If only we could all write like Dorothy Parker. Alas, we cannot, and some days that’s more obvious than others. In fact, Mrs. Parker advised most of us not to even try: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Ellen Meister has done her level best to put Mrs. Parker on full and glorious display in “Farewell, Dorothy Parker,” a fantasy novel in which the great author rematerializes to advise, criticize and revitalize the life of Violet Epps, a movie critic and Dorothy Parker devotee. Miss Epps visits the Algonquin Hotel and amidst inspecting the hotel’s autograph book of famous persons, encounters the ghost of Dorothy Parker who would rather hang around the Round Table than cross on over into the light. Miss Epps absconds with the book and with Mrs. Parker, who takes up residence at Violet’s house, drinks all of his liquor, seduces the man (via inhabiting Violet’s body) that Violet has the hots for and very nearly ruins Violet’s attempt to obtain custody of her niece.
I’d like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under the host.
One intimates that Mrs. Parker herself would enjoy this scenario. “I don’t care what is written about me, as long as it isn’t true.” And certainly one hopes this isn’t; I hope Mrs. Parker is enjoying the light and the gin and the men and has long been.
Farewell, Dorothy Parker is a fun and quick read. Meister imbues a level of peril with the fun by introducing Miss Epps’ custody battle and struggle with her survivor’s guilt after her sister is killed in an automobile accident. Perhaps most importantly, and one wonders if this was her intention, Meister leaves one wanting more of Dorothy Parker herself.
She definitely had a way with words.
The Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, is now a Marriott property. The famous Round Table room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, including (one can only wonder what poisonous bon mots Mrs. Parker would pen regarding this) gluten-free and vegan options. If you are interested in co-opting the current Algonquin Room menu, here is a link to find it: http://www.algonquinhotel.com/sites/default/files/dinner_jan_2014.pdf
And if you want to play a food-related game, LA Weekly has a post where you must guess whether a quotation is one of Dorothy Parker’s reviews or one of a current food critic. Very fun! http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2012/04/24/food-review-or-dorothy-parker
The Vicious Circle, of which Mrs. Parker was a part, ate lunch at the Algonquin Room daily during the 1920s.
It’s rather difficult to find reference to any actual food Mrs. Parker may have enjoyed. But I would try to replicate a 1920s style luncheon . . . with martinis.
Chilled Tomato Consomme
Finger Sandwiches, 1920s style
Sardolive: Mix equal parts of sardines, chopped olives and hard-boiled egg yolks and season highly with lemon juice, salt and paprika
Tiger Eyes: Cut rounds of white bread with a cutter. Butter the bottom round and spread with seasoned cream cheese. Cut a small circle from center of top round. Place on bottom round and in the center hole fit half a suffed olive, cut crosswise
Honolulu: 3/4 cup chopped pulled figs, 1 cup crushed pineapple, 1/3 cup sugar, Juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Cook figs and pineapple until smooth, add sugar and lemon juice and cook until thick. Remove from fire, add walnuts and cool. Spread on thin rounds of whole-wheat bread
Here’s a recipe for Tomato Consomme from the Food Network:
4 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 beet root, peeled and sliced
Fresh chives, for garnish
Special equipment: Butcher’s twine, 3 to 4 large pieces cheesecloth (about 2 by 2 feet)
Put the tomatoes, green onions, lemon juice, basil, garlic and salt and pepper, to taste, into a food processor and run until blended and slushy. Put 4 layers of clean cheesecloth in a deep bowl. Pour the tomato mixture into the cheesecloth. Tie up the corners of the fabric. Add the slices of peeled beet root to the bowl to color the liquid. Hang the bag from a shelf in the refrigerator with the bowl underneath for a couple hours (or longer). Discard the beetroot. Ladle the consomme into chilled clear or white bowls and garnish each with a single piece of chive.
This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chilled-tomato-consomme-recipe.print.html?oc=linkback
Jazz. Am I always recommending Jazz? Perhaps I have a tendency to read books that require a jazz background. But for this book, I would put together a soundtrack of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sophie Tucker. Nothing too upbeat either. She attempted suicide four times. She never succeeded. Mrs. Parker died of a heart attack in 1967 leaving her entire estate to the Martin Luther King foundation.