New Jersey & Julia: Perfect Together
I met the wonderful, inimitable Julia Child only once but, amazingly, New Jersey (and her wry sense of humor) figured prominently in that encounter.
About 14 years ago, having more or less fallen into food writing as a sideline I was contemplating leaving my day job. (A move, clearly, I have never regretted.) To help me decide I signed up for a food writers’ workshop at The Greenbrier. Among the slated presenters was Ms. Child. On the first morning each attendee was asked to give a short personal introduction. Sitting in the first row was that famous face and six-foot-plus frame. Even though she was a speaker, not a student like the rest of us, she stood up when it was her turn and without a hint of irony said, “My name is Julia Child and I teach cooking on television.” The room erupted, as you may well imagine.
Going down the line, a fellow from the culinary program at Atlantic Cape Community College introduced himself. The next person quipped something to the effect that he was delighted to hear that New Jersey had a cooking school in addition to oil tanks – and oh, yeah – which exit off the turnpike was it anyway. When it came my turn, I began by saying that I write for newspapers and magazines in New Jersey because contrary to popular belief, we do actually have them.
After that, many of the attendees made humorous references to our fair state and their connection to it. When everyone had had a turn, Julia Child stood up again and, with a twinkle in her eye, said that she had left out something extremely important from her introduction: that she, too had a connection to New Jersey. This time the room erupted in gales of laughter. It turned out that her husband, Paul, had been born in Montclair and she and Paul had often visited his parents there. By the way: when it came time for our first writing assignment, Child completed the exercise as if she were just one of us students.
Congrats to Ruth Alegria of Mexico Soul and Essence
The cooking classes of my good friend Ruth Alegria, founder and original owner of Princeton’s Mexican Village II (now Tortuga’s Mexican Village), rank among the top 5 in all of Mexico in the current issue of Saveur magazine, which is devoted entirely to the culinary traditions of that country. Alegria, who established Mexico Soul and Essence when she relocated to Mexico City several years ago, leads cultural and culinary tours of that city and conducts cooking classes in her kitchen. She’s a real insider – co-founder of a local Slow Food chapter who knows all the top chefs, the best local markets, and the best street food.
Rosie Has the Latest Goods on the Ryland Inn Opening
Speaking of good friends, my buddy Rosie Saferstein has lots of details on the renovations and progress at the Ryland Inn, which is scheduled to open soon. Check them out (including photos) at her Table Hopping with Rosie column at njmonthly.com.