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George Christy Explores the Summer of Nora Ephron

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Famed Beverly Hills Courier columnist George Christy gives you an insider's peek into Hollywood's A-list parties and personalities.

This is the summer of Nora, and the year of the penis.

The New York Times’ press coverage about Nora Ephron, as Nikki Finke points out on her Website, Deadline Hollywood Daily, is tantamount to a tsunami. This weekend, in counter programming against "G.I. Joe," Columbia releases "Julie & Julia," which Nora directed and adapted from Julie Powell’s bestselling memoir, "Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously." The screenplay’s also adapted from "My Life In France" by Julia Child with great nephew Alex Prud’Homme.

Meryl Streep stars as the incomparable Julia Child, and Amy Adams is her youthful admirer, who, as a challenge and relief from her dull daytime job, cooked the 524 recipes from Julia’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Currently in its 49th printing by Alfred Knopf, Julia and her co-authors, Simone (Simca) Beck and Louisette Bertholle, received an advance of $l,500 in 1961, after the cookbook was rejected by Houghton Mifflin.

Along with the barrage of articles about her in the New York Times (where she was a contributing columnist for several years), Nora’s been profiled these weeks in the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Her enthusiasm for the movie and her love of food and butter by now is common knowledge (her favorite pastrami sandwich is from Langer’s in downtown Los Angeles, and she loves the hot dogs at Nate ’n Al’s in Beverly Hills). The New Yorker’s Ariel Levy writes that Nora eats slowly and sparingly (no wonder she maintains her slim figure), and the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd discovered Nora hates filet mignon. But we hear she’s fond of Julia’s lamb stew. The Los Angeles Times’ John Horn assisted Nora when her apple tart flopped in her Manhattan kitchen, and he recounts the “devised schemes to make the 5-foot-6 Meryl look like she was Julia’s 6-foot-2 self. The costume department built lift shoes, the carpentry staff built sets with two levels, and the casting director hired short extras to fill the background.”

We personally knew Julia Carolyn McWilliams Child, who was born in Pasadena to farming and mining wealth, and, like her mother Caro, was a Smith College graduate. We enjoyed lunch several times. At Toscana in Brentwood, and at the Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica, where she sighed that if she were to choose a last supper, she’d ask for “a dozen fresh Belon oysters with a bottle of French Chablis.” I mentioned that food guru James Beard wished for soft scrambled eggs, with a side of caviar, and that he insisted, please, for none of that accompanying “crap” of sour cream, chopped eggs and onions, which reminded us of the great restaurateur Henri Soule’s comment. That “crap” was for people who didn’t like caviar. “You wreck the good caviar. The only proper condiment is a squeeze of lemon.” Julia agreed, as did my dad.

It was the sole meuniere – “the most exciting meal” of Julia’s life — that converted her to French cuisine, the first meal that she and husband Paul Child ordered at La Couronne in Rouen, after arriving in France where Paul was to begin his diplomatic posting. “I fell in love with French food,” she told Alex Prud’Homme. “The tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals.”

RELATED: Click here to read George Christy's full column at the Beverly Hills Courier.

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