Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins: A Memoir With Recipes

2011 Texas Book Festival cookbook reviews

Chews Wisely

Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins: A Memoir With Recipes

by Ellen Sweets
University of Texas Press, 272 pp., $29.95

As an avid and loyal reader of Molly Ivins' work, I sought her column out when I opened the morning paper. There are some columns I remember distinctly for their pointed political commentary, laser-sharp observation, or wry take on some politico's buffoonery. And there are others I remember for their personal nature: the column where she disclosed the diagnosis of her breast cancer and urged readers to get mammograms, and the piece where she talked about her love of cooking and revealed that she was at that time cooking a lot from Simply French by Patricia Wells and Joel Robuchon. I took a ridiculous degree of glee from this column because I too had just procured this book and was cooking a lot from it, as well. I loved this personal glimpse into the private world of this public figure, and I flattered myself that it confirmed my suspicion: Ivins and I were so much alike! I knew we lived in the same neighborhood, and I imagined that she and I were happily puttering around our respective kitchens dicing and sautéing and preparing the same gougères, pommes des vendangeurs, or roast chicken. I fantasized about the two of us teaming up to prepare a feast for a group of funny and smart and sparkling mutual friends.

Award-winning journalist and food writer Ellen Sweets lived my cooking-buddy fantasy, and in her memoir with recipes, Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins, Sweets laces her reminiscences about her fast and firm friendship with Ivins through recipes of dishes that punctuated their culinary adventures. Befitting Ivins' makeup of equal parts sophisticated Francophile and randy good ol' Texas gal, the recipes run the gamut from salmon en papillote to chunky Texas chili. All the recipes spring from the big-hearted gatherings that led to their execution in the first place: boisterous affairs crowded with like-minded progressives who were the lucky recipients of Ivins' and Sweets' generosity and considerable kitchen skills. Sweets recounts these get-togethers with the detail and affection that conjures their magic.

Sweets looks back on her friendship with Ivins with a determined optimistic air, but I found the book achingly heartbreaking at times. Despite Ivins' unparalleled joie de vivre or maybe because of it, the loss of this singular soul really hit home as I read of legendary roundups at the bounteous and delicious table of Ivins and her friend. The humanizing reminiscences of their many meals together made me acutely aware that we shall not look upon her like again.

Ellen Sweets will appear at 2:30pm Sunday in Capitol Extension Rm. E2.036.

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Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins, Ellen Sweets, Molly Ivins, Texas Book Festival, Simply French

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