louisiana but also signals a beginning—and that “new beginnings are important” (268).
“Mom’s Spinach and Raisin Stuffing” and “Nana’s Sage and Onion Dressing” from Teresa Lust’s Pass the Polenta and Other Writings from the Kitchen
In her essay “The Same Old Stuffing,” Lust shares her mother’s practice of stuffing the turkey with two fillings: “She filled the bird’s main cavity with my paternal grandmother’s sage-and-onion dressing. [. . .] And for the bird’s neck cavity, my mom fixed what you would call an Italian-American hybrid stuffing” (52).
Fearing that the Thanksgiving feast included too many starches, Lust’s mother wanted her family to choose which stuffing she should prepare. Her father made the choice—his mother’s stuffing recipe—but when the family shared that year’s feast, they felt the loss. As Lust reminds readers, “When time-honored traditions get their start while you’re not looking, it seems, they need not concern themselves with balance, or daily nutritional requirements, or even historical accuracy. For such rituals rise up out of memories, and memories are not subject to hard facts” (63).
“Potatoes Anna,” “Mashed Potatoes,” and “Swiss Potatoes” from Nora Ephron’s Heartburn
In her novel Heartburn, Ephron provides reflections on potatoes and love, comparing different dishes to different stages of love, including laborious crisp potatoes for the early stages. She claims if you don’t make either Swiss potatoes or Potatoes Anna at the start of a relationship, you never will (124). For the end of a relationship, she reserves less labor-intensive mashed potatoes: buttery comfort food. Yet we think her mix of boiled potatoes put through a ricer with a bit of heavy cream, plenty of melted butter, salt, and pepper is perfect for any occasion.
“Pompkin Pudding” from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery
Published when the United States was only twenty years old, Amelia Simmons’ cookbook was the first of its kind, deliberately using New World ingredients to adapt British and European recipes to this new country she found herself in. Some of her recipes (or what Simmons called “receipts”) included ingredients such as corn meal or artichokes, but she also offers directions on how to make a “Pompkin” pudding—a dish based on a Native American method for baking squashes into pie-like breads (28). While Simmons’ recipes don’t look much like the ones in modern cookbooks, they certainly contain the same kinds of information found in all recipes: ingredients and instructions. And, too, her 1796 version of Pompkin Pudding tastes just as autumnal and decadent—with its three pints of cream, nine beaten eggs, nutmeg, ginger, sugar, and, of course, pumpkin—as the iconic pie that now rounds out the Thanksgiving meal (28).
Jennifer Cognard-Black is Professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she teaches creative writing, women’s literature, and the novel.
Melissa A. Goldthwaite is Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, where she teaches writing.
They are the editors of Books that Book: The Making of a Literary Meal and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Get the e-book on Amazon now for only $1.99.
Ephron, Nora. Hearburn. Vintage Books, 1983.
Lust, Teresa. Pass the Polenta and Other Writings from the Kitchen. Ballantine Books, 1998.
Roahen, Sara. Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.
Simmons, Amelia. The First American Cookbook: A Facsimile of “American Cookery.” 1796. Dover Publications, Inc. 1958.
Nora Ephron Tributes: Meryl Streep, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher Remember the Late Writer-Director
“In her brilliant observation of women and their relationships with men in When Harry Met Sally &hellip, she discerned the high notes that only the dogs of comedy could hear, if that makes any sense. The movie is such an important piece of comedy literature because Nora was open to the recipe of adding the ingredients of everybody in the room — Rob Reiner and me and Meg Ryan — and being the final chef. When you see in Internet polls, ‘What’s the best romantic couple of all time?’ you see Meg and me first. I don’t think any of us thought it would have that impact. She will be missed.” — Billy Crystal
“She was f–in’ alert she was on her game. She was on mine, too she was on everybody’s game. She was alert to everything you were saying and what you weren’t saying. She believed in herself. She knew what was funny. She knew the bottom line of stuff. Her writing was clear there was no gristle. She wasn’t really fun, like, ‘Let’s go, Skippy.’ She was someone who said what she meant. That’s fun for me but not everybody. It’s exhausting. But you’d want to meet her in a restaurant in New York, and when she’d speak with you, you’d lean in like it was a fire, to warm yourself by the fire of her personality.” — Carrie Fisher
“She was so unique. She would throw a party at the drop of a hat. When I first met her, she told me about marrying Nick and said, ‘I should have catered it.’ She was an amazing cook, and her dinners always included Mafia, which was her favorite game. You’d go to London with Nora, and the next thing you’d know you’d be walking down a street in Kensington going to that shop that had the perfect glasses that she liked. She was very specific, and a one-of-a-kind, good, warm friend.” — Lauren Shuler Donner, Producer, You’ve Got Mail
“How do you talk about a friend who said everything you wish you could say? Everything you wanted to say in the world, she could say better and shorter and funnier. &hellip I never saw her sit down all day as a director, and it’s a long day. She was literally on her toes at all times, ready with anecdotes, information, expertise, on top of everything: books, news, trends, technology, movies, plays. I wondered when she slept. And then Sally Quinn told me last night, ‘Oh, she slept eight hours a night.’ I thought, ‘Oh, God!’&thinsp” — Meryl Streep
“Nora Ephron made the kind of movies I love to watch over and over. If one of them comes on TV, I can’t (won’t) turn it off till the end. I still wait for my favorite moments. I really don’t know how many times I’ve seen Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally &hellip . And to think making movies was only one of Nora’s many passions. Remarkable. I read that Billy Wilder leaving [Ernst] Lubitsch’s funeral said, ‘No more Lubitsch,’ and William Wyler responded, ‘Worse than that, no more Lubitsch films.’ Not to put myself in their shoes, but I can relate.” — Nancy Meyer, Director
“If she’s a part of us, we must be more like her: Read everything, savor everything, embrace laughter like a drug, drink more pink champagne and, yes, brush up your style. Mike Nichols suggests that when people pass, keep the conversation going. That’s clever because I still need Nora’s advice on simply everything.” — Martin Short
“Nora was brave about her emotions and intelligent about the heart in a very particular way. She actually fed me lines that were so perfect, which I put into song for Heartburn and This Is My Life. There was always something that was going to make you smile and identify.­ Nora was incapable of doing anything without having a sense of humor about it, and there was never a Nora who was ever embarrassed about the romantic.” — Carly Simon
Macaroons and funny lines at star-studded memorial for Nora Ephron
When one of Hollywood's greatest storytellers bowed out, she did so as humorously and generously as she had lived.
