Articles

Joanna Torrey has written essays and articles on a variety of subjects, including mind and body, social and lifestyle issues, food and cooking, as well as profiles. Her pieces have appeared in Health, Natural Health, Self, Harpers Bazaar, Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Omni, New York Magazine, Boston Magazine, New York Newsday and The New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, where she contributed regular features and a celebrity cooking column. Below are excerpts from a selection of her articles.

back to top


SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE

Bearing Witness

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

I recently spent an afternoon discussing with a friend what we should wear to testify at a murder trial.

Already I had a vision - a picture composed of a jumble of television and movie memories: the angry, weeping mother of the 21-year-old perpetrator sits on the visitors' bench surrounded by a protective and vengeful group of her son's friends, there to memorize the names and faces of the only witnesses to his crime. The murderer and his girlfriend - wife of the deceased - sit side by side at a table in front of the witness stand, looking not at each other but up at me - a stranger who is about to decide their future.

I will wear no make up, I decide. The natural pallor of fear will leave me faceless. I will wear a dress so nondescript it will render me bodiless. My words will be as neutral as I can make them without lying. It is not my fault this monstrous cliché has finally landed in my lap: My friend Rachel and I simply happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Many Unhappy Returns

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

You breeze through early adulthood in a state of blissful negligence, waiting tables or working construction, pocketing your cash and never worrying about your dangerous nonperson status with the IRS.

Then the careless disregard of the post-college years gives way to resigned respectability. You're part of the work force now, so you sign your name at the bottom of the short form and leave it to your trusty U.S. government to fill in the numbers.

Then you start making money. It's time to grow up, stop showing your knees, give up the short form for something a little more sophisticated. People are getting away with murder out there, and you don't want to be a fool. So you call up your friend's accountant - the one who's so creative - and plunge into the dangerous, shark-infested waters of aggressive tax planning.

Soon you find out that doing your taxes can be kind of fun and exciting, like a game. Never again will you just sit back and let the IRS tromp all over you...

Not so fast. Have you heard the word "audit"?

Streets Paved with Guilt

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

The clothes had been sitting in my bedroom for over three months, waiting to go to Goodwill. A few old flannel nightgowns, wool skirts and sweaters, nagging reminders of my combined sins of laziness and waste. What would it matter really if I simply threw them away?

It reminded me of that strange childhood rule of finishing everything on your plate because children in India were starving. In the same way that I wondered back then how finishing a mound of mashed potatoes could ease the hunger of someone so far away, I wondered how these few tired, balled-up bits of clothing could possibly make a difference to anybody's life.

One day, I had a flash of inspiration. Why bother lugging the clothes to Goodwill when there was so much need right on the streets? As I dropped my bundles next to a man lying asleep on a grating, I wondered whether there was any sharing etiquette among the homeless, though mostly I was relieved to have solved the problem with a clear conscience while not going out of my way.

Less than a week later, as I was rushing across the street hoping to make it home before my dinner guests arrived, I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. Coming toward me was one of the regular street people in my neighborhood, a black man, of indeterminate middle age, with sickeningly caked and matted hair. He was muttering and growling, engaged as usual in a furious monologue without beginning or end. On this particular evening, over a pair of shabby maroon pants with filthy, dragging cuffs, he was wearing my Evan Picone skirt.

(My mother, an admitted snob about fabrics and labels and finished seams, had been so enthusiastic about what a "good" skirt it was - a rust-and-beige plaid marked down from $100-that even when I finally admitted hating it, I still had been unable to throw it away).

So here it was, on a crazy man, and it's difficult to explain the mix of emotions I felt. I laughed out loud, and at the same time, tears came to my eyes. I felt suddenly and irrationally exposed, as though everyone must know that this lunatic crossing the street was wearing my skirt. I was glad that something of mine was serving so useful a purpose. Yet there was a strange, uncomfortable feeling of intimacy. A piece of clothing that carried my smell, my experiences, was now his, next to his body.

For the next two weeks, I walked to work, turning corners with fearful anticipation, worried that I was going to come across someone huddled on a doorstep or a park bench, wearing one of my long flannel nightgowns. I wondered how long the skirt would endure a life on the streets. I imagined coming across it in the gutter or in a trash can one day - dirty, ripped, unrecognizable, discarded. I wondered, knowing how ridiculous it was, whether someone would notice the coffee stain on the hem of one of the nightgowns, or the moth hole near the neck of my once favorite sweater. They were, after all, simply pieces of cloth, a covering.

