Thanks to the Internet, I can honestly say something that sounds crazy — I’ve never met some of my best friends. So I was skittish about accepting Christopher Hirsheimer’s invitation to a surprise lunch for her business partner, Melissa Hamilton. I “know” Chrisopher and Melissa because I was an early fan of their Canal House cookbook series; now that they’re up to #5, “admiration” has morphed into “awe.” And they like me a bit too.
In that situation, if you were slated to meet, wouldn’t you think: “Downhill from here.” But it was a group lunch, with me as some kind of surprise guest — and did I say that it was being held at Prune, the Lower East Side restaurant launched by Gabrielle Hamilton, Melissa’s sister? Prune is small, idiosyncratic, beloved. I’d never been. Well, why not experience two novelties at once?
If you have read Hamilton and Hirsheimer’s books, you know they like cocktails, smart talk, fresh ideas. In “real” life, that’s just who they are. And attractive in the way that real women are attractive. So I was, by turns, stunned, relieved and thrilled to have two hours with them.
And then there was the meal. The main course was a smallish piece of chicken, a carrot, a turnip and a parsnip, served in an inch of clear broth. The foodie next to me: “Gabrielle is the most audacious cook in New York.” Ok, we’d had a drink, but she had a point — this was as elegantly simple as the glorious dinners that A.J. Liebling describes in Between Meals.
The next day was the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally for sanity/fear in Washington. I watched it with one eye for 2 hours; it was so boring it didn’t demand my full attention. But it caught fire at the end, and Stewart’s summation of the event struck me as generous and smart and sincere — I think “decent” is the word. And he certainly misted the eyes in this household. If you were otherwise engaged, here you go:
I’ve been listening a lot to the Dylan demos from wayback 1962-1964. If you’re of a certain age, you can’t help flashing back to old times, old causes, old friends. That lunch, that rally — I thought of “Bob Dylan’s Dream.” Know it? Here’s the Judy Collins version:
But nostalgia’s a trap. Only now matters. “I feel strangely good,” Stewart said. Me too. Thanks, Christopher. Thanks, Melissa. Thanks, Gabrielle. Here’s to seconds for us all.