EATING TOGETHER: Recollections and Recipes by Lillian & Peter Feibleman Hellman
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EATING TOGETHER: Recollections and Recipes

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This outrageous-sounding collaboration arose from a friendship of nearly 50 years' standing between two products of the New Orleans Jewish community who first took a shine to each other when Feibleman was a gastronomically alert ten-year-old and Hellman the successful young author of The Children's Hour. Among their common interests was cooking--about which, according to Feibleman, they nonetheless disagreed passionately. This book, which reached galley proofs just before Hellman's death last summer, is constructed on the model of a dinner they once tried to cook: ""I was to go into the kitchen and cook the first part, with no comment from Lillian of any kind, and then I was to keep my mouth shut while she cooked the second part."" Here each contributes a section (""Her Way,"" ""His Way"") of some 70 to 80 recipes liberally interspersed with reminiscences. Feibleman, a novelist who has also authored cookbooks for the Time-Life Foods of the World series, has much more professional savvy as a recipe-writer. The Hellman section (written when she was painfully ill) is a rambling, idiosyncratic mix--with plain sensible things like roast chicken and pound cake, a lot of seafood from Martha's Vineyard summers, some New Orleans classics, some cosmopolitan borrowings, some vigorous discussions of American standbys (baked potatoes, Virginia ham). Her directions are on the bald side, and people who don't know how to cook won't find much handholding. Dislikes, of both food and people, are conspicuous (turkey is ""worthless,"" Mexico is a place where ""I've never had good food,"" Simone Signoret made a sickening mess out of The Little Foxes). The Feibleman section, couched in a tone of affectionate raillery--at a dreadful Hollywood party, Lillian turned to him ""to ask, with her usual delicacy and social aplomb, 'What kind of rat-fuck am I eating?'""--is understandably more polished. It is organized mainly around his two chief culinary loves (and the subjects of his previous cookbooks), the cuisines of Spain and New Orleans; these recipes are framed by two groups of others commemorating stages of the volatile Hellman Feibleman friendship (""Fighting Soup,"" ""Food for an Ambulance,"" ""Food for Recovery""). This is stuff of much artful flair, from a two-person clambake, oyster pie, and ""Cajun Martinis"" (spiked with jalapenos) to shredded braised salt cod and grilled shrimp tapas. An unlikely divertissement, similar if not equal to The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book--and about as much fun to read as it must have been to write.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown