Dishing: Great Dishes--and Dish--from America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnistby Liz Smith
This juicy extravaganza of a book is at once a star-studded memoir, a mouthwatering reminiscence about great food and great meals, and a very special kind of cookbook by Liz Smith, bestselling author and surely America's most beloved gossip columnist (indeed, perhaps the only gossip columnist ever to be universally beloved). Here, great dish and great dishes are… See more details below
This juicy extravaganza of a book is at once a star-studded memoir, a mouthwatering reminiscence about great food and great meals, and a very special kind of cookbook by Liz Smith, bestselling author and surely America's most beloved gossip columnist (indeed, perhaps the only gossip columnist ever to be universally beloved). Here, great dish and great dishes are artfully blended with anecdotes and spiced with Liz's inimitable sense of humor, instinct for a great story, and joie de vivre to produce a life-loving, sometimes bawdy, and always utterly captivating read.
As everybody knows, nothing goes better with a good meal than a little juicy gossip, and no one puts the two together better than Liz Smith, the acknowledged grande dame of gossip, who traces here her gradual education in haute cuisine, as well as her unashamed taste for down-home, stick-to-the-ribs cooking.
When it comes to food, Liz Smith has seen it all (and eaten much of it). She has watched Nicole Kidman devour a basket of bread before a full dinner at New York's glamorous Four Seasons restaurant and not gain an ounce. She has eaten al fresco off the hood of a car with Mike Nichols. She has been tempted by fattening cookies sent by Renée Zellweger. She has talked biscuits and gravy with Julia Roberts and eaten Elizabeth Taylor's trademark Jailhouse Chili and Chipped Beef à la Krupp Diamond.
No food snob, Liz Smith revels in such dishes as Elvis Presley's favorite sandwich (peanut butter and banana) or Frito Pie (you'll love both these once you've tried them). But she is equally fond of haute cuisine, of four-star restaurants, and of great gourmet experiences. She shares with the reader all this andmuch, much more, eating, as she puts it, "high and low on the hog," from her favorite Chicken-Fried Steak recipe to Deep-fried Turkey (real men deep-fry a turkey, they don't roast it) and her classic Lobster Rolls recipe, with a pause for her advice on how to make the perfect margarita to wash it all down. From Kate Hepburn's brownies to pigs' feet, Liz not only names names but shares their most treasured recipes, as well as taking the reader on a gourmet tour of great meals.
As Liz herself says, "Reading about food is the next best thing to eating it. People seek companionship, comfort, reassurance, a sense of warmth, and well-being from food. Maybe they can get some of that from this book."
- Simon & Schuster
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- 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Read an Excerpt
Food, Glorious Food!
(As They Sang in the Musical Oliver!)
"Nearly everyone wants at least one outstanding meal a day,"
On the other hand, I am taken with former restaurateur Dan Ho's sardonic, "I've always found it funny that we've all decided cooking and feeding are high art. Art lasts; you know what food becomes!"
Why do we want to glorify food? Food makes us fat, and in these times, being fat is not a good thing. We aren't out there anymore as field hands, warriors on horseback, or hunters and gatherers just trying to keep body and soul together with enough nourishment to sustain ourselves day-to-day. We are actively working to avoid food, with its attendant evils fat, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity weighing down our bones and muscles, and so on. As someone has pointed out, instead of being hunters and gatherers, these days we are shoppers and consumers.
But Thackeray said, "Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read about them."
Ah, reading about food. Now, that's another matter. Setting tables in our minds can be quite a lot of fun. And Clifton Fadiman noted that we are all food writers in our way, "every man...having in him an autobiographical novel....This would consist of an account of ourselves as eaters, recording the development of our palates, telling over like the beads of a rosary the memories of the best meals of our lives." He added that writing about food belongs to "the literature of power, linking brain to stomach, etherealizing the euphoria of feeding with the finer essence ofreflection."
Ford Madox Ford said that Anglo-Saxons don't really talk about food any more than they talk about love and heaven. But he certainly found food a fit subject as he deplored other forms of popular passion: "The tantrums of cloth-headed celluloid idols are deemed fit for grown-up conversation, while silence settles over such a truly important matter as food."
Well, I personally have had a lifetime of talking, writing, and lecturing about "cloth-headed celluloid idols" over fifty years in the gossip and show biz vineyard. So it has been a relief to abandon celebrity culture, infotainment, sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll and think about food. My philosophy is that you can serve people fattening food. In their hearts they'll love you for it and maybe even forgive you for it. The answer to the problem lies in not doing it too often nor to excess, and the answer also lies in the self-discipline of eaters when it comes to proportion. The great and attractive cooking of France and Italy seems rich and fattening to the diet-conscious, but it's funny, no one I know ever gains weight on vacations in those countries. You'd have to be a real pig. If one never serves anything forbidden or delicious, then it seems to me you are forcing a kind of unilateral "it's good for you" regime on your guests. We need to do unusual, wonderful things for special occasions. People must diet on their own terms and at their own times. The great New York hostesses I know always offer fabulous menus and assume their guests have common sense.
