Nora’s Cookbook

I recently applied to the HBO Writing Fellowship via Film Freeway. The application process helped me to organize myself, my resume, my portfolio, my digital-professional world.

HBO required a pilot script. I submitted “Stringer,” a half-hour dramedy about a single, working mom who begins a job in journalism after a long hiatus. Julia Gray is struggling to keep it all together and lives a stringed-together existence, but she’s making it. She’s building something beyond the stigma of poverty, depression and divorce.

In the pilot, we meet some of Julia’s editors, some of her “village” and her kids. We’re introduced to Julia’s unique ways of coping and we begin to understand the state of Journalism. The industry is in survival-mode and this plays out as a central theme throughout “Stringer.”

Part of the application included two narrative essays. The randomly generated questions were ideal for me: talk about my writing space and discuss my favorite author.

For the latter, I chose Nora Ephron. Sorry-not-sorry for my obsession with Nora! As with most of my obsessions, it comes and goes. In the thick of obsessing, I discovered “Nora’s Cookbook,” Ephron’s own homage to her obsession with food, cooking and living life in good taste.

The cookbook wasn’t for sale, anywhere. So, what I do know about it is heresay, sadly.  I began to piece together all the information I could find about the 174-page cookbook that Nora created for her close friends. It became a mystery to solve, a catalyst to feel closer to a mentor I never got to meet, a side-project that I hoped would one day lead to me seeing- with my own eyes- recipes from an official copy of “Nora’s Cookbook.”

Ephron wrote it in her true fashion of honesty and quality, humor and candor. She offered her wisdom about piecrust (buy it from the store) and included recipes like “Joan Didion’s Mexican Chicken Thing” and “Ben Bradlee’s Scrambled Eggs.” According to the L.A. Times Ephron wrote: “Everyone loves fried chicken, Don’t ever make it. Ever. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken.”  On a ‘complicated recipe for chocolate buttercream icing’, Ephron wrote, ‘I have never made it and I never will. But I have eaten it and it’s great’.”

I began a recipe index, since I couldn’t get my own copy, collecting quotes and bits. Any time I read something by Nora about food, I’d jot it down and save it to my list. I’d make my own Nora cookbook, I figured.

I emulated Nora’s recipes and advice and I listened to and viewed audio and video of Nora cooking. In many of her interviews she talks about food. On an episode of “The Martha Stewart Show,” Ephron “bakes” her key lime pie. The classy banter and rousing between Martha and Nora about former husbands is the meriengue on the pie!


nora's Tzimmes

Photo credit The New York Times (although I’m curious where they obtained it from…)

Now, in my kitchen, I refer to Nora’s recipes whenever appropriate.  I never make my own pie crust and I have yet to find a local place that makes pineapple shakes, just like the ones Nora raved about even as she was hospitalized at the end of her illness. And I seek counsel with her on other issues, too. She said that around age 42 a woman’s neck begins to “go.” It’s just inevitable, she said.

So, in honor of Nora Ephron, and obsessions, in March and April the blog will be devoted to all things skincare. I’ll interview local skincare goddesses and talk about my own lux and budget self-care journey. There will be some surprises and collaborations, as well.

Happy March.