Nora Ephron, writer of Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, left strict instructions to friends such as Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Steven Spielberg and Steve Martin on her memorial service.
Following the plans in a folder marked 'exit', her son Jacob told speakers including Tom, his wife Rita Wilson and Nora's sister Delia: "Don't be afraid to be funny".
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL GALLERY
In honour of her fondness for food, recipes were handed out with the program &ndash one for coconut macaroons that "makes about 22".
There were frequent gastronomic references throughout the service for Nora, who also directed Julie & Julia, a film about the art of French cooking.
These included the collection of at least 10 jams in her fridge and her resistance to an early Thanksgiving dinner.
"We always had it at 7, like civilized people," her other son Max joked.
Before the doors opened at the Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center, the invitation-only crowd chatted in the lobby while sipping champagne.
Speaking before the service began, journalist Lynn Sherr told the New York Times: "Nobody knows whether to treat it as a cocktail party or not. And Nora would have loved that."
Meryl Streep, the star of Julie & Julia, was also among those paying tribute at the memorial.
She said: "How do you talk about a friend who said everything you wished you could say, everything you wanted to say in the world, but better, shorter and funnier?
"Sometimes you have to wait until your friend leaves the room to say how great she is," she added. "Because she absolutely would never put up with any of this if she were in earshot."
The last speaker to address the invitees was Nora's assistant of 14 years, J J Sacha.
Before hitting play on a reel of her film highlights, he introduced himself with the words many had heard him say on the phone &ndash "Nora Ephron's office".
The 800 guests at the memorial included Bette Midler, Jon Hamm, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew Broderick.
Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, Annette Bening, Lauren Bacall, Diane Stewart and Barbara Walters also paid their respects.
Nora was 71 when she passed away on June 26 in a New York hospital from pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukaemia.
Share All sharing options for: 15 Book Recommendations for Food Lovers
About once a month, Eater Book Club meets in our Test Kitchen in New York City, bringing readers together to discuss a book that dives into food or drink in some way — whether it’s a memoir, reported non-fiction, any kind of novel, or something different. Here’s a list of the books we’ve read since Eater Book Club got started in 2018. And for more food book recommendations from Eater, check out the best cookbooks for beginners or these books worth gifting.
Editor’s note, April 2020: Eater Book Club is currently online-only. Find out more about book club on Instagram and all of Eater’s virtual events right this way.
Arbitrary Stupid Goalby Tamara Shopsin
Tamara Shopsin grew up in her parents’ store-turned-restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village, and in this memoir, she chronicles that time and what it was like to grow up as a restaurant kid. Equal parts funny and elegant, told in a loose, non-linear style, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a perfect snapshot of a New York City that no longer exists. Get it for $9
Burn the Placeby Iliana Regan
Restaurateur Iliana Regan’s stunning and beautiful memoir recounts the chef’s life in and out of restaurants — focusing on her family, her addiction, and her identity just as much as the food itself — and traces the path she took to opening her acclaimed Chicago restaurant, Elizabeth. Get it for $17
The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty
Culinary historian Michael Twitty traces his family’s history — and the history of Southern food culture — in this important memoir. From his ancestors’ home of Ghana to plantations in the South, and from Civil War battlefields to black-owned farms, Twitty’s book shows why it’s so important to have conversations about who food really belongs to. Get it for $15
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
In Convenience Store Woman, title character Keiko Furukura’s life is consumed by the goings-on of the store she’s worked in for all of her adult life. She knows the routines and rhythms, the best way to upsell customers on rainy days and hot ones, how to anticipate customers’ every next move. It’s the only thing she cares about (and, really, the only thing she truly understands) — and everything gets completely out of whack when she tries to leave it and fit in with the outside world. Get it for $11
Cork Dorkby Bianca Bosker
Cork Dork is one former tech journalist’s look into the weird, weird world of wine. Bianca Bosker quits her day job and to see if she has what it takes to join the obsessive community of sommeliers and become one of the best in the business. Get it for $11
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi’s lyrical and winding novel takes readers into an intricate world full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it magic, where dolls talk, fictional countries exist (maybe!), changelings walk amongst people. This is a book — about gingerbread, definitely, but also about family and longing — that will throw you for a loop. Get it for $16
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Rom-com legend Nora Ephron’s semi-autobiographical novel Heartburn is funny and devastating, chronicling the drawn-out breakup of protagonist Rachel Samstat, a cookbook author who discovers her husband is having an affair with a married friend — both couples exist in the same high-profile circle — while she is seven months pregnant with their second child. With recipes, Ephron’s signature dry humor, and the roller-coaster theatrics that comes with any dramatic breakup, this short novel is a page-turner until the very end. Get it for $11
JELL-O Girlsby Allie Rowbottom
It’s hard to say no to a book about “a descendant of the Jell-O fortune,” and Jell-O Girls doesn’t disappoint. In this memoir, author Allie Rowbottom weaves a story of a family history funded by the sale of the Jell-O business for $67 million in 1925, switching perspectives between herself, her mother, and her grandmother with ease. What results is a tragedy, mostly — the threat of a family curse looms large in this book, the dark side of the cheery Jell-O fortune — but one that’s told beautifully. Get it for $13
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain’s groundbreaking memoir about life inside restaurant kitchens changed the way America thought about the industry when it was published in 2000. Times have changed significantly since then, but the book is still worth reading for fantastical stories from the “culinary underbelly,” told with the wicked-sharp prose Bourdain was known for. Get it for $13
Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein
Everyone knows opening restaurants isn’t easy, but nobody chronicles the ups and downs of opening — and what it takes to get there — like chef Kwame Onwuachi. This memoir presents the highs and lows of the chef’s life story, from his childhood in the Bronx and the summer trip to Nigeria that ended up lasting years, to his stint on Top Chef and the deep anticipation (and ultimate downfall) of his first ambitious fine-dining restaurant. This refreshingly candid memoir keeps readers hooked until the very last page. Get it for $16
Number One Chinese Restaurantby Lillian Li
This novel chronicles a family drama complete with secret affairs, arson, and blackmail, told through the everyday ups and downs of multi-generational life in the restaurant business. The vivid descriptions in the book — whether it’s hand-rolling hot duck into pancakes or a relationship that’s gone sour — are what make it special. Get it for $12
PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Jenny Han stopped by Eater Book Club in February, right around the time the sequel to instant-classic Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out, to talk about adapting food scenes, stress baking, and more. (Read an interview with the author here.) Her second book — and the movie adaptation — are filled with quiet, meaningful food scenes. Get it for $6
Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
In this memoir of Ruth Reichl’s days at the helm of now-shuttered but once-preeminent food magazine Gourmet, the famed food writer and critic details what it was like to run a print magazine in the heyday of print magazines, and then see it through until the devastatingly bitter end. The memoir is filled with media-world insights, Reichl-saves-the-day memories, and well-timed recipes. It’s just as juicy as you want it to be. Get it for $18
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
Teenager Clara Shin got in trouble one too many times at school, and now she’s stuck working on her dad’s Korean-Brazilian food truck for the whole summer. Amid missing her always-traveling influencer mom, battling her frenemy on the job, falling in love, and coming to terms with who she is, Clara rolls out dough for kimchi pasteis, makes marinade for grilled picanha skewers, and learns how to take her lombo to the perfect level of crisp. Get it for $9
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emoni Santiago dreams of being a chef, but as a high school senior with a three-year-old daughter, she knows she has to work twice — or tenfold — as hard to get what she wants. In this stunning follow-up to the slam poet’s National Book Award-winning debut novel, Elizabeth Acevedo’s Emoni — stubborn, witty, and full of talent — chronicles the everyday struggles and wins that come with senior year: college prep, living with grandma, and wanting so badly to achieve your dreams. Peppered through her narrative are tons of cooking and eating scenes, plus her own recipes. Get it for $9
Have a book you’d like to recommend, or want to join the New York mailing list for future book clubs? Email [email protected] with “Eater Book Club” in the subject line.
The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019
Sign up for the newsletter Add to Cart
Shopping intel and product picks for food lovers
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see ourethics policy.
Is Food as Healthy and Tasty as It Used to Be?
by Ruth Reichl, AARP, August 11, 2020 | Comments: 0
En español | I've been writing about food for 50 years, yet it took the COVID-19 crisis to show me just how much I didn't know. Facing empty supermarket shelves for the first time in my life, I reached out to the people who keep us fed. As I spoke with farmers, fishermen, ranchers, chefs and cheese makers, I finally began to understand how our food system really works.
