It's true I like to make fun food, but I found a way to make fun of it, as well. One night I popped a frozen pizza in the oven and sat down to read an old cookbook. Next thing I knew, I was writing about the old musty thing for The Sophisticate, the journal of the Art Deco Society of California. Well, someone in Miami Beach, (a.k.a. Mecca) liked it so much he invited me to speak to the Miami Design Preservation League.
What a whirlwind! I flew all day last Monday, and all day Wednesday, 4000 miles in 20 hours, give or take a few time zones. Tuesday was a kaleiedoscope of hairpins, curious food, and Art Deco Design! There are hundreds of hotels along the lush, palm-lined beach down there, all designed within 20 imaginative years, competing to tell their stories and out-stylize each other. Here's me with my buddy Scott Timm outside the Sherbrooke hotel, where I stayed:
I started out my morning painting my nails in the car and balancing a cake-like "Luncheon Loaf" on my knees on the way to a TV studio, for the food segment of "South Florida Today." While struggling to pin my unhappy hair into place, I disturbed a snoring Cheech Marin in the green room, who had also flown out from the Bay Area, and was promoting an art exhibit on Latino art. We discussed vintage weddings (I had just read in Nancy Eaton's "Your Vintage Wedding" that he performed one on Treasure Island). He teased me for running around without my 4" red snakeskin vintage peekaboo-toe pumps, calling me "The Barefoot Contessa."
No, Cheech, you're quite mistaken. All I can seem to make is luncheon loaf. (And yes, that's *parsley* in the green layer...)
I also met a fabulous celebrity event planner and designer of glamorous retro aprons!
Ironically, while thinking about, talking about food so much, I was starving most of the time. While enjoying a picnic breakfast on the beach at sunrise, I was assaulted, Tippi Hedren-style, by evil seagulls who plucked my fried egg sandwich right out of my hand, and threw it in the sand! But here's the gastronomic experience that truly made my day: South Florida STONE CRAB claws! Aren't they adorable?
The beauty of this delicacy is that the crabs are not killed in the harvest. Fishermen just rip their fattest arm off and toss the creatures back to grow a new one for next year. Nauseating? Yes. Comforting? That, too. Above all, delicious enough to want to go back next crab season.
If you're interested, here's the article about my lecture in the Miami Herald.
Do I look a little like a Stepford wife here? Read "The Cook's Creed" (Meta Given, 1942) and you'll understand why.
Just look at this luscious layered luncheon loaf!:
Here's the iTunes soundtrack of songs about food from the era:
If you're not tired of this story yet, check out the "official" web page for links to the article, TV spot, and suspicious menu suggestions from the era.
If you want to see more photos, check out my album!
Special thanks to Laurie Gordon for the vintage bathing suit (alas, unworn...I'll have to go back) and Theresa LaQuey for coaching and the Luncheon Loaf recipe.