I read Nora Ephron for the first time this week to learn why everyone — even people she didn’t know — was so very, very sad when she died. Plus, I’d heard her writing was funny and I needed a lift after reading Flannery O’Connor. No one mentioned Nora Ephron was a foodie — one who included recipes in the program for her own memorial service. And of course, she penned one of the most famous food lines in Hollywood: “I’ll have what she’s having” for When Harry Met Sally. Why I didn’t know Nora Ephron wrote and directed my favorite food movie, Julie & Julia, an account of a blogger cooking her way through Julia Child’s The Art of Mastering French Cooking, baffles me.
Ephron’s novel Heartbreak, a humorous and thinly veiled account of her divorce from Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, included recipes. She bound her personal collection of 174 recipes and distributed them to friends. She also compiled a collection of her own recipes as a gift for the crew of Julie & Julia. Her friends are loyal because even after her death those self-published books aren’t for sale or lurking on the internet. She never published a cookbook, though her longtime assistant told the New York Times she refused several offers to write one.
Instead, she wanted to cook. She cooked for friends and family, and entertained chefs, having imaginary conversations with them as she prepared their recipes for them. She even cooked on Martha Stewart’s show.
Ephron includes a chapter on chefs and cooking in I Feel Bad About My Neck. and describes one of her favorite meals as Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Barbecued Shrimp. She also had a fondness for soft shell crabs. She loved butter and crab dip. In fact, her favorite crab dip recipe is in Heartbreak. Growing up in Southern California, one of the family’s cooks was from New Orleans, so Nora was raised on Southern food.
Considering the facts, gumbo for Nora should be Seafood Filé Gumbo from Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. For dessert, her own Key Lime Pie that she cooked on Martha Stewart’s show.
And after reading her work I think I discovered why everyone loved Nora – she was wonderfully honest in both life and writing.