Here's the thing: We are all aware that our food tastes have changed. We know that Americans now eat more salsa than ketchup and that ramen is as familiar as Campbell's tomato soup. Still, when it comes to the basics, we tend to believe that we're eating pretty much the same food that our grandparents did.
Consider Thanksgiving dinner. Since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, Americans everywhere have been sitting down to roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. “This tastes just like my grandmother's,” my husband says every year, as we revel in the fact that we are literally eating history.
His memory is playing tricks on him. The food on my table — and yours — does not resemble in any way what our ancestors once ate. A turkey hatched 50 years ago would look with deep suspicion at that bird you're carving, the farmer of the past would barely recognize the potatoes on your plate, and the wheat in the bread we use for stuffing is nothing like the amber grains on the plains of the past. American food is being transformed at such a rapid pace that a few years from now, it's entirely possible our turkeys will no longer even be hatched from eggs.
Although I may not remember how Grandma's food tasted, I certainly remember her complaining about its cost. Little wonder, as almost a third of her household budget went to feed the family. Since then, food prices have come down so dramatically that average Americans spend a mere 7 percent of their budget on it — less than people spend in any other nation on earth. That seems like progress, but just look at us! Three-quarters of us are overweight, and 6 out of 10 of us suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and hepatitis. Does our cheap food have anything to do with that? Looking for answers, I turned back the clock.
Ruth Reichl at her Hudson Valley home.
When I was growing up in Connecticut, my mother bought corn, poultry and tomatoes from the farm next door. Our milk came from the Loudon Dairy, down the road. The farm is long gone, and the dairy is now a golf course, but I never gave much thought to why they disappeared. It was not, it turns out, an accident.
As we entered World War II, almost a quarter of Americans were employed in farming. After the war ended and the Cold War began, our government decided that growing bigger, better and substantially more food than the Soviets did would be a great way to spread democracy. They began by converting into fertilizer the enormous stockpile of ammonium nitrate left over from the explosives program.
The new nitrate-rich fertilizer dramatically increased productivity. Meanwhile, new laborsaving machines replaced inefficient horses, and progressive plant breeding improved yields. Scientific advances such as the use of antibiotics to make animals grow faster were also introduced.
By 1960, our farms had become so efficient that fewer farmers were able to grow significantly more food, and farmers dwindled to 9 percent of the population. Small farms were gobbled up by bigger ones, and in suburban America, farms began to vanish. Urban dwellers barely noticed, but we were starting to lose touch with the way our food was grown. Things got so bad that, 10 years ago, when I handed a cucumber to a New York City kid, he looked at it with wonder. “What's that?” he asked.
But we weren't losing just farms. My family used to pile into Dad's old woody station wagon every summer, stopping to eat at local restaurants as we drove across the country. I remember my first taste of Rhode Island stuffies and the thrill of Iowa loose-meat sandwiches, and, as we drove to South Carolina, I repeated the words “Frogmore stew, Frogmore stew,” over and over, wondering what that regional specialty would taste like.
Those trips ended in the ‘60s: Restaurants that served those dishes began to close, and road trips were a lot less fun when the only dining places left served fast food. Americans had chosen consistency over tradition, yet we lost more than regional flavors: We lost some of the glue that held rural America together.
Efficiency also invaded our homes. In the early ‘50s, Poppy Cannon's The Can-Opener Cook Book charged onto the best-seller list with its suggestions for fast, easy family meals. When Mom became a fan, Dad and I began to dread dinner. I recently looked up the recipe for one of her favorite dishes: Casserole à la King. It turns out to be canned macaroni and cheese mixed with canned Chicken à la King and topped with grated cheese, bread crumbs and butter. Did Mom really think it was palatable? Did anyone? I expect that much of Poppy's success was due to her promoting her specious theories on America's favorite new medium, television.
But she was just a sign of the times. By the mid ‘50s, most American kitchens were equipped with refrigerators, and housewives filled their new freezers with three iconic foods of that moment: TV dinners, fish sticks and Tater Tots. Frankly, after Poppy Cannon's concoctions, they were a thrill those chicken TV dinners, with their peas and mashed potatoes, were some of the best meals Mom ever made.
"What we want is to make life more easy for our housewives,” Vice President Richard Nixon told Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the famous “kitchen debates” of 1959. My mother and legions of other women held Nixon to his word. For them, even TV dinners took too much time.
"Instant” became my mother's favorite word as she happily embraced an entirely new group of foods designed to get her out of the kitchen quickly. Instant mashed potatoes, freeze-dried instant coffee, Pop-Tarts, Tang and, of course, Carnation Instant Breakfast began to line our cupboard shelves. Mom bragged she could get dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat.
Some people had second thoughts about all this. The price of air travel had dropped dramatically, and hordes of American tourists went off to explore Europe and other parts of the world on $5 a day. They came home hungry for the delicious foods they'd tasted on their travels. Julia Child was there to help.
"This book,” she wrote in the introduction to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961, is for the “American cook who can be unconcerned with budgets, waistlines or … anything which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat."
