By the time I was five I had a pretty sophisticated fully developing palette. I knew I didn’t like the ordinary hamburgers or hot dogs and definitely not the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was perfunctorily served at all 50’s children’s parties. I had mild or not so mild meltdowns when my parents said we were on our way to hamburger hamlet for dinner. I was going to be the only one ordering a tuna sandwich, though they did serve lobster bisque and that could make me happier. I knew I liked escargot. I also liked frog legs or anything heavily saturated in butter and garlic. I wasn’t that keen on the Chinese restaurant either ( Ah Fongs ) but at least I could happily eat the thinly sliced pork with sesame seeds and then I would dunk it heavily into duck sauce. Wanton chips to eat at the table were the main staple that would fill my tiny stomach.
There were only two good French restaurants in my childhood here in Los Angeles. My dad took me to the one on Ocean Avenue each Friday night for Bouillabaisse. The restaurant was called Belle Vue.. I couldn’t be happier with my appetizer of escargots or frog’s legs and sharing a big giant bowl of amazing fish soup that had crostini ( in those days it was still called toast points) loaded with a saffron rouille. Happy me.
I went on a lot of expense paid vacations in the 70’s because I was an actress in television commercials at the time. One job was a modeling job that took me to Carson City, Nevada and I don’t remember the job at all, couldn’t even tell you what I was advertising but I can tell you that the ad agency took me to dinner at a Basque restaurant and I called home to my parents bragging that I ate everything on my plate and described in detail all the interesting tastes. One job, okay, a big one, a national Clairol, took me to Miami, Florida. Sure, I remember the job well but my taste buds were sparked and excited by the stone crab and the special creamy mustard sauce at Joes Stone Crab.
I lived on the beach in Malibu spending all my residual checks on the high rent.
It was a far drive to head to Musso & Franks on Hollywood Blvd. for either the eggs Benedict or flannel cakes, okay, sometimes both. This was also a favorite haunt of my fathers, my dad and I loved the crusty French bread they had/have. I loved a piece of pecan pie served warm with whipped cream and thankfully the restaurant that served it was in Malibu. It’s long gone but the reason I loved this particular pecan pie was because it was the closest to my southern mothers best recipe of pecan pie.
The culinary world finally exploded and collided with my taste in the early 80’s and I was in heaven trying all the new restaurants like Spago and La Toque. The chefs were now the new celebrities and I knew why. No one could appreciate this new turn of events like I could and did. At the same time I was dating the future father of my children whose mother worked for Chuck Williams of Williams Sonoma. I call her Gourmet Grandma. Gourmet Grandma was a bigwig at Williams Sonoma and through her I got to eat at both James Beard and Jacques Pepins house. Gourmet Grandma would send me signed copies of all the new famous chef’s cookbooks and I was like a star fucker in this food world. I grew up in the world of show business and my dad knew the world, everyone from Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin to Lenny Bruce.
Those people didn’t really impress me, but Ken Frank, Jacques Pepin and Wolfgang Puck blew me away. I had a semi-unknown strange idol in Ruth Reichl at the time. She wasn’t that well known yet, hadn’t written any books but was the Los Angeles times food critic. Sometimes readers sent in nasty letters about her and I never understood why so I wrote a nasty letter back to them defending her that got published in the Sunday paper. Basically I was obsessed with food. I didn’t know how to cook though and it took my small kids being hungry to propel me into learning to cook. Gourmet Grandma reluctantly taught me a few tricks that I use to this day. It was so easy to go to a restaurant or pick up take out from a restaurant and I was spoiled by this but so proud of myself when I finally did cook dinner for my family. Baking is what I love the most and now I’m spoiled by my own cakes and rarely order dessert when I’m out to dinner.
Enough about me. You get the idea, I love great food.