Have You Met Ms. Jones?

25 Oct

I was supposed to meet Judith Jones last night.

Empire State Building

It was dark and blustering as I trotted up the slick sidewalks of Fifth Avenue, ducking and weaving around tourists and construction sheds. It was only four blocks, and I covered them in an odd half run, half trot, holding my breath the whole time, checking my watch every few strides. I turned the corner onto 19th Street and my hope faded. I could tell that the event was over. I checked my watch again, 8:01pm. I had missed her.

I burst into the store and asked the proprietor, “Is she still here?” “No,” he said, “the event ended at 8.” “But it’s only just 8:01 now,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry, but you missed her, you should have gotten here earlier,” he snapped peevishly. “I couldn’t,” I blubbered, “work.” “Well, I’ve got a few signed books left I’d be happy to sell you,” he added in a kinder tone. “No, thank you, that’s not the point. I wanted to meet her.” And then I turned and walked away, thoroughly depressed.

Empire State Building

It’d been a truly cruddy day, and meeting Judith Jones was the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I had a two hour window, I knew she was only four blocks away, and yet all the servers of creation kept me from her. Sometimes I hate computers.

So, who is this woman that I hold in such high regard? Judith Jones was (and still is) an editor at Alfred Knopf. As a young woman living in Paris she found and helped get published The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. She brought us Julia Child as an author and TV personality. She’s also worked with James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Joan Nathan and many, many others.

Empire State Building

But most importantly to me she discovered and edited two of my favorite cookbooks of all time: Roy Andries de Groot‘s Feasts For All Seasons and Claudia Roden‘s A Book Of Middle Eastern Food. I discovered all this a few months ago after I took a galley of Ms. Jones’ memoir, The Tenth Muse, that had been sent to someone in my office and set aside to be thrown out with the trash. The girly lavender cover threw me off, but I decided to take a closer look and there on the back was this quote:

Food is one of the greatest gifts of life… You should derive enormous pleasure from making it, eating it, enjoying it with family, and it should be honored.

Each chapter was a revelation, how she made her choices, the women she met, the lessons she learned. The Boy quickly grew tired of me coming home, bursting through the door and starting our conversation with, “Do you know what else Judith Jones did?” Finally he suggested I contact Knopf’s press office to let them know that I really wanted to meet Ms. Jones, to sit down with her and talk to her. I did, and all I got back was a terse email inviting me to the reading she did last night. But alas, I missed it.

Empire State Building

As I sit here typing at my desk, next to my bookshelf, I’m scanning the titles. So many of the cookbooks I love and trust were published by Knopf. Did she have a hand in all of them? Could one woman have shaped the way I cook so anonymously? It’s a delicious question, and one I’m afraid I’ll never get to ask.

When I finally made it home last night I was exhausted and famished, but too tired to cook. I tore off a hunk of focaccia and poured myself a glass of good red wine. I sat and munched and thought. Ms. Jones still cooks dinner for herself every night and all I could manage was a hunk of bread. It’s humbling and inspiring.

My Books

If I had had the energy I would have loved to have eaten my favorite quick and easy dinner last night. I didn’t have the energy then, but I’d love to give you the recipe now. The slaw (known around here as slawpy) is made a day in advance and goes much faster if you have a “chou chef” to help with the prep (the Boy’s term, not mine!).


All that is required upon arriving home is the caramelizing of onions and garlic and boiling the pierogis. It’s fast, healthy and delicious.

Pierogies with Caramelized Purple & Yellow Onions

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, if you’ve got the time to make it.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Fluffy Dilly Slaw.

Fluffy Dilly Slaw (aka Slawpy)

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: none

Cook’s Note: You can eat this slaw after just a few hours of macerating, but it’s best the next day, or even after a few days. It keeps very well in the fridge.

  • 1/2 head Savoy Cabbage, cut into very thin ribbons
  • 1/2 head Purple Cabbage, cut into very thin ribbons
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1 tsp good prepared Mustard
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Caraway Seeds
  • 1 cup White Vinegar
  • a handful of Dilly Beans or other Dilled Pickle, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup or so of the Pickle Brine

Toss the cabbages together with the chopped Dilly Beans. Combine the rest of the ingredients to form the dressing. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat and allow to macerate at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.

To serve: Can be eaten as a delicious crunchy salad alongside pierogies and caramelized onions or on spicy leftover pork sandwiches.