But the ‘60s were a decade of enormous culinary conflict. Women, entering the workforce in record numbers, yearned for ever-easier and faster foods to prepare for their families. Frozen bread dough, frozen piecrusts, Green Giant peas and Cool Whip all entered the market to make their lives easier. And if they were a little late getting home from work, that problem was easily solved: Snack-food options were exploding, with the introduction of Pringles, Ruffles, Bugles, Chipos and Doritos.
The Julia Child crowd, however, had a new friend in the White House. Eleanor Roosevelt had served hot dogs to the king of England, and Mamie Eisenhower once plied the king of Greece with toasted Triscuits, but the new first lady was eager to show off a different side of America.
Jackie Kennedy lured a serious chef, René Verdon, to Washington so she could regale the president's guests with quenelles and sole Véronique — two recipes straight from Julia's book. Long before anyone had heard of farm-to-table cooking, Verdon was growing vegetables on the White House roof and herbs in the East Garden.
Perhaps that inspired Howard Johnson to hire an equally accomplished French chef to upgrade the food at his iconic chain of American restaurants. Jacques Pépin is one of America's unsung heroes. At Howard Johnson's, Jacques went back to the basics, making everything from scratch. He understood what American food could be: His kitchens turned out 10 tons of fresh hot dogs daily, and he insisted on real potatoes in the clam chowder and real clams in the fried strips. To this day, if you ask me to define American food, the first thing that comes to mind are my memories of those crisp, delicious fried clams.
Now people have begun to cook again, and the family meal–long threatened–has returned in earnest.
We are in the midst of a culinary orgie, thanks, in part, to the Food Network, Top Chef, Nora Ephron, and Julie Powell. Even the New York Times has gotten into the act, running pieces by both Michael Pollan and Maureen Dowd in a recent Sunday Magazine. Pollan's article starts off as more reflective. He recalls watching Julia Child on TV and how it changed the cuisine in his childhood home (for the better) and the types of dishes his mother would make thanks to JC's show.
Pollan's piece got me thinking about my own food memories. Julia Child was not a figure that loomed large in the culinary landscape of my childhood. I remember catching bits of her show on PBS, but being a child of the 1980's, she reminded me of Chef, from the Muppets. Apart from that I can't say she had any sort of impact on me, let alone on my mother or even my grandmother's cooking. The women [and man] in my family have had a love/hate relationship with cooking that can be traced back on the maternal side of the family, starting with my grandmother.
In the 1970's, my grandmother owned an Italian restaurant in a little town in upstate New York. She was the only [Italian] restaurant in the area, and the place was a family affair with my grandfather hosting and running the front of the house, my mom waitressing and my dad helping out in the kitchen. My grandmother introduced the neighbors to eggplant, broccoli rabe, homemade pasta and fresh basil. On Sundays, she sold plates of pasta and meatballs for $1.50. She was living her dream. That is, until the first Domino's Pizza moved in shortly after and my grandmother's culinary dream went up in smoke.
My mother, having spent a good part of her childhood and young adulthood cleaning up after my grandmother's culinary adventures in the kitchen, hated cooking. She grew up eating the freshest food available, grown in small but lush backyard gardens in the Bronx and cooked by my grandmother and great grandmother. Sunday dinners in that house were an event, which all of the relatives would partake in, showing up with Corningware dishes filled with garlicky aromas and the scent of fresh basil or stewed tomatoes. The inevitable bottle of homemade wine would be cracked open and when that was drained, demitasse cups of espresso with a slice of lemon would be passed around the table.
When my mom grew up, she never cooked. Instead, she married my father, who (as luck would have it) learned to cook basic dishes from his mother. The first (and only) meal my mom tried to cook for my dad involved Salisbury steak, and, because she didn't have oil or butter, my mom thought karo syrup would be an appropriate substitute. Much to her dismay, the entire meal needed to be thrown out since the karo syrup glued the patties to the pan. That night my parents ordered take out and continued to do so nearly every night until my sister was born.
In 1985, my dad was working in the meatpacking district (before it was fashionable and when Stella McCartney was a place called "Quality Meats" a fact my dad likes to dwell on when we walk past there today). My father started as a meat inspector for the government, which entailed him threatening to shut every place down -- running from what is now La Perla all the way to Diane Furstenberg -- that was in violation of the health code, or, conversely, the macho mafia-type meat men threatening to shut my father down with a gun. He then moved on to a safer career, as a meat purveyor to restaurants around New York including the Carnegie Deli and Windows on the World. The irony at this point was that my dad (and the rest of our family) never ate meat.
Long before Gwenyth Paltrow even knew what tempeh was, my family was macrobiotic. My breakfasts consisted of millet. My sister snacked on nori (seaweed) and raw kale. When we went to birthday parties, we arrived armed with our own soy pizza (organic, whole wheat crust, tomatoes and soy cheese) and something called a magic brownie, (not what you'd think) rather a chocolate-less, dairy-less, sugar-less, flour-less square of carob with walnuts. At a Fourth of July BBQ, we brought our own tofu pups (tofu hot dogs) and potato salad made with tofu mayonnaise. My sister and I didn't eat meat until we were ages seven and 11, respectively. French cooking was the farthest thing away from seared tofu and arugula sandwiches that you could get. I don't even remember ever having butter in our house (quelle horreur!)
