Friday, July 13, 2007

Food for life

This evening I found out a third person I knew well passed on this week. I'm home with one of those nasty summer colds, and all I can really do is write. Perhaps it is dangerous to write on a blog when sad...but then, what are blogs for, anyway? The last news was of the death of Wendy Burrell, a publicist in New York who was also a member of Les Dames d' Escoffier, of which I am a member as well.

One year Wendy convinced the people that own Lucini Olive oil to donate a trip to Tuscany to be auctioned off. I bid the most, and won. Later that year, Wendy called and asked if I would rather take a trip with some other media people, and I agreed. What food we ate! I was already a fan of Lucini -- which means light in Italian -- a name the owners come up with, and which describes it so well. One of the days that comes to mind is when we visited a small olive grower -- a family of women. The sisters, elderly, were retired wives of diplomats. One had been married to an American diplomat, the other to an Italian. The daughter of one of them was there, and worked on the estate, as well. It was a perfect day, not too hot, not too cold, and my friend Marilyn Harris of Cincinnati and I sat and talked to the women the whole day, learning about their lives, learning how to tell a good olive oil, and just enjoying ourselves. Wendy wasn't a big eater -- she was as thin as a pencil -- but she did love her olive oil and her balsamic.

Another person that died was Doug Marlette, a brilliant Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist. He, like Wendy, was younger than I am. He died in an accident, which was as untimely as David Halberstam's. What a waste of talent. He had much yet to contribute. His character, Kudzu, was a favorite of mine, bringing home to me my own foibles. He wrote a musical of Kudzu, and was on his way to working with a group that was putting it on in Missippi, where we saw it years ago.

And, finally, Lady Bird Johnson. I only met her a few times, but the time I remember the most was a fund raiser for Chuck Robb the last time he ran for office, when ever that was, in Virginia. My husband and I were there for the weekend, and were tucked into the party at the last minute. Lady Bird was already afflicted with the macular degeneration that she had for the last years of her radiant life. You would not have known, she was so gracious, so poised, so kind, interested in everything around her, it took me aback. Jack Valenti was there that night as well. He never missed a trick, knew everything. His wife had whispered to him that she watched me on television, so he dashed over and pulled me over to meet her. He, like Lady Bird, was charismatic. His charisma was vibrant, hers serene and sure.

She was such a profound influence on my life. To learn that choosing just one thing -- in her case wild flowers, although, of course, she did so much more than one thing --but to dedicate oneself to one thing and to work at it all of one's life and to see that it is not a small thing, but that in fact, one changed a country by bringing flowers into every ones' life, what a gift. I admired Jackie Kennedy, but over the years, I realized the real person that influenced America was Lady Bird. How wonderful God gave her to us!

My throat is sore, and you must be wondering what I've been eating to comfort me. Peach bread pudding, actually. The soft bread and custard slide right down. Who needs soup when there is bread pudding? If I were to go to any of their funerals -- which I won't -- I would bring bread pudding for those who were alive to comfort them.

Thanks for your notes to my posts. Sorry for any mis-spellings.

Happy days tomorrow. Nathalie

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