Dieting is probably the most unpleasant word in our current lexicon. It can make us awfully unhappy even as we embrace its necessity. It is noted that before he was executed in 1984, one Ronald O'Bryan ordered his last meal a T-bone steak, french fries, salad, and iced tea. With the tea he took an artificial sweetener, not sugar. A reporter observed, "He was going for the healthy option."
Even cookbook authors get the overkill blues. Reporter Chris Howes points to disgust as "the strongest emotion seeping out of the late Elizabeth David's Christmas book. She loathed December 25 and said, " 'My Christmas day eating and drinking would consist of an omelette and cold ham and a nice bottle of wine at lunchtime and a smoked salmon sandwich with a glass of champagne on a tray in bed in the evening.'"
As the old saw goes, "Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening," and some people do associate eating as a surrogate for illicit sex wickedly tempting, licentious, or guilt inducing. So reading about food is the next best thing to eating it. People want to eat and not gain weight just as they like to have sex without getting pregnant, but the only comparable contraceptive would be to read a book rather than eat everything or even anything described in it. Mr. Howes adds, "For consumers of food porn, cookery books are not manuals but fantasy reading if it can be called reading."
People seek companionship, comfort, reassurance, a sense of warmth and well-being from food. Maybe they can get some of that from this book.
Copyright © 2005 by Liz Smith
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A very disappointing book in the end. A disjointed memoir, but not really a memoir - just kind of an incomplete stringing together of columns along with some (unappetizing) 'recipes' and vague tales of her family dinner table in Texas. Just when you think she may be onto something good the chapter ends or the subject abruptly changes. Lots of strange concoctions for mexican food. Weird and unsatisfying.
What's better than gossip with your gnocchi, tell-alls with your tea, or rumors with your rib roast? Everyone loves to eat and, whether we'll admit it or not, we all enjoy hearing the lascivious latest. Liz Smith, who well knows her way around a table and a tantalizing tale, has combined dish with recipes in her latest book. The title is 'Dishing,' and it's all gravy. You gotta' love a gal who schmoozes with the rich and fabulous admitting that she once took a children's course in table manners after being flummoxed by a finger bowl during lunch with Mrs. Vincent Astor. It was during this class at the Plaza that she learned the appropriate way to leave a table: '......'we must never explain why we are leaving the table if we do. Simply get up and say `Excuse me,' and fold the napkin across the back of the chair so the waiter will know you plan to return.' This came as news to the former resident of Fort Worth, Texas, whose constant childhood dish was milk toast, and where her mother insisted that she and her siblings eat watermelon in the bathtub because it was easier to hose them off afterwards. However, Texas is, as we know, where the stars are big and bright - there must have also been a lucky one for Miz Liz to be born under because one of the first to become her friend in New York City was Sirio, a waiter. Later, Sirio Maccioni would own a famous restaurant, Le Cirque. Another famous restauranteur, Henri Soule, taught her the proper way to eat caviar, and she hilariously recalls the time he gifted her with an expensive case of wine. Having no idea of the value of this rare Chateau Petrus, she served it to her friends along with chili. There's very little, whether it's food or the famous, that this author has missed. There's a memorable dinner in Paris with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and she sat with Nicole Kidman as the svelte star polished off every roll and bread in the table basket. Amongst all the glitterati with whom has she shared the most unusual meals? Malcolm Forbes. 'My first meeting with Malcolm, she writes, 'was at a private dinner given by Barbara Walters where Malcolm roared up on a motorcycle and came in wearing black tie, carrying his helmet. He offered me a ride home but I dislike flying through thin air at sixty miles an hours.' Theirs was a mutually beneficial friendship, as he enjoyed the publicity she offered his magazine while she enjoyed being a guest on his yacht and visiting the Forbes chateau in Normandy. (Who wouldn't?) Nonetheless, according to Miz Liz the most outstanding meal they shared was a breakfast at his office building which housed his museum quality collectibles. On this occasion Forbes had the table decorated with his Faberge eggs, scattered about among the napkins and silver. 'Dishing' is subtitled 'Great Dish - and Dishes - from America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist.' And, dishes there are - recipes for everything from Elvis's favorite potato sandwich to 'Chipped Beef a la Krupp Diamond' courtesy of Liz Taylor. With her column now syndicated in more than 70 newspapers, Miz Liz knows how to write, and even though she's been thinking about 'turning her apartment kitchen into a closet,' she knows what to eat and where to eat it. 'Dishing' is a fun feast - pull up a chair and enjoy it. - Gail Cooke
I have been a fan of Liz Smith's for years. This book is a winner. I never had so much fun. I felt as if I ate my way with her around the world. It led me to eat my first Chicken friend steak. Liz is right. Chicken fried steak is awesome! I highly recommend this book you'll lean a lot about people you always wanted to know more about. Don't miss this one.