I ate bread pudding for dinner last night.
My mother didn’t serve Yorkshire pudding [with roast beef]…My mother served potato pancakes instead. I serve Yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes. Why not, you only live once.”
– From ‘Serial Monogamy’
One of my favorite writers died this week. Nora Ephron may be better known as the queen of romantic comedy, but she was much more. She was a real writer, concerned with craft, timing and the art of storytelling.
I first encountered her in 1986, when I saw the movie Heartburn. The movie wasn’t spectacular, but it led me to the book – which is hysterical. At 17, I couldn’t really identify with Ephron’s thinly disguised alter-ego Rachel Samstat, who is seven-months pregnant when she discovers her husband is cheating on her. At that point I had no idea who her husband Mark (Carl Bernstien), was. I didn’t care, either.
Here was a woman who wrote about sex, pasta, marriage, pie crust, female friendship, potatoes, love, pain and bread pudding. A woman with the courage to leave her husband, with a toddler and newborn in tow, and still laugh was a force to be reckoned with and a character to admire. And I loved the writing. I wanted to be that bold, that funny.
Over the years, I’ve made most of the recipes in Heartburn, but not the bread pudding, not until last night. I have no idea if the recipe really came from New Orleans’ Chez Helene, but it is an awesome bread pudding. It really does take two hours to bake. Totally worth it.
As a writer, Ephron is best known for her essays. The early collections, Wallflower at the Orgy, Crazy Salad, and Scribble Scribble, are still as fun to read today as when I first discovered them. Like everyone else, I too loved When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle — and the vision she gave us of Julia Child’s life in Paris in Julie and Julia.
Yesterday, her alma mater, Wellesley College, put out a press release calling Ephron a “quintessential truth teller—courageous, imaginative, tough, hilarious, smart, and compassionate.”
If you want to know why I admire Nora Ephron, read the commencement speech she gave to the class of 1996 at Wellesley. And if you have a daughter, read it to her too.
And then go make some bread pudding.
“Everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whether you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God.”
– From I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections