A Toast to Nora

Returning home from Texas on Tuesday night, I had a long layover at Sea-Tac. To pass the time and soothe my frayed nerves, I pulled from my carry-on bag my Mac and a dvd: ‘Julia and Julia’. I’d just watched the movie a couple of nights before — probably for the fifth time since its release — so this time I clicked the ‘special features’ about the making of the film. These are the kinds of features my family can’t stand but I love:  behind-the-scenes interviews, cutting-room floor footage, background stories on the characters. So, of course, there was commentary from the film’s screenwriter and director, Nora Ephron.

The next morning brought a freakish coincidence: just a half-day after watching those video clips at the airport, I read the news that Nora Ephron had died Tuesday night at age 71. It occurred to me, in fact, that she could have passed even as I was hearing her voice and seeing her image on my screen. The news saddened me, but I still smiled recalling how she had made me laugh. She dished up life’s experiences in her films, books and articles, spiced with wit and sauced with wisdom.

Yesterday there were tributes to her in the media. While driving, I caught an archived interview on KUOW, replayed from her November 2010 visit to Seattle. I already knew, as a fan, that food figured prominently in Nora’s life. I’d also just been reminded the night before that we shared a warm admiration of Julia Child and an abiding love for all things Paris.

It delighted me, then, to hear her tell the Seattle radio audience that a high point in her life was the beautiful filmography of the sole meuniere presented to Meryl Streep, as she portrayed Julia Child in 1940s Paris. Eating this classic French dish for the first time was the tipping point in Julia Child’s life, the one that opened her eyes to the wonders of good food. Getting that moment and image perfect on film was a career highlight for Nora. Now these were women with clear priorities! These were women who knew how to find joie de vivre in almost anything, most notably food. In fact, I read an interview of Nora in which she was asked her favorite obsession, and replied: “What’s for dinner?”

Nora Ephron, you were a gal after my heart. May you be enjoying a great meal in heaven, laughing it up with Julia.

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