16 Responses to “Have You Met Ms. Jones?”

  1. mary October 25, 2007 at 9:10 am #

    So sorry about your missing Ms. J.J., she’s such an inspiration, isn’t she? Your photos are particularly fabulous today and putting slaw with pierogi is truly inspired, that’s probably just what they need to perk up. I’m going to try this one.

  2. Di October 25, 2007 at 9:45 am #

    Where do you get your pierogies?
    We’ve been looking and don’t know what’s good in NYC.


  3. Terry B October 25, 2007 at 10:02 am #

    Ann—What an amazing quote. In two quick lines, it distills what drives us to cook and to strive to cook well. I’m going to print out a copy of this and put it up somewhere in my kitchen, preferably somewhere where it can get spattered and stained by our efforts at honoring food.

  4. Lydia October 25, 2007 at 11:19 am #

    Oh, your story breaks my heart. 8:01? How many events end on time??? I hope you have another chance to meet her.

  5. mary beth October 25, 2007 at 3:16 pm #

    I love more than anything the picture of favorite cookbooks which promptly led me to amazon where I just dropped thirty dollars on used cookbooks that were indeed not available through the NYPL system- darn.

  6. Jennifer Hess October 25, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    Awww, I’m sorry. I was hoping to go myself but didn’t make it, and it sucks all the more because I just started reading her book on Tuesday and I’m devouring it! Hopefully you (and I) will get another chance.

    Slawpy sounds absolutely delicious – you know I share your love of those vinegary, briny flavors. :)

  7. ann October 25, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    Mary — She really, truly is an inspiration. She feels like someone I should try to model my life upon. I bet you’ll like the slaw and pierogies, it’s a really good combo.

    Di — Many places! There’s a Polish deli on 5th Ave in Park Slope near 15th St called Eagle Provisions that sells really good ones. Then there’s Polbridge here in Bay Ridge on 3rd Ave that’s my current go to. I bet there’s a bunch in Greenpoint too. I think Kurowycky on 2nd Ave near Veselka in the teens in Manhattan has them too. Anyone else have any suggestions for Di?

    TerryB — that’s a fabulous idea! I should do that too.

    Lydia — I know, I was so bummed. Hopefully there’ll be a next time!

    Mary Beth — Oh do tell… What did you buy? Anything wonderful?

    Hi Jen — You would looooooove Slawpy! I hope we do get the chance to meet her too. Isn’t the book wonderful?!

  8. izzy's mama October 25, 2007 at 11:08 pm #

    Hold out hope that you will meet her again! I was intrigued when I saw the article about her and wouldn’t mind meeting her myself.

    As for pierogi, you know that is my go to meal whenever Izzy and I are out and I have no time to cook..I usually just serve organic frozen peas.. I like your slaw idea..I might just have to do it!

  9. Homesick Texan October 26, 2007 at 8:06 am #

    Stupid computers! I’m sorry you didn’t make it, but I bet she’ll have another reading!

  10. Julie October 26, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    OK, I screwed that link up but if you click anywhere on my previous comment it takes you to information about her appearance at the Library of Congress.

  11. sher October 27, 2007 at 2:58 am #

    I’m sorry you missed her! I hope you connect with her (in person) someday.

    Your pictures are simply wonderful!

  12. Ulla October 27, 2007 at 2:15 pm #

    Maybe she will read this and want to meet you!
    Sorry that you missed her, I have been more late now then ever, I feel as if the trains and the crowds make it impossible to be on time.

  13. Susan in Italy October 27, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    Loving the New York photos today and sorry you didn’t catch Ms. Jones although meeting an icon in person is dangerous, she could disappoint you for any number of reasons – at least now your awe is still intact ;)

  14. ann October 28, 2007 at 9:50 am #

    Izzy’s Mama — I love frozen peas! They’re delicious and they make great ice bags for sore joints. Is there anything the frozen pea can’t do?

    Lisa(HT) — I hope so. Sorry to have missed you there.

    Julie — Hmmmmm… intriguing… A day off… Reading… Trip to D.C., a city I haven’t been to since college…. I’m not sure it’s likely, but it’s a nice though to mull over.

    Sher — Hi! Thanks!

    Ulla — That’s a fun thought! And yes, I agree, it feels damn near impossible to do anything these days in the city. It’s frustrating.

    Susan — Thanks and excellent point. I’ve met some of my idols in the past and yes, sometimes they’re disappointing.

  15. s'kat November 5, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    What a real bummer! I know we’re all on a schedule, but on freakin’ minute?!

    At any rate, your pierogi-slaw combo looks like great instant comfort food. Yum.

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