Nora Ephron Dead at 71: Why Cooking Matters
Why Cooking Matters
Lead story this morning from NPR reported a British Scientist who has proved, beyond actuarial argument, that healthy old people are a greater burden on society than those who suffer the ill health brought on by bad habits, you know the ones – obesity, diabetes, heart trouble, and cancer and die off early.
Say what? According to this inestimable thinker, those who natter on into their eighties and nineties ultimately cost the state much more because their lingering end-of-life issues are much more costly than the deaths of people in their sixties and seventies which result from the de rigueur lifestyle ailments brought on by eating too much butter, and sour cream, and fat.
All I could think as I heard the reporter droning on was, what would Nora say? You know who I mean. Nora Ephron. Who died yesterday at the age of 71 from pneumonia brought on by leukemia.
Oh, and I confess. I buried the lead to this story – which should have read: Nora Ephron dead at the age of 71. Nora would never have buried the lead.
The Nora Ephron who made America understand that cooking was one legitimate way to understand life and the world. She began her exposition with her break-out novel Heartburn, 1983, based loosely on the breakup of her marriage to Carl Bernstein.
That hilarious roman a clef was shot through with recipes that really worked and that really taste good. I, personally, have made Nora Ephron’s peach pie since that very year and already had volunteered to bring it to the Fourth of July picnic this year – before I learned of Nora’s death.
That is the kind of influence Nora Ephron had on me and millions of others. We knit up her ideas into our lives and – some of us I fear – may have claimed them for our own.
Yes, I confess. I never did think Nora put enough peaches into that pie. I always put four or five, not the three she recommends. But never mind. Until I met Nora Ephron’s famous pie, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of sour cream, sugar and flour stirred together to form a top crust. I’m telling you, it is miles ahead of any kind of lattice crust or solid blanket of dough.
Nora is 2 years younger than me, and thanks to her razor wit, and keen observational abilities, has served as the guide for my entire generation of women.
Where else, but in a Nora Ephron essay, could you learn the truth about the time and attention women give to grooming. These things matter and only Nora had the courage to just spit it out and say so. You may have thought you were the only one suffering the torture of a bikini wax, but Nora showed you that pain is universal.
In fact, her great contribution to our generation, through essays, movies, novels, and blogs, was her attention to detail, the very every-dayness of life that marks us all.
Now she’s gone, who will tell us what to think of ourselves?
I, for one, plan to do a Nora Ephron memorial, through the kitchen door, as Nora herself did, to get through pain and grief. I’m gonna make that famous Lillian Hellman Pot Roast, a classic from the sixties just made for the crockpot, and flavored with cream of mushroom soup, and dried onion soup mix. It was good then. It’s good now.
And I have always known the wisdom of “I’ll have what she’s having”, from When Harry Met Sally, as the woman across the way saw Meg Ryan’s incredible orgasm, and knew it surely must be the Katz’s corned beef sandwich.
And from her final movie, Julia and Julie, a tender homage to her hero and mine, Julia Child, wherein she famously told any reporter who asked, “You can never have too much butter – that’s my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it.”
She’s so quotable I could go on for DAYS, but I’ll leave you with this, “Nothing like mashed potatoes with a big pat of cold butter.”
Thank you Nora Ephron, for your contribution to American life. You will be sorely missed.
Nora Ephron’s Best Peach Pie
1-1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup sour cream
4-5 peeled and thin-sliced dead-ripe peaches
Blend 1-1/4 cup flour with salt, butter and 2 tablespoons of sour cream to form a ball. (You can process this in the food processor until a ball forms, about 45 seconds).
Pat the crust into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 10 minutes at 425° F.
While the crust is baking beat egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/3 cup of sour cream.
Remove the crust from oven. Peel and then slice the peaches into the crust. Pour sugar-sour cream mixture over the arranged peaches. Cover with aluminum foil.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake until filling sets (this could take 15 to 20 minutes).Pin It