After eight years of eating soy pizzas, tofu, veggies and bulgar burgers, my parents saw that macro was still too micro in the mainstream food world for us to continue to function without cooking on a daily basis. Little by little, skim milk began to replace soy milk, turkey, replaced tempeh, and cheese, the chard. I also ate my first hot dog (and promptly threw it up). Things only got worse from there. Take-out menus filled cookbook shelves and candy suddenly appeared -- the first time my sister received a chocolate bunny for Easter, she played with it, not knowing it was edible. Our waistlines also grew and so did the battle to keep them down. Cooking a meal was only something we did when company came, and it was a stressful affair where tempers ran high and food was overcooked. Any other time, we went out to eat or ordered take out. We had a tab at the local Italian restaurant.
When I went off to college, I thought such things were normal, only to discover in my first month away that people would reminisce about what foods their parents (mainly their moms) cooked. "My mom's tuna casserole," "Her fish tacos," "Steak and pomme frites." They turned to me. "My mom's take out menus," I said, only half kidding.
My junior year of college, my housemate was an aspiring Stepford wife. She made everything from scratch. One day she told me she was going to make a chocolate cake. "But we don't have cake mix," I informed her. She looked at me like I was crazy. "I don't need cake mix," she said. I quietly wondered just how she was going to accomplish this without a mix. It never occurred to me that one could make a cake with flour, sugar, milk and eggs. I (sheepishly) watched her measure, pour, whisk, bake and create. All she had to do was follow the recipe and liquids became solids (and vise versa). It felt a bit like watching a magician perform an illusion that you know has a logical answer, but you just can't wrap your mind around it.
A year later I discovered Nigella Bites on the Style Network. A show imported from the UK and featuring a dark-haired, British woman who clearly loved to eat (as illustrated by her curvy figure), Nigella Lawson taught me that preparing food is a form of entertainment that was almost as fun as, well, sex. The camera work was borderline pornographic, with shots of Lawson sucking up oil-soaked spaghetti, naked chickens being rubbed down with butter, the pop and sizzle sounds of a ham as it developed its brown sugar crackling. But most impressive to me was the chopping. Nigella's Global knife glinted and flashed as she quickly diced an onion ("it need not be cut perfectly," she would say), chopped carrots or deboned a duck. Until then, I never realized that the act of cooking itself could be so full of pleasure. A type of creation, but better yet, a creation that can be celebrated and nourish family & friends. That same day, I purchased my very first cook book, Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess .
I proved to be a natural baker from charlottes to pavlovas, biscotties to pies. It's all about measuring, following directions and maintaining as much control over your cooking environment as possible. Around the same time, I stumbled onto Julie Powell's blog. I thoroughly enjoyed following Julie's exploits and cheering on her successes. Both Julie Powell and Julia Child's fearlessness encouraged me to branch out and expand my culinary horizons to include savory dishes. I made room on my new cook book shelf for The Silver Spoon, Molecular Gastronomy) and the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook. I read cook books like they were novels, until I realized there was a whole genre of books about food and cooking like As They Were, The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
In 2006, I caught the Julia Child fever when My Life in France was published. I read about Child's life even before I tried any of her recipes. I got caught up in her spirit, her humor and the voice -- which by now I was googling online for video clips just so I could hear it. One of the most defining quotes from My Life in France is actually attributed to Paul Child, Julia's husband: "If variety is the spice of life, my life must be one of the spiciest you ever heard of. A curry of a life." It was the Childs' zest for life and how they embraced the journey, even the unknown, that made me approach my own unknown challenges with more enjoyment and less fear.
I only recently started cooking from Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 1, when a copy of the book was given to me at the Julie & Julia set sale. I perused the book, afraid the Julia Child I had gotten to know through My Life in France and her biography wouldn't be as evident in cook book speak. But, I began to finding familiar phrases and Julia's same authoritative, exacting voice, still with that hint of humor and mischief. The first recipe I tried was simple and perfectly suited for the start of cherry season, the cherry clafoutis. I followed the recipe to the letter and the resulting clafoutis was sweet but slightly tart, and a little custardy. Like a more dense version of a crepe. It was delicious.
I might not yet be ready to master Julia's omelette or French bread recipes, but my culinary mentors have taught me to embrace cooking and food in a way I never witnessed growing up: with conviction, love, joy, and absolute fearlessness.
Oscar Nominated Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci Cook It Up Over Julie & Julia
Looking very Julia Child-like, actor Meryl Streep stepped up to the press conference table in a long grey dress cut to her mid-calf, wearing a string of pearls. Her interview partner Stanley Tucci -- who plays Child's husband, Paul -- is clad in a dark sport coat and white open shirt.
