Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Writers and latkes

My hands still smell of onions. After last night's latke fest of frying and eating, with my pal and writer, Libby Fischer Hellmann, this morning my fingers poised on a NYT Twitter link to Romain Gary. Above he's at his desk in his apartment in Paris on 108 rue du Bac probably taken in the early 70's.  He won two Prix Goncourt prizes (you're only allowed one but he also published under a pseudonym) and this article details the convoluted story.
What paused my oniony fingers is that I knew his office, those photos on the wall, that sofa facing his desk, that incredible face.
I visited him here.
After reading his novel, Promise at Dawn, for a high school book report, I wrote him a gushing fan letter. Remember, letters and how we put stamps on them?
He responded with a handwritten note of thanks and put his return address on the back of the envelope - 108 rue du Bac Paris 75007.
Little did he know or think that a fan like me would turn up on his tall doorstop in this chic section of Paris a few years later. I did - in jeans and flannel shirt - very unchic. He invited me inside, I think because he didn't know what to do with someone like this who had made such a faux pas of actually appearing at his apartment. I went into his office, the inner sanctum above and he grabbed his wallet and said, 'alors what about a coffee?'
We went down the street to the nearest cafe, his local, where a cigar and espresso were waiting for him on the zinc counter.  The cafe owner looked at me, then him and said 'what about her?' 'She'll have the same' said Gary. So I had my first cigar and espresso with this Prix Goncourt writer.
Heady stuff for a kid like me. I remember him as generous, warm, voluble and someone who treated me as a human being not the pest I'm sure I was.  What a gift.

Here's some pics of last night's latke making. Libby and I cooked so many that there's a lot left. You're welcome to come over.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. A wonderful story, Cara! I'd never have had the guts to do what you did. He was probably charmed rather than annoyed! Do you still have the very occasional cigar?

    1. Actually, I do and enjoy it puffing with a post-prandial liquer once a year!

  2. I don't think you've changed a bit, Cara. The same spirit for sure. I'd also like your latke recipe!

    1. Libby and I are happy to share our seat of the pants latke recipe and were so happy that I hadn't run out of eggs.

  3. It took a nice Catholic born girl to teach a nice Jewish girl how to make latkes...:) And they were great!