Almost without realizing it, I had started to see.

Taking Care of Busy-Ness

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

When I was growing up, my mother would wear a white plastic timer tied around her waist with a long piece of string. Absorbed in practicing her violin, she relied on this trusty cook's helper to remind her to take the meat loaf out of the oven, call the neighbors to retrieve my younger sister, summon the dishwasher repairman, or any of a vast number of time-related obligations.

After a while, she got so carried away with the efficiency of her small electronic mascot that she began setting it to go off as often as every half hour. My sisters and I would sit around in the living room, reading or watching TV, and suddenly a shrill "brrrring" would emanate from the folds of my mother's apron. Was it the cookies? Was it time to set the table? No one would know the exact reason why it had gone off again, including my mother, yet it created a profound sense of urgency.

There was something that had to be done in the world, and somebody had better do it - now.

These days, the notion of a walking body timer is no longer such a strange one.

Declarations of Independence: Up in Arms

(Harper's Bazaar)

Guns, whether used for hunting or self-defense, have generally been male territory. But with the growing visibility of these weapons in drug-related urban crimes, the mounting pressure to take up arms for self-protection along with the current aggressive ad campaigns by gun manufacturers targeting the "gentle sex" - an untapped market - gun control has become very much a women's issue. A small-caliber hand gun with a pearl or ivory handle and an inlaid rose in a gold lame pouch is clearly packaged for women - and not for target practice.

Double Beds, Separate Bank Accounts

(Harper's Bazaar)

It seems terribly unromantic to bring up the subject of money when you're supposed to be madly in love. After all, what do such things as prenuptial agreements, marital property and support obligations have to do with hearts, flowers and chemistry? Everything.

Just take a look at what comes along with that lovable, six-foot package of brains, muscle and sensitivity you're marrying. Like it or not, you may also be saying "I do" to a demanding ex-wife, two teenage kids and a monthly payment schedule that makes the national budget look uncomplicated.

Little Baby, Big Changes

(New Parent Adviser)

No matter that women and men have been doing it since the dawn of mankind--bringing a tiny newborn into the world continues to be a thrilling, scary, all-new experience.

For one thing, your daily rhythms are turned upside down. You're getting up for feedings long before dawn and (if you're lucky) snatching naps on the sofa long before dusk. Say goodbye to sleep, neatness, and a well-organized household: hello, pride and picture-taking. Today's crop of new parents is facing special adjustments as well. Many more mothers work now than in their parents' day, for example: many more fathers help care for their babies. Sums up Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Harvard University Medical School: "Both partners today are under tremendous pressure in a society that says that families ought to be self-sufficient. There is financial stress and a lack of extended family or support systems. All this can amount to a pretty overwhelming situation if you're trying to make sense of it for your child."

Who wouldn't be overwhelmed? Or nervous? The bottom line, however, is that nobody is born a parent: you grow into the job. And though the circumstances may be somewhat different today than in the past, the adjustment process is the same. Gradually you learn how to relax and how to manage the unfamiliar. You learn that it's okay to ask for help, and where to find it.


MIND & BODY

In the Moment

(Health - monthly column on rituals)

Everywhere we turn, our lives are filled with rituals. There are the big, socially recognized ones, like the annual rite of revelry (and at its best, rebirth) that is New Year's Eve. And then there are the smaller, private ones that can be even more meaningful. Yours might be some sweet thing you started as a kid, like kissing your stuffed bear goodnight three times on his toes (and here you are, still doing it today). Or it might be weightier, like a private way you choose to remember someone who's passed on. The month of May is the perfect time for starting a column on new kinds of rituals: Mother's Day - with its memories of delivering cement pancakes to Mom in bed along with a mangled tulip in a juice glass-is on the second Sunday, and renewal is in the air.

"When I'm vacuuming I have to wear lipstick," says actress Rhea Ruggiero, of Westport, Connecticut. Not only lipstick (a shade darker than she normally wears), but lip liner and gloss, too. Ruggiero's lips are her favorite feature, so she's turned housework into an act of self-affirmation. "If I pass a mirror and catch sight of myself, I think I look great. Otherwise, who wants to vacuum?"

Connections: Presence of Mind

(Natural Health)

Whenever my four sisters and I went home for Christmas, we'd make a beeline for the basket of holiday cards. We'd pounce on the ones containing family photographs, marveling at wreath-encircled mug shots of once-familiar children morphed into awkward teenagers with Kodacolor pimples. Our second favorites were the letters, the sometimes touching and occasionally comic portraits of ordinary kith and kin cast in the brilliant light of holiday reflection or aggrandizement. These missives that my mother so meticulously kept and recorded and answered were a touchstone for us that proved how life stood still and yet never stayed the same. Here was change and stability at once, captured in a festive envelope.

First Hand Report: Working Out Obsessions

(Health)

When you meet Molly Fox, it's hard to believe she would ever consider exercise a problem. We sit on the shining hardwood floor of one of the huge, bright exercise rooms at the Molly Fox Studio in Manhattan. Just back from a trip to Rome, where she was invited to teach aerobics - complete with interpreter - Fox glows with good health. Her straight back, muscular body and confident smile are hard to reconcile with the Molly Fox she tells me about: the shy six-year-old who hated her body because it was too big for ballet; the teenager who turned to drugs and alcohol; the aspiring model who learned to vomit at will because she was told (at 5'9" and 123 pounds) that she weighed too much; the young woman who drove around the city, devouring donuts, then went home to throw up and feel in control again; and the woman who now, at 34 channels her compulsion into a workout-a-day habit.

 

Pumping Ions: The Short-Circuit Way to Exercise

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

I am lying naked on a fully-reclined padded "armchair" in a tiny windowless room painted a soft, soothing beige. Underneath the matching beige blanket draped to my chest, I can feel the strange pressure of a network of Velcro straps holding eight water-dampened pads (the word "electrode" is frowned on at the Alys Kingsley Physio-Fitness Center) to my stomach, thighs, hips and the inside of my knees - my personally designated "problem areas."

Jutta Kruger, my electro-physiology therapist at the elegant Madison Avenue salon, has "diapered" me and left me to stare nervously up at the ceiling while she answers the summons of another customer down the hall.

Rubbing my hands briskly up and down on the blanket, I try to relax. I know this isn't dangerous. I'm only being hooked up to a machine powerful enough to start a Volkswagen. So why are my palms so dangerously damp?

 

The Positive Power of Walking

(Walking Magazine)

Whenever one of us was in a particularly grumpy mood, or picked a fight that threatened to turn into a brawl, my mother would invariably suggest that we go out for a "nice, brisk walk." We always greeted this piece of British wisdom with all-American groans and sneers - but more often than not, we complied. I remember well the feeling of slamming the front door and stomping away from the house, thoughts seething with plans for retribution. I also remember the return following 10 fast blocks to the local reservoir and a few circuits around. Flushed, sweaty, and oddly at peace with the world, suddenly it was easy to be magnanimous. My sister was still a royal jerk, but killing her didn't seem so important anymore.

Recent discoveries about the heady power of a lowly walk indicate that my mother's ploy was more than just folk wisdom. Many psychologists now recognize walking as a valuable tool for relaxation that can also be used to treat anger, depression, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem.

Breaking the Code of Doodles

(Omni)

Most of us doodle. Like the man or woman who comes into the psychiatrist's office insisting, "I never dream," the person who says he never doodles is probably unaware of his scribbling. Part of the reason we doodle is that it's safe: We can express our emotions through doodles in the margin, and no one will judge us. Doodles also spice up the tedium of a dull situation - those stacks of puckered cubes, after all, are certainly more dynamic than, say, the droning voice of a lovelorn, obsessive friend. Your favorite doodles may relax you; when the moment is fraught with uncertainty, they can make you feel secure. What's more, in some situations drawing a tower of open-ended boxes or pages of squiggles actually helps you perform. The very act of doodling is analogous to the repetition of a mantra, which enables you to focus your concentration and marshal your will.

back to top


FOOD & COOKING

I, a Waitress: Diary of a mad dish jockey.

(Boston Magazine)

A composite Mom, Maid, Bitch, and Attendant Angel, the waitress is responsible for fulfilling the most primal of urges, and hunger and thirst have no patience. Even those few concessions which occasionally get the tired housewife off the hook are denied her: a hungry customer could care less that you have cramps, that your account is overdrawn, that you actually hate your brand new dress from Ann Taylor, and that your blisters have finally popped.

If some distinguished brain surgeon were forced, once a year, to jump into his Mercedes, back it down his white stone drive, and cruise on over to the local deli, put on an apron, number his checks, and marry the ketchups and mustards before the lunch rush, would it help the plight of the permanently aproned? Would he like having some brazen young woman order her meatball sub, heavy on the sauce, with eyes glued to his crotch?