At this event, timed to the original release of the film Julie & Julia, Streep was her usual effervescent self, while Tucci performed as the snarky comic counterpoint. They both seem to have enjoyed playing these characters so much so that it's no surprise that her starring role has led Streep to garner a Golden Globe and another Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Though Streep went on to get hosannas from her next movie It's Complicated -- another film in which the 60-year-old actress plays a vibrant woman who transcends the implication of her age -- and stop-motion animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox, it's the twists and turns provided by director Nora Ephron in J & J that makes the intertwined stories of legendary French chef Child and her blogger fan Julie Powell the best of the bunch.
The wife of a diplomat in 1949 Paris, Child wonders how to pass the time so she tries hat-making, bridge-playing, and cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu school. Once she discovers her passion for food -- which eventually leads to her seminal book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a career that made her the first star televison chef during the '50s and '60s.
Then, in 2002, writer Powell (played by the endearing Amy Adams) -- about to turn 30 with an unpublished novel and working aimless jobs -- decides to cook her way through Child's book in a year and blog about it -- and that became the book Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. With sympathetic, loving husbands in tow, The film undulates between these two stories of women both learning to cook and finding their own success through it.
The tireless Streep has approached her career with a similar passion that was unexpected at first. From her first film role ironically in a film titled Julia, Streep transfered her ample skills as a Yale Drama School trained actress, to film and has led her to be nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing 16 times, with two wins so far.
Q: Because Julia Child was such a character, was there the additional challenge of not doing an impersonation that might veer into parody -- Nora Ephron said that you did a Julia Child for her one night after Shakespeare in the Park...
MS: Well, I bet everybody in this room could do their version of Julia Child. To everybody that voice was so familiar and then how do we know whether we're doing her or Dan Aykroyd's version of her. Everyone can pull that Bon appetit! out of there. When Nora gave me the script, sometime over a year ago, I just thought that it was so, so beautifully written.
It was an opportunity to not impersonate Julia Child, but to do a couple of things. For me, embodying her or Julie Powell's idea of her which is what I'm doing - I'm doing an idealized version, but I was also doing an idealized version of my mother who had a similar joi de vivre -- an undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life.
Every room she walked into she made brighter. I mean, she was really something. I have a good deal of my father in me which is another kind of sensibility, but I really, all my life, wanted to be more like my mother. So this is my little homage to that spirit. That's more what I was doing than actually Julia Child.
Q: The romance between Julia and Paul is so dynamic it's touching to see what you're doing.
Q: How did you create tthis organic-feeling relationship what research did you both do before stepping into their skins?
MS: Well, Stanley and I are often on opposite sides in a very famous Charades game every Christmas. We've been at each other's throats like married people for a really long time, many years [laughs].
We knew each other in that way and I just sort of am in love with him from afar anyway with the totality of the man, from his acting to directing work and in every way. So does everyone who knows him. He's just real treat to work with. It wasn't a tough job to imagine being in love with him.
ST: We have to go now. We are in a hotel after all. Thanks for coming [laughs].
For me it was easy, too. Probably most people in the world I, too, have been in love with Meryl Streep for many, many years. We'd done The Devil Wears Prada together which was really fun and we knew each other a bit socially before that so for me [doing this one] was awesome.
It was incredibly easy. You also make it easy because you're so comfortable. I'm always a little nervous when I start shooting and I was very nervous to play around with that.
MS: We're you nervous when we started?
ST: I was so nervous. I was. You made me feel so comfortable. It was nice.
MS: You know what Nora did -- she did what she called a costume test, but it was really sort of introducing us to our world. She took us up to the rooms which they built in the Paris apartment that she built in Queens, or wherever they were, and let us walk around in our clothes. In isolation, in your Winnebago, or whatever it is, you kind of have a hard time convincing yourself that you are who you say you are.
When you walk into this world and the light comes in a certain way and the landscape of Paris - a photograph but still - and here's the man of your dreams, it all came together before we had to actually [do it]. That was a big day.
ST: Yes, I remember. Those actual physical elements really helped a great deal.
Q: What would you have asked the people you played in this film if you had the chance?
ST: I'd like to ask them how they lived so long eating what they ate. I'm convinced that they both had two livers. I'd just be curious.
I can't say that I know what I would've asked them, but what I would've liked to have done is watch the interaction between the two of them in that little kitchen -- either in Paris or in Boston -- because to me that was the most interesting thing. When you see that kitchen, we recreated it in the film, it was so casual and really very intimate. I would've just liked to have watch that, watch them put together a meal. That would've been a great thing.
MS: I would agree. I would've loved to have heard Paul's voice. Julia's is so vivid and she left behind such an articulate trail of her journey in the book that she wrote with Alex [Prud'Homme] and in My Life In France and in her cook books. Her voice really comes through. I would've loved to have heard him because he was a great storyteller and his interests ranged across a wide variety of topics and I'm sure that he was sort of a really interesting person to hear.
Q: Julia Child went through so many challenges in the beginning of her career. What were some of the challenges that you both went through as you started out as actors?
MS: Well, my challenge was committing to acting, thinking that it was a serious enough thing to do with my life. What are you going to do with your one wild life? I just didn't think it was. I don't know. I thought it was sort of silly and vain, acting, even though it was the most fun that I had ever done. It remains that, ergo, it can't be good for me.
