with Judith Jones
Jones, a renowned food writer and former editor for Knopf
Publishing, recently shared dinner with students in the
first-year seminar "What's in a Recipe?" taught by Nancy
Saporta Sternbach, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, on
her way to a reading and book signing for The
Pleasures of Cooking for One at the Odyssey Bookshop
in nearby South Hadley. This is students' account of
Judith Jones knows food. She
knows how to cook, how to taste, and is particularly keen
on the use of garlic.
Students hang on the words
of Judith Jones during a recent dinner (click on picture
for enlarged view).
It was with this knowledge that
we students in the course “What’s in
a Recipe?” recently
brainstormed a meal for the well-known food writer and editor.
As the crucial voice that gave the nod to Julia Child's Mastering
the Art of French Cooking, Jones made a name for herself
in the literary world by publishing Marcella Hazan, Claudia
Roden, and other cookbook giants under the Knopf imprint.
Jones is also the editor responsible for publishing The
Diary of Anne Frank.
"What’s in a Recipe?” a class often mistakenly referred to as Professor Sternbach’s “cooking
class,” has been discussing recipes as important cultural
records. In preparation for Jones’ visit, we set into a flurry
of preparation, debating whether butternut squash or onion
soup would be more appropriate and trying to find the perfect
dishes containing abundant doses of garlic.
As we gathered
in Sternbach's kitchen to make soup, a salad, and some delicious
Turkish mezes, accompanied by organic artisan bread from
Northampton's Hungry Ghost bakery, a new “embedded discourse” was
unfolding, mingling with the stories already attached to
the recipes. We were truly interacting with the recipes to
create a meal that could not only be consumed but also enjoyed.
The entire class decided to
wait on the corner of the street to signal Jones in anticipation
of her arrival, in fear that she would miss the house. The
meal passed smoothly, with Jones recounting stories about
Child, including how much she had enjoyed her time at Smith!
We all laughed at Jones' spot-on imitations of Julia's voice
and mannerisms that rivaled Meryl Streep. Several students
remarked that many of the things she expressed in conversation
were perfect parallels to what we had been discussing in
class. It was a great feeling of validation for what we had
been doing all semester.
On a crisp autumn afternoon
in November the sound of laughter filled the air. Looking
into the dining room one would find a group of about 10 young
women huddled around a table listening intently to the words
of a poised and graceful 85-year-old woman.
When we began
talking about Jones' new book, The Pleasures
of Cooking for One, she shared her personal belief about how it is important
to honor oneself by cooking a nice dinner. She does this
for herself every night, along with setting the table properly,
putting on some music and pouring herself a glass of wine.
The care Jones takes to set time aside every day to enjoy
a hearty meal greatly contrasts with the hurrying or skipping
of meals, which is increasingly becoming a reality within
our country. "We rush through meals and make eating
into a thing to do in between other events instead of making
it its own, very special event," she said.
welcomed our gesture, and wanted to hear and taste our stories.
As she sat down to the table, we thought she'd been eavesdropping
on our class when she said, "Every
recipe has a story," which is a universal theme we have been
studying. She repeatedly expressed, both during tea and at
her book signing and discussion at the Odyssey Bookshop
how proud she thought Julia Child would be that students
from her beloved alma matter had taken such an interest in
food and cooking and what those two things mean in terms
of history, culture, and family.
We all agreed: Judith Jones
seems to be handing us the torch. She was so glad to see
the next generation, who also saw the need to create beauty
out of recipes, boiling over with an adoration of food.