Lori Longbotham - Food Writer

(Profile for LoriLongbotham.com)

Lori Longbotham never really had a sweet tooth. In fact, she always loved savory things. Until the mysteries of sweet and tart, and bittersweet grabbed her and wouldn't let her go. It's the contrast she loves, even more than the sweet: Lemon zest. The bitterness of dark chocolate.

Her love affair with lemons began in California where she grew up. The fragrance of the flowers and the fruit have haunted her sense memory ever since she was a little girl. "I can see myself as a Victorian lady walking around carrying a lemon in my hand."

You might call desserts a family affair. Her mom always fixed a terrific dessert for dinner. "There was a Boston cream pie or lemon meringue pie, sitting on the counter. There was something so homey about it. They just made you feel better." Her grandmother grew up on a self-sustaining farm, making her own ice cream. "She made ice cream out of four different kinds of peaches, blended in a certain ratio. It was pure genius," says Lori. "We would all help crank the machine, and when we were finished, we had really accomplished something. It was just like heaven."

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Lori has written for many food and women's magazines, including Gourmet, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living. She has also worked as a caterer and chef and was the Contributing Editor to The Dean and Deluca Cookbook. And she has always maintained an intimate alliance with the dessert world. "My sweetheart is a pastry chef. He has worked in very fine French and Italian places, so he really knows the classic preparations. We talk about desserts. But he never eats them unless he's on vacation. Luckily, we travel a lot. One of the things we do is taste every dessert."

Bruce Tillinghast - Chef & Restaurateur

(Profile for NewRiversRestaurant.com)

When Bruce Tillinghast and his wife, Pat, first decided to open a restaurant, they envisioned themselves as owners, not at the front lines of the kitchen. Quite simply, they wanted just enough training as cooks so that they would know what to do when the chef walked out the back door. "We knew this was a treacherous business," recalls Bruce, "and we needed to learn everything we could about it."

In pursuit of damage control skills, they landed in the kitchen of renowned French chef Madeleine Kamman, who was completing her final year at her Newton–based culinary school. Bruce's graphic design background at RISD, and as an art teacher in the Providence public schools, proved the perfect training ground for launching a cooking career. "We had to read literature and philosophy and listen to music, all from a specific time period. The food piece just sort of fit in," he says. He credits his art background for the ease with which he can imagine how flavors blend. "I tend to treat tastes the same way I treat color. It's easy for me to put colors together mentally, and it was an easy transition to flavor. It's a terrible pun, but it's just a change of palettes."

At the urging of close friends George Germon and Johanne Killeen, owners of Al Forno restaurant, Bruce and Pat opened their Steeple Street location at the site of the old Al Forno in 1990. "Feet first," is how Bruce describes the experience. But though the restaurant was embraced eagerly, the Providence eating public approached the unusual international menu with some caution. "At first we were the only Providence restaurateurs who were promoting multicultural cuisine," says Bruce. "Thirteen years ago eating habits were very different. People couldn't deal with the fact that they could come in and sit down and get something off the same menu that was Asian and also Italian. It was happening in other larger cities, but it was new for Providence. When people called to find out what kind of food we served, we couldn't say French or Italian. Eclectic said nothing. Multicultural became our catch word."

Yes, We Have No Bananas

(New York Daily News Sunday Magazine)

(a few fruit and veg excerpts)

Pomegranate

Don't be intimidated, but this weird-looking fruit sitting out in the bin on Second Ave. wasn't born yesterday. It was cultivated in Egypt long before the time of Moses, and carbonized pomegranates have been found in a tomb at Jericho. Because of the number and abundance of all those pesky little seeds, the pomegranate was a symbol of fertility and abundance in ancient times. Now don't be afraid to tangle with this historic temptress...

Fiddlehead Ferns

A cross-taste between asparagus and mushrooms, these 8-inch-high plants, named for their resemblance to the curved end of a violin, look like they would be more at home sitting in a stage set of an elf garden than on your dinner table. But don't be frightened by how cute they are. This delicacy of northern New England and Canada, once eaten by the American Indians, is showing up more and more in local markets...

