“Though I am perfectly content cooking alone, I welcome having another body in the kitchen. We all do things a little differently, and we learn from each other. It is also nice to feel like we are passing on our pleasure of cooking to a younger generation, particularly at a time when most kitchens seem to be empty places.” Judith Jones
When I set out to read Judith Jones food memoir, The Tenth Muse, I expected to read about a woman whose incredible life has been shaped by her devotion to food. Even though I can be a bit absorbed with cooking with others, I never expected to discover how prevalent it was in Ms. Jones life as well.
For cooks who spend most of their time alone in their kitchens, the subtle words and references to cooking together may not have surfaced throughout the pages of this captivating book. But for me, one who is more comfortable cooking with friends and family, her choice of words jumped off the pages.
Best known as the young editor who discovered Julia Child, Judith Jones devoted her career to reshaping the American Cookbook market by celebrating chefs she believed Americans should experience as part of their daily life. Although I was full of envy reading about her years cooking with Julia Child, baking bread with James Beard and making a wedding cake with Marion Cunningham, I was comforted knowing that I regularly experience the joys of cooking with others.
It wasn’t just with cookbook authors that Judith shared hours in her kitchen, but also with friends and family. She remarked that her husband, Evan, was her “closest cooking partner” for more than 50 years. Although that’s something I can’t boast, my adoring husband is the beneficiary of my cooking and my most devout supporter. Fortunately, I’ve found no shortage of cooking partners, since once my friends experience the pleasures of cooking together, they are hooked!
Ironically, shortly after her husband passed away, Judith was invited by her adopted son, Chris Vandercook, a “wary” eater, to cook with him in Hawaii in his small narrow kitchen. Together they created a “triumph” of a dish. I am confident that this intimate moment was a poignant one for Judith since she spent years cooking for Chris, who “had a unique way of scraping food off his fork with his teeth, oh so carefully, trying to avoid letting it touch his mouth.”
Judith’s description of her passion captures one of the most significant reasons to cook with friends.
“You develop a love of cooking by watching, absorbing, licking the spoons, and asking questions of someone you want to emulate. The aura that such a person conveys is contagious. But only if you are susceptible — that is, if you were born with the particular genes.”
It turns out that Judith Jones, a woman I’ve admired, now takes center stage in the theatre of communal cooking. I am so thankful that she has written her “Life in Food.”