A slew of remembrances have been making their way across social media sites since it was announced that Nora Ephron died last night at 71 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia. The inimitable essayist-novelist-screenwriter-director-playwright-etc.-etc. inspired countless writers — particularly women — with her unique brand of humor, wit and sass.
One of the many tributes that caught my eye was one by Ephron’s pal Ed Levine, founder of the food website Serious Eats. Titled “My Friend Nora Ephron Is Dead: The World Has Lost Someone Very Special,” the essay focuses on Ephron’s connection to food, which was a thread that ran through much of her work.
For instance, in “Heartburn,” the story of her painful divorce from Carl Bernstein, she interspersed recipes amidst the bitter recounting of affairs and betrayal. Levine calls her 1975 essay collection Crazy Salad “…some of the most prescient non-fiction writing about food and life ever written.” And, of course, Ephron wrote and directed “Julie and Julia,” the 2009 film that is an ode to both the rapture and the precision of cooking.
Levine writes about when Ephron came to the Serious Eats kitchens in New York for taste tests of frozen biscuits and pastrami. He also reminisces about how she invited him to be an extra on “Julie and Julia.” Here is an excerpt from the essay:
Last November we had her and her wonderful husband Nick Pileggi (the author of Wise Guy and the screenwriter for the resulting Good Fellas), and Calvin Trillin over for dinner. In Trillin’s honor I had some burnt ends and beans shipped from LC’s in Kansas City, and for Nora I had fried chicken from Rack and Soul, delivered by Charles Gabriel himself. For dessert my wife Vicky made an incredible lemon cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Nora and Nick and Trillin sat in our living room and talked about how great the Serious Eats book was. I had sent them all copies, and it sounded as though they had actually read it. Nora and Nick practically recited chapter and verse from it. I floated through the rest of the evening.
With her characteristic grace and style, she e-mailed me a thank you note the next day:
That was so much fun and so delicious. Thanks to you and Vicky …. I am still thinking about that lemon cake. And the beans. Omigod the beans. Congratulations again on the book. It’s just terrific. xxx n&n