Dandelion Greens

Those who swear at a small patch of lawn beset by weeds may be perturbed to see the pesky monsters in their local market. Cultivated dandelion greens are a lighter green and less bitter than those you hate, although the wild kind is apparently richer in vitamins and minerals. If you do want to gather your own, try finding some that grow naturally in a large remote field (as opposed to, say, Prospect Park)...

Mango

It amazes me that everyone in the city doesn't walk around with those impossible mango fibers lodged permanently in their teeth, so deliciously addictive is this tropical fruit. But the slight aftertaste of turpentine in the "apple of the tropics" is an acquired taste. Not recommended for lunch-hour eating in your best suit, this juicy fruit will leave you dripping to the elbows...


Mashed with Class

(Self)

In the race to adapt Mom's good home cooking to the culinary requirements of sophisticated dining, American chefs have resurrected mashed potatoes - without most of the lumps. Cooks are whipping up the lowly spud and tossing in simple additions for a side dish worthy of the hautest meat, fish or fowl.

The Good Oil

(Health)

Now don't protest. Just follow instructions: Tear a hunk off a loaf of crusty Italian bread and slide it under the boiler. When it's turned golden brown, rub the surface all over with a fresh-cut clove of garlic, then drizzle with green-gold extra virgin olive oil. Eat the bread along with a glass of rough red wine and a few pungent olives. Or dig into a thick swordfish steak slathered with a rich Mediterranean sauce made of garlic, olives, lemon juice and pure olive oil...

Sound too wonderfully, decadently, deliciously out-of-this-world to be health? It's time you changed your thinking.



In the Kitchen With...

After contributing features to The New York Daily News Sunday Magazine for several years, the editors asked Joanna if she would write a celebrity cooking column. It wasn't always easy for her to find a star who had even a vague relationship to food or cooking (cooking have not yet become fashionable) and wasn't just interested in promoting his or her new restaurant. The result was a humorous stew of both minor and major celebrities often plundering childhood memories for food stories. There was no budget for recipe testing, so anyone who actually made the recipes was at risk, i.e., the disgruntled reader who wrote in to report that Jackie Mason's potato pancakes tasted like cement.

Mickey Mantle

It would be messing too much with myth to lead you to believe that Mickey Mantle cooks. But while he won't find a place in any culinary hall of fame, the house special at his Central Park South restaurant does have a lot to do with him. When his mother made chicken-fried steak and cream gravy back in Oklahoma, it was "poor" food. "My dad worked in the mines and made $35 a week," he recalls. "There were five kids. Every Sunday we'd have chicken-fried steak or fried chicken and during the week, beans with a piece of pork or ham and cornbread."

This chicken-fried steak recipe has already gotten Mantle into trouble.

When he and the restaurant's chef went on a TV morning show, Mantle had to do the cooking himself. So the chef laid the ingredients out in a row with cue cards behind each one. (A couple of steaks had already been cooked up, so the finished product looked and tasted fine.) But at the end of the show, the host asked Mantle his chef's name. "That's the first time I'd ever met him," remembers Mantle. "So I said, gee, we just call him chef around the restaurant."

Betsey Johnson

"I cook more clothes than I do food," giggles clothes designer Betsey Johnson. Gesturing airily with one faux-bejeweled hand toward her noticeably unused modern range, she recalls countless evenings slaving over steaming pots of dyed T-shirts.

As evidenced by her downtown froufrou clothing, practical matters are not of primary concern to Betsey. The conical sieve you'd see in her cart if you ran into Johnson at her favorite cooking equipment store wasn't bought to strain sauces; it's the Tin Man's hat for her Wizard of Oz fashion show. She had always kept her phone book in the broiler - until her daughter turned on the wrong burner and practically smoked the loft down. Then there's the slight inconvenience of keeping the microwave in a bottom cupboard to maintain the uncluttered lines of her kitchen counters. "It doesn't need to breathe," does it?" she asks, bending in her black Lycra Little-Bo-Peep outfit to peer worriedly at the appliance.

Jackie Mason

"The secret to a great chocolate egg cream," says Jackie Mason, holding aloft a chocolate-streaked Mason jar, "is that you should use at least 'this much' milk. How do you explain 'this much' in English? "I don't know," shrugs the reigning veteran of borscht-belt humor who has amazed everyone, most profoundly himself ("Suddenly I'm art?"), by turning his shtick into the sold-out Broadway hit "The World According to Me."

He stares blankly at a pile of eggs sitting in a bowl next to a quart of milk, a jug of Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup and an old-fashioned sapphire-blue seltzer bottle.

"Whoever heard of eggs in an egg cream?" mutters Mason in the deadpan rabbinical cadence that is his stock and trade. "And what's the Mason jar for? I never had a Mason jar in my life."

Richard Simmons

At the tender peanut-butter-and-jelly age of nine, he used to whip up soufflés and conduct elaborate food experiments, like testing Tootsie Rolls in the bathtub to see if they tasted different under water. What exercise guru Richard Simmons knows about calories could fill a pair of circus-tent pants.

It all started when a chandelier fell on him during a personal appearance at a shopping mall. Suddenly, there he was, the Sultan of Svelte, the Body Evangelist, stuck on a sofa recuperating, unable to flex a hamstring. And so, like any sloth worth his salt, he promptly put on 14 pounds.

Obviously, with a fortune tied up in maintaining that shipshape image, stern measures were called for. Having once weighed in at 268 pounds (he had a bit-part in the food-orgy scene in Fellinis Satyricon), such a challenge was not new to Simmons. Lying there brooding and spreading, the aerobic angel knew he simply had to cut down even further on his personal fats and carbs. And so, along with an army of cook's helpers, he started the task of squeezing the pounds - but not the taste - out of food.

Sydney Biddle Barrows

What does a Lady who was busted for running an escort service like to cook up for her personal men friends? When I made a casual survey of what people thought "The Mayflower Madam" would offer as her favorite recipe, guesses ranged from medallions of veal in Madeira sauce to Grand Marnier soufflé.

Sydney Biddle Barrows, ex-member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but when it comes to her favorite dish, she favors something quick, easy, filling and cheap - a philosophy definitely not practiced at Cachet, once "New York's most exclusive escort service...For those who can afford to be discriminating."

But who would have ever guessed pork chops with stuffing? According to Barrows, you see, men like stuffing.

Al Roker

"No, ladies and gentlemen, food is not an important part of my life," says WNBC weatherman Al Roker with the kind of pie-eating grin that would make the most hard-hearted of mothers head for the stove.

As the oldest of six growing up in Queens, he picked up his "kitchen sink" style of cooking from his parents. His father was a master of eggs and Cream of Wheat. His mother, who made sublime meat loaf and oxtail soup with dumplings, flagged a little in the morning hours ("Hey, Mom, could you cut me a hunk of that oatmeal?"). From both of them, he learned a respect for good, solid American food and a devil-may-care attitude with the recipe book.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't like fried chicken, ribs, and meat loaf with gravy," he says. "If they don't, I look at them strangely and wonder, are you American? Even people who aren't from this country usually enjoy that kind of basic food - no tricks, no surprises."

Jackie Collins

"I've posed with a lot of things in my life, but never with shepherd's pie," purrs Jackie Collins. "I'll just pretend it's a leopard-skin cushion."

One somehow can't imagine the lady with glossy lips, tangled streaked hair and oversize denim jacket pictured on the dust jacket of the bestseller "Rock Star," cooking up anything as homey as shepherd's pie.

But when you meet the real Jackie Collins, it's not so difficult. Not that she's not glamorous. But from the good strong handshake to her unembarrassed rhapsodies on English roast potatoes, thick gravy, baked beans, creamy mashed potatoes with poached eggs on top (the way her mum used to make them when she was sick), she's anything but Hollywood starved.

Tama Janowitz

No slave to the kitchen, writer Tama Janowitz has solved that age-old question, how do you make yourself a home-cooked meal while wearing a pair of long black gloves?

Like many a modern woman living alone, the witty chronicler of urban life in the 80s, author of Slaves of New York and A Cannibal in Manhattan, hates the idea of doing dishes much more than she loves the idea of good home cooking. She's risen to the heights of creative avoidance by learning how to feed herself well, without getting her burners dirty.

The best option is to eat out. "I go out to restaurants maybe three or four nights a week with friends. When I go out I think, oh, thank God I'm not cooking for myself and not worrying about the dishes afterwards."

As a single person, she finds it inconvenient to cook. "You have to go to the grocery store and stand in these long lines and spend hundreds of dollars just for one person. Everything turns into such a mess. By the time you've cooked the steak, you have to get the vegetables together. Then you have to do the dishes. And then you're stuck with leftovers."

This is just one more thing in the kitchen that Janowitz has an aversion to, all those bits and pieces of things going bad and crowding up the fridge. "You know, they don't make heads of broccoli for one person."


back to top

webmaster