It was just deciding. I remember thinking the first time that someone said, "Well, what do you -" and I said, 'I'm a. I'm uh an actor." Then I had committed I realized, but it took a long time.
ST: I took it too seriously at first and it took me a long time to understand that you have to be serious about what you do but you mustn't take yourself seriously. That way you'll be happier and ultimately you'll be more successful. You'll be better at what you do.
I think the challenges for me at the beginning. Well, it was much easier after I lost my hair, to tell you the truth. I started to work constantly once I started to lose it. So I'm thinking about losing the hair on my whole body. That's disgusting.
MS: That's going to be repeated everywhere now and it's going to come back to haunt you [laughs].
Q: What were some of the best bonding experiences you had over food either on this movie or elsewhere.
MS: Well, we bonded. I mean, I knew Stanley, but I thought, "Well, I might as well invite him over for dinner." So he and Kate [his wife] came and I decided I'd make blanquette de veau and it was not quite done when he arrived and so he came in and completely took over in the kitchen.
ST: We tried to do it together, but we had too much wine. "Why are you doing that way?"
MS: "Is that what you're going to do?" "Seriously, I'm just asking [laughs]."
ST: "Why do you hold it that way?"
MS: "Can I just. " "It's okay." "I can show you an easier way." Boom. It was out of my hands. He's just a great chef and I'm a cook.
ST: You're very kind. It was a fun night, but we didn't eat until about 11 or so. My wife Kate came and said, "What time are we eating?" I said, "I think we'll be done cooking about eight." She goes, "We're not going to make that."
Q: What were your favorite food memories of either chefs and restaurants?
MS: Great, great tomatoes, but my mother was the The I Hate To Cook cookbook by Peg Bracken. Do you remember that? No. Not in your family. I remember when I was 10 going up to a little girl's house up the street and she and her mother were sitting at the table and they were doing something to tennis balls and I said, "What are you doing?" They said, "Making mash potatoes." I said, "What do you mean? Mash potatoes come in a box."
They were potatoes. They were peeling potatoes and I had never seen a real potato. So my mother's motto was, "If it's not done in 20 minutes it's not dinner." She had a lot that she wanted to do and cooking wasn't one of those things.
My food memories, I mean I think Julia Child really did change the whole [thing]. I recently found my knitting book at the bottom of knitting bag from 1967. It wasn't a knitting book. It was a magazine that had some knitting patterns in it and it was called Women's Day from 1967. It was filled with recipes and food ads and it's all Delmonte canned peas, Delmonte canned corn, Delmonte peas and corn, green beans and all the recipes are, like, take ground meat and put artificial mashed potatoes, layer it, top it off with tomato sauce out of a jar, put it in the oven and presto it's dinner. This is how we ate. People forget. Julia changed the way that people thought about cooking. It was great.
Q: if you had the opportunity what chef would you like to have over and what would you like them to cook for you?
MS: Dan Barber [from Blue Hill].
Q: What would you have him make for you?
MS: Anything that was fresh up there.
Q: And Stanley -- you were there at The James Beard Awards -- everybody was there that night -- who would you have picked?
ST: My grandmother, but she wasn't there. She was an extraordinary cook. There that night. There were so many of them, but Mario Batali I think in a lot of ways. Yeah, Mario.
Q: Did you do your own Julia imitation?
ST: No. I never did. I would've been fired.
Q: Meryl, you said that you had a hard time committing to acting. What were some of the other things you were taking seriously at that time?
MS: Well, when I was in drama school I was obsessed with Jonathan Schell's book The Fate of the Earth. I've always been interested in environmental issues and I still am. That seems to me be worthwhile work, but over time I understood, just what I think from other people's work, we need art as much as we need good works. You need it like food. You need it for inspiration to keep going on the days that your low. We need each other in that way.
So I've reconciled myself to the fact that you can make a contribution. I've even reconciled myself to the fact that even my children might choose this profession. They seem to be, and now that's okay. Really I was pushing the sciences but it's just not going to happen.
Q: Meryl, how hard or easy has it been to stay focused with all the success you've had in recent years?
MS: You know what, I didn't think about it. I really didn't think about either sustaining my career or my voice. I haven't really thought about it. I'm like every other actor, I've been unemployed more than I've been working because of the nature of what we do. We just have a lot of downtime even though it seems like you're working, working, working.
So I've never gotten used to either working or being out of work. It's a very uncertain life and there are only a few people that would sign up to be married to someone else doing that. My husband is an artist and he understands that, the vagaries of the job. I just take it as everyday is a miracle and I'm really glad that I'm still working and that people are not sick of me. Even I'm sick of me a little bit.
Q: You're now a box office star -- has that changed anything about the choices that you make now?
MS: I seem to have more choices in the last five years in the previous five years, maybe. I really don't know why that is, but part of me thinks it has to do with the fact that there are more women executives making decisions because everything starts with what gets made and where the money comes from. I'm sure that they've had more to do with that really than I have.
Q: How do you deal with all the accolades?
MS: Well, fortunately, the blogospshere supplies you with the other side of all the accolades [laughs]. Just sign on and get humble.