Luncheon. How retro is that word? But how fabulous is the concept? And how often do we have them? Not often enough, I say.
I was reminded of this the other day. A friend called to let me know that “Mama” was coming in from Memphis and that she’d love us to meet. My friend is a larger-than-life character and I was sure her mother would be, too. I invited them to lunch on Friday.
I contemplated lots of different menus (quiche was too predictable; a salad not quite hearty enough) and came up with oeufs en cocotte (sauteed leeks topped with a little creme fraiche and an egg, baked in a ramekin)
with a salad (endive, walnuts and feta) on the side. I supposed I could have made some iced tea (I wasn’t thinking!) but ended up pouring lemonade.
For dessert, always a second thought, I sliced and baked oatmeal-raisin dough from La Brea Bakery.
What a joy it was to meet Mama, a quick and sturdy 86-year old former newspaper gal who’s been around, met a lot of interesting people and continues to have adventures! And her Southern accent was gorgeous! (No twang there!) We had one of those conversations that have you wanting to grab a notebook to follow up on things–book recommendations, places to visit, whatever. I never did, thinking I wanted to be on my best behavior for my Southern guest.
It was hard to keep up with her and her daughter’s conversation–someone would be mentioned, then one would ask the other if he was any relation to so-and-so or if they knew each other from here or there. Or maybe one of their sisters married the owner of the art gallery owned by an uncle of the other. Lots of sidetracking! There were some names I recognized, like Koo Stark, Elvis and William Faulkner, along with many minor characters. Time was spent catching up on a fabulous Frenchman who landed in Memphis way back when where he started an avant guard magazine and hired Mama as an editor. When it was clear the magazine wouldn’t succeed, he left a note saying goodbye and flew back to France. My friend recently tracked him down and visited him in Florida somewhere where he is as charming as ever–and married to wife number two or three. There was also the woman who lives on some fancy square in London who did Diana’s (as in the Princess) charitable AIDS work; and the sister who joined us late. What kind of conversation covers such ground!?
The William Faulkner story was a good one. Mama was asked by the newspaper to cover his daughter’s wedding and reception at his home. Her editor told her that Faulkner had publicly threatened to shoot any reporter who ever dared to step foot on his Mississippi property (Time magazine had published photos of his home that he had specifically said were off-limits). Undeterred, Mama accepted the assignment. Knowing every Southern mother wants her daughter’s wedding covered in the paper for posterity, she contacted Mrs. Faulkner. A few days later, an invitation to the wedding arrived in her mailbox.
She took her notes and snapped some shots and handed them off to “Daddy” (her husband-to-be at the time) to get them off the property safely. Only once they were safe did she introduce herself to the famous writer. She told him who she was and what she was doing and he just looked up to the sky. Before he could decide if he was going to grab a rifle, she scurried on out. This account is in some biography of William Faulkner, but I don’t know which one. Mama is named in it.
I’m so glad my friend and her mother came to lunch with me. They made my life just a little bit richer. Try it!
Note: I’ve learned that the Faulkner biography that mentions Mama and the story she shared is the one written by Joseph Leo Blotner.