Without doubt, what I love best about this blog are the people it has lead me to, total strangers who have become virtual friends. And at the top of that list is a woman I greatly admire, Mary L. Tabor. And so today, it is my great honor to talk with the writer about her seductive new memoir, (Re) Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story. First, buy the book by clicking HERE. Then, settle in for a delicious conversation with Mary, complete with her recipe for finding lasting love…
FOODINISTA: Your first book, a collection of short stories, is The Woman Who Never Cooked. Who is that woman? How does she differ from you?
MARY: I am hidden inside the fiction and oddly or maybe not so odd, I included three memoir pieces that I don’t identify as such. That’s the first tip-off. In the fiction, I used food and adultery as metaphor for the grief I bore through my mother’s, my father’s and my sister’s illnesses and deaths. I wasn’t sure who I was. I didn’t know when I wrote “The Woman Who Never Cooked,” the title story, that I would become that woman. The story relies on cooking, despite its title, and scrolls through recipes from some of my favorites: The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking, The Ramognolis’ Table, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, Chez Panisse Desserts, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, Gourmet’s Best Desserts, Silver Palate Desserts.
I stopped cooking after D. in my memoir left me. Was I prescient? I don’t think so. I do think that cooking and love and family are inextricably entwined.
I’m cooking again. I know that’s a good sign.
FOODINISTA: What is the great seduction dish of all time?
MARY: It begins with a joke and ends with a kiss. I read this recently somewhere: “Vacationing in Vermont, someone picked up the local paper to check out the forecast. It read: Today: Sunny, 76. Tonight: Not so sunny, 55.” I laughed and thought of eating lobster at a lobster shack somewhere in Maine. That’s near Vermont, right? Geography is not my long suit. For me, boiled lobster is the ultimate seduction dish. And I’ll never forget watching Darryl Hannah eat one shell and all in a Rom-Com I love: Splash. But I hear she’s a vegetarian so that was a very complicated lobster.
Complicated is good where love is concerned.
If I were going to seduce a man, I would make Pierre Franey’s (the 60-Minute Gourmet whose passing left a hole in my favorite rag The New York Times that Mark Bittman has done a great job of filling) chocolate mousse and his Strawberries Romanoff (strawberries steeped in Grand Marnier, orange peel and topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream).
Dessert first. Then make love and think about food later when you’re starving.
FOODINISTA: Your new memoir (Re)Making Love is about finding love after sixty, but there are rather beautiful truths for women of any age. I particularly loved the chapter about your hair. What can a haircut say about a woman? Does long hair at 24 mean the same thing at 64? Incidentally, after a bad breakup in my 20s, I cut off all my hair and moved to Paris. The short hair played well over there. It did not have the same effect when I moved back to San Francisco.
MARY: I remember when Mia Farrow cut her hair but wasn’t that after she hooked up with Frank Sinatra? I remember Jean Seberg, really cute haircut, in Breathless, but, golly, she did also play Joan of Arc.
I do think the French, despite all the bashing we Americans sometimes get from them, have an esthetic that focuses on beauty and sensuality in a way that we Americans can learn but don’t grow up with: The reason your short hair in Paris was a hit.
I first cut my hair after my second child was born: Went into the bathroom and cut my ponytail off with a scissors. Something was going on with that crazy move—and I don’t think it had to do with my kids—first husband maybe?
I then let it grow and cut it again when a corporate job and raising two kids on my own was my stated reason, but I had also met the man I later married: my second marriage.
In 2002 when I let my hair grow again—what I refer to as the trial of the hair: Have you ever grown out curly hair?—the result gave me a new sense of my sensuality. Long and white, this hair will not see the scissors again.
So, if there’s a difference, it’s not age, it’s Paris.
FOODINISTA: Is La Perla the best revenge?
MARY: Feeling beautiful inside is the best revenge. A good bra on the way there helps like this one from La Perla:
I don’t have this bra but, if I did, I’d dance around the kitchen in it and pretend I was Lady Gaga.
Will he love you when you’re 64? He will, with or without the bra.
FOODINISTA: In (Re) Making Love there were three kitchens and two husbands. Tell us about your dream kitchen and your dream husband.
MARY: My dream kitchen would have a Wolf range top, two Miele wall ovens, a Subzero fridge and freezer and a stainless steel island with lots of electrical outlets. And the sink would have a window over it.
My dream husband would cook with me in that kitchen and he’d be the man who wrote this description of my memoir: here’s an excerpt of what the man I love actually wrote to help promote the book:
“A series of men appear—all identified as a lower-case first initial—while the upper-case D. weaves out and in, as both he and Mary maneuver through the separation. Along the way are the Internet dates, emails, T.S. Eliot and Nietzsche, romantic comedies and the Grimm Brothers, photographs, recipes, dreams, Obamas, and yes, even the kitchen sink. Her journey moves from her home in Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia and eventually to Paris, a visit that offers a stunning surprise that changes her life.”
Gotta love him, and I do.
FOODINISTA: Please share two recipes for love—one philosophical, one we can cook.
MARY: Philosophical recipe:
Never forget the Laws of Thermodynamics. C.P. Snow provided this shorthand to remember the laws: 1. You cannot win. 2. You cannot break even. 3. You cannot get out of the game.
But if you stay in the game, you can dance even when it seems that the dancers have all gone under the hill.
Now go to the farmers market, buy corn and tomatoes and lots of basil.
Slice the tomatoes, sprinkle with some grated parmesan and asiago cheese, preferably from The Cowgirl Creamery, around the corner from me. Add a chiffonade of basil, salt and pepper. Then make Angel Hair Pasta and Pesto. I refer to this as my McDonald’s meal ’cause to me this is fast food fast and it says summer.
1 or 2 bunches basil (about two cups, leaves only)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or more; I don’t measure; just look)
4 cloves of garlic
the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford
Put the garlic cloves, the basil and the cheese in your food processor. Give it all a whirl while you pour in olive oil until you see green of summer like grass in a field.
Boil angel hair pasta (the best homemade brand you can find or use DeCecco) ever so briefly. Put the pasta in a beautiful bowl, scrape all the pesto on top, pour a quarter cup or so of the pasta water on top. Toss and serve with corn and tomatoes.
Serve with one of my son’s imported wines: I like S.C. Pannell’s 2007 Sauvignon Blanc or try the best buy ever, my son’s Woop Woop Shiraz.
Don’t forget to tell jokes and kiss while cooking: You will taste both in the pesto. And remember Robert Hass the poet who says in “The Privilege of Being,” “Many are making love. Up above, the angels/ in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing/ are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond … .”