A review, by Alexandra Walker
This cookbook of both recipes and heartfelt reminiscences was lovingly and passionately compiled by Alice Toklas, a true artist of the culinary world who you’ve probably never heard of. Alice was Gertrude Stein’s life partner, counsel and great love. A woman less flamboyant and celebrated than her famous partner, she was never-the-less a hidden star, only visible to those select few who were invited to share her excellent meals. Lucky for us those “select few” were some of the most celebrated personalities of their day. Great artists, writers and thinkers all found their way to the women’s Paris apartment for superb meals and excellent company, and Alice was there to feed and entertain them all. While the great Ms. Stein argued with, pontificated, and yelled at all those illustrious greats of the lost generation – providing substance for the mind; Alice sought to nurture the body and spirit, with warmth, kindness, and a true passion for great cuisine . She knew well that nothing makes a conversation shine more than a exceptional meal as an accompaniment.
Written after Gertrude’s death, while Alice herself was on her sickbed, the cookbook is in part an ardent love letter to both the food and the fascinating life the two women shared together. Alice, who is quick to say she is no author, writes in a friendly matter of fact style that makes this book so extremely readable; and not just for the tasty recipes, compiled with great affection and skill by one with an unsurpassed palate. Most of the recipes in Alice’s book pay homage to where the two women spent the majority of their lives together. With generously French amounts of eggs, butter and cream, you may gain five pounds just in the reading! But the true delicacies are the stories Alice has to tell of the years she and Gertrude spent together and of the multitude of characters who wandered into Gertrude’s Paris salon – “For good talk, fat oysters and excellent food”, as Hemingway puts it in Movable Feast. I’d like to think it was Alice’s Oysters Rockefeller he was referencing. Surely the woman who fed the lost generation with such grace and good cheer deserves that much recognition. Or maybe it was her special Hashish Fudge that kept the roaring twenties in such high spirits. Take a bow Alice, for all your wonderful food, great humor and love of life. It’s about time!
I’d like to thank the Center for Fiction for keeping me supplied with books. Check out their website at https://centerforfiction.org