Y’all know I’m not a critic of much---I might mutter a zinger under my breath (sometimes quite clever ones, wasted on the air) and when I get home and think what I should have said, I can just go on and on. But I don’t put it down in writing very often.
And now I’m again wasting one of my turns at “CAN you BELIEVE THAT?” on a silly TV show. I DID think better of Miss Ina, and now she’s just gone and let me down.
She donated a “lunch for six” to a charity auction---well and good and beyond the call, etc. And the hammer fell at $100,000.00. One Hundred Thousand. What a windfall, and what a great thing!!
And I know it was partly for the cachet of meeting her, and of being able to say they’d dined at her HOUSE in the
. And she had Mariska H. setting the table and Alec By-Damn Baldwin going to the market gardens and GATHERING the vegetables, for goodness’ sake. SURELY a chef/cook/hostess of her stature could have done a better lunch than she made. HAMPTONS
I can’t imagine that even the allure of being entertained at her home could elevate that one-note, cobbled-together meal. Foie gras and truffles were mentioned in passing, but not for such a FUN lunch---accustomed as they must be to such delicacies, it would be so much more fun to surprise these people with simple fare.
Starter was a cold cucumber soup---cucumbers whizzed with scallions, dill, yogurt and lemon juice and two tablespoons of salt in the processor. It was probably wonderful---I LIKE cucumber soup.
Alec had gathered corn for the salad. Ina set down the basket on the counter, shucked a cob, and cut it right there, with the silks just raining down like doll-hair, all over the kernels, and it went on, shuck-and-cut, til the great pile on the counter resembled an abandoned blonde wig. It was worse than the time all the Good Church Ladies had to scrub Mrs. Prysock’s backsplash and windowsill of the dried corn-cutting debris before the kitchen was presentable for the Funeral Collation for Mr. P.
Ina boiled the little shell pasta while she cut scallions, peppers, an immense amount of dill. Into the water with the shells went the corn kernels, with silks intertwining and floating up all around, then a quick dash into the colander, poured hot into a big bowl, and the vegetables tossed on, the perfect garden-crisp freshness marred by all the steaming heat taking place in that bowl.
Even the two pounds of lobster wouldn’t have compensated for the limp scallions and discolored dill---it was just mish-mash mounded on a plate, with a teensy dill sprig atop---that’s it.
And so, in the soup:
3/4 c lemon juice
2 T. Salt
1/4 c. dill
Shrimp on top
In the salad:
½ c. lemon juice
5 t. salt
1 ½ cups dill
Lobster pieces, hairy corn and peppers
It was like she had a lot of a few things, and just put together what she got out of the fridge, somehow, with no thought of how the two very similar dishes would play as successive courses.
And dessert! I’d have eaten that dessert in a heartbeat---it was “Eton Mess,” which I’d always heard of, and it looked divine in the parfait dishes (above). Fun was mentioned time and again, and I know it was, just being there. In that same Spirit of Fun, all the guests were to make their own desserts, from the fun-filled tray containing the cooked and fresh raspberries and the whipped cream still in the mixer-bowl straight off the KitchenAid.
Bought meringues? Why not---they're easy and delicious, but tossed on the tray still in the cellophane packs like Twinkies? It just felt Tacky.
I don’t know how long it lasted, nor how delightfully witty and fun the repartee around that table in the marvelous
, and they all hugged and air-kissed and thanked her profusely. I hope they got what they came for. But I couldn't tell if it tasted WAY better than it looked, if they just didn't know any better, or if the Empress was naked as well as Barefoot, and they just ate it and smiled because, after all, INA made it. Garden of Ina