Any friend of the blog knows I love Nora Ephron. If I could write like anyone it would be her. She had a way of finding humor in the everyday female experience. Something as little as getting coffee, watching a movie or baking a cake could be witty and full of heart.
She unfortunately passed away in 2012 but in addition to her many movies (directing and writing) she wrote several delightful books of essays including the 2006 I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. This is not an important book but I kind of love it and it was our choice for book club this month.
Unfortunately nobody that had read the book was able to attend so I am going to share with all you what I would have shared with all of them. Let me set the scene to start (I always try to make everything pretty but tried especially to honor the uber-classy Miss Ephron.
To make the Russian Cream you simply mix 2 cups sugar with 2 packets unflavored gelatin. 4 cups cream. Heat till hot but not boiling. Cool down and mix in 4 cups sour cream. Put in molds. Let set in fridge overnight. Unmold and serve with fruit. It’s an easy recipe but it looks beautiful.
So now you feel like you are at book club. Let me tell you about it.
One of my favorite essays Nora says:
“What I Wish I’d Known”
People have only one way to be.
Buy, don’t rent.
Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.
Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or less beige.
Don’t buy anything that is 100% wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.
You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.
Block everyone on your instant mail.
The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and a half years.
You never know.
The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of money.
The plane is not going to crash.
Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty- five.
Write everything down.
Keep a journal.
Take more pictures.
The empty nest is underrated….
Here was my version of
What I Wish I Had Known by Rachel Wagner
Travel more when you are young
People will not be real with you a lot of the time
Privacy is overrated
A $100 couch is just as comfortable as a $1000 couch.
Do not select the appliance package when you buy your house
Leaving singles ward sucks. Be ready.
A plate of spaghetti will change your life
The dream job is coming
DVR is a game changer
Date more in college
Panic attacks are the scariest moments of your life
Mr Sunshine is still hiding at 33.
Can never own too many maxi dresses
Aside from the basics most of what you learn in school you will never use
Good choice not going into debt
Look up open water swimming in 2001 not 2011
Paying dues will take you ten years
You are a leader. Stop resenting it and embrace it.
Nora and Cooking
Another essay I love is called Serial Monogamy: A Memoir. It is actually all about her relationship with cooking and food. Throughout her life and marriages Nora had adventures in food. At 16 her mother gave her The Gourmet Cookbook, then the Flavor of France, Julia Child, Michael Fields, Craig Claiborne, Lee Lun’s Chinese recipes, Marcella Hazan, Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson. Cooking took her through changes in career, 3 marriages and her children. She even has internal dialogues with the chefs. It reminds me of the rat in Ratatouiee that has conversations with Chef Gusteau
She ends the section in a very sweet way “I especially like making her roast beef dinner, which is very much like my mother’s except for the yorkshire pudding. My mother didn’t serve yorkshire pudding, although there is recipe for it in The Gourmet Cookbook. My mother served potato pancakes instead. I serve yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes. Why not? You only live once”
I love that. You only live once so make two starches at dinner. It’s a lovely little essay.
Nora on Parenting
My favorite essay is on parenting. Even though I am not a parent I am a child of parents and I find it very moving. She starts out saying “I gave birth to my children, which was not that long ago, when there was almost no such thing as parenting as we know it today”
“Back in the day where there were merely parents, as opposed to people engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straight forward. You didn’t need a book and if you owned one it was by Dr. Spock, a pediatrician and you rarely looked at i unless your child a had a fever…back in those days no one believed that you could turn your child into a different human being from the one he started out being…”
“All this changed around the time I had children. You can blame the women’s movement for it-one of the bedrock tentes fo the women’s movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce men and women should share in the raising of children; thus the gender neutral word parenting and the necessity of elevating child rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of.
Conversely, you can blame the backlash against the women’s movement- lost of women didn’t feel like entering the workforce or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands, but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full time parenthood to a sacrament”
She goes on to talk about the pressure people feel molding their children into these ivy league perfect people and then they grow up. I LOVE the ending and I hope my parents feel a little bit of this when we are all back with all our idiosyncrasies and choices:
“Meanwhile, every so often, your children come to visit. They are, amazingly, completely charming people. You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them. They make you laugh. They make you proud. You love them madly. They survived you. You survived them. It crosses your mind that on some level, you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell. There’s no point. It’s over.
Except for the worrying.
The worrying is forever”
I tear up whenever I read that. The worrying is forever. I can picture my parents worrying about me and it makes me feel loved and I’m grateful for that love.
Some of the essays are quite humorous. There is one about her scandalous non-affair with President Kennedy and another about her life in an epic apartment in New York. They aren’t all equally great but I love them.
It is the perfect summer book. Light, heart felt and beautiful. I don’t want to oversell it but I love it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it since I didn’t get to talk much about it this morning.