Okay. Now that I have your undivided attention, let me tell you a bit about my trip to London last week, for the official launch of the British edition of my cookbook.
Said launch was hosted at the French Institute in South Kensington, and catered for by my publisher herself, who prepared a few recipes from the book — the Zucchini Carpaccio, the Tomato, Chorizo, and Pistachio Bread, the Thyme and Hazelnut Matchsticks, and for dessert, the Chocolate Raspberry Cake and the Very Chocolate Cookies.
Aside from an incident with a bottle of Champagne that could barely contain its excitement but, fortunately, did not maim anyone, the event went very well. I signed books, gave a talk, answered questions, signed more books, chatted, mingled, and when all was said and done and eaten, went out to dinner with my publisher, her husband, and her very charming and very funny in a very British way stepfather.
Other engagements on my London agenda included an interview with Paul Kent for the Oneword radio show FoodStuff, and the recording of a segment for UKTV’s Market Kitchen show with Matthew Fort and Tom Parker-Bowles (the segment will air on July 4th at 8pm). This was especially fun, for I got to hang out on the set for a little while, observing the ballet of producers and cameramen and food stylists, admiring the shocking pink socks that one of the hosts was wearing that day, but forgetting to ask him whence they came.
The experience was quite different from my first television appearance in the US — I felt a lot more comfortable knowing that it was a pre-recorded show as opposed to a live one, and that I would have time to actually form full sentences — but one thing that was common to both was the relaxed, joyful atmosphere on the set, and the kindness of the staff. Clearly, the all-day proximity of good food makes people happy and sweet.
When it comes to London eats, I relied heavily on my friend Michele‘s excellent taste to steer me in the right direction: while it is early yet in our friendship for me to trust her with my life, my taste buds were obviously in good hands. She and I had a splendid dinner at Moro, and I went on to have a fine sandwich at Gail’s Bread the next day, and a rejoicing vegan lunch* at Vitaorganic the day after that.
On the final day of my stay, the hours I had to kill before I caught the train back to Paris were spent at the National Portrait Gallery, which is equipped with a handy cloakroom where one can leave one’s heavy-as-a-dead-donkey suitcase**. I am normally more keen on modern or contemporary art, but I was unexpectedly moved by the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits, which is more than I can say, I’m afraid, about the group of teenaged schoolgirls that milled about, looking so unendurably bored they seemed about ready to rip their own eyes out, except it might have ruined their makeup.
“But what about Jude Law?” I hear a few of you clamoring in the back. And you’re right, I need to address that, otherwise you might feel cheated by the title of this post, and I would never forgive myself: the Jude encounter occurred at the French Institute, where he was invited on the same night as I was***.
I should start this off by saying that I’m not big on celebrities and never have been, although I did have a thing for Jean-Jacques Goldman in my early teens, but because I read women’s magazines like there is no other kind, I know that Jude Law usually holds a very honorable place in their Sexiest Men Alive rankings. I will admit however that I tend to confuse him with Christopher Eccleston for no apparent reason other than that he was the lead actor in a very good movie called Jude.
But here we were, Jude Law and I, in the same building at the same time, and the cultural attaché suggested I sign a copy of my book for him. “No problem,” I thought, until I uncapped my pen and started to wonder: what in the world does one write in a book that one signs for a movie star, especially when it is a cookbook and that one has no idea whether said movie star is remotely interested in food and/or cooking? I scratched my head and came up with something that will remain between Jude and me, unless you happen to see the book lying around somewhere in his house next time you drop by for a beer.
Someone was to bring him the book, along with a plate of food from our buffet, but then the attaché came back and said, “Perhaps you would like to bring it to him yourself?” And so I did: I went down the stairs to the little room where he and his entourage were waiting, I was let in by a stern and broad-shouldered man — I noticed the earpiece and thought, oh, wow, an actual bodyguard! — and there he was, Jude Law, as advertised, standing in the middle of the room.
And well, we shook hands, I said a few words about the book, he had a taste of the chocolate and raspberry cake, and we talked for a minute, which allowed me to find out that Jude Law does, indeed, cook, that he likes to make soups and stews and cakes (chocolate is, astoundingly enough, his favorite), that he and his daughter make a mean apple crumble with the apples from his apple tree, and that his recipe for the crumble topping involves butter, flour, and brown sugar — a collection of facts that allows me to think that he is, all in all, a completely normal person, though with a brighter smile than average. We shook hands again, I snuck past the bodyguard and out the door, and went back upstairs.
And thus, dear friends, ends the story of how I met Jude Law — not quite tabloid material, but I can think of at least one person who’s quite happy it’s not.
* If you think this is the funniest oxymoron ever, you really should give Vitaorganic a go.
** “What do you have in there?” the cab driver asked after I’d warned him that it was very heavy. “It’s full of books,” I explained. “Full of box?” he asked. “No, full of books.” Apparently, I don’t pronounce “books” in a manner that is comprehensible to the British ear.
*** The exact reason is unclear to me: I was told it had to do with his samurai movie, but neither I nor IMDb know anything about a samurai movie with Jude Law, so the question remains open.