A Few American Food Moments
November 10, 2015
It’s hard to believe now, but when the American Institute of Wine and Food (chaired by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi), decided to throw an All American Celebration with a menu created by an octet of young American chefs, the idea was met with deep skepticism. “Too many chefs will ruin the soup,” was the general feeling.
There were a LOT of chefs. In addition to the ones above, whose signatures were splashed across the front of the menu, there was Mark Miller (long before Coyote Cafe) and Wolfgang Puck (whose Spago was still new). Why were their signatures not included? Not a clue. But the chefs played beautifully together and proved everybody wrong. The meal, at San Francisco’s Stanford Court, was a triumph.
Here’s the menu:
Very bold of Barbara Kafka, I must say, to serve tripe gumbo!
And here, just because I just found them, are two more menus of the time. The first is dinner at Greens, when Deborah Madison was the chef. Note the price: $18 for a three-course meal.
And finally, a special menu from the New Boonville Hotel in the Anderson Valley, in honor of Marion Cunningham’s birthday. There were just six of us: Alice Waters, Stephen Singer, Judy Rodgers, John Hudspeth, Marion and me.
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This reminds me of the poignant evening I just spent in Portsmouth NH with James “Buddy” Haller reading from his new memoir “Salt + Pepper Cooking” — about his earliest cooking experiments and the creation of The Blue Strawbery, the place that revolutionized the restaurant scene and inspired the chefs of Portsmouth. Courageous menus. Brilliant blends. And just plain delicious. http://www.portsmouthnh.com/event/authorchef-james-haller-salt-pepper-cooking/
I spent one night every summer back in the day eating at the Blue Strawberry. They were all fabulous dinners remembered very fondly.
it is fascinating to read stories directly from someone who has been there with all of the food ‘heroes’ of a generation that change the way we embrace food now. Thank you for sharing such great memories!
It is so wonderful to receive your emails again, Ruth. I missed them while you must have been on your book tour. (The book is fabulous!) And I look forward to reading your emails every day.
I know, I know, the whole subject here is the dinners. But when I saw the Greens menu, I was lost in the glories of actual calligraphy written by hand by a human making a work of art. A lost complement to the art of the meal. Sigh.
Joella, your comment gave me a little thrill. My father actually had his own little publishing house in the fifties – Archway Press – devoted to books all written in calligraphy. He didn’t publish that many books, but the ones that he did are very beautiful.
As Jim Harrison has written: food is memory. Thank-you for sharing yours.
I was just reading about Robin Kahn and Kirby Gookin’s current exhibition “The Value of Food” at St. John the Divine and I couldn’t help but think that you would fit in that group. Writing about food at the level of art. This recollection of special meals and menus brings the archival imperative to bear on the ephemeral nature of meals, yet the trace of the meal is present in the saved menu. Thank you for your spot on instincts, Ruth! And welcome home! xxMary Anne
Mary Ann Davis captures the reverence a foodie experiences when reading the menus you found. I have been saving Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines since the 1990 and enjoy looking back occasionally on the early creativity in food that has brought us to the present. Thank you for sharing history.
My apologies to everyone who thought the blog went away while I was on tour. Actually, it didn’t – you can scroll back and see what you missed. It’s just that I had the blog redesigned – thank you Ben at Glass Embassy!- and we changed platforms. I didn’t realize that changing the platform meant losing the RSS feed. But that’s fixed now. And I’ll do my best to keep posting….
Thank you Mary Anne for you nice comment. Robin Kahn and I invite your readers to visit the exhibition “The Value of Food” in NYC at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, before it closes on April 3, 2016. The exhibition is arranged like a procession that follows the food cycle from water, soil, seed, to farm, market, meal and waste. We have some artists menus on exhibit (in our Meal section) and much much more. The exhibition is free and the hours are Mon-Sunday 8am-6pm. For more information: http://www.valueoffood.org