Unlike Guests, The Camera Never Lies

I'd often seen Susan Spungen do remarkable work as a food stylist and all-around good cook in the original offices of Martha Stewart Living. "Shoot food" is a common term around food magazines and food sections, something you generally eye very hungrily waiting for the moment of need to end, which can take forever, especially when a meticulous or temperamental stylist and photographer are involved--or jockeying for primacy as a shoot progresses.

Generally every assistant, equipment handler, and passerby from adjoining offices lunges the minute the photo lights get turned off, and within a shockingly short time the beautiful plates are battle scenes.

But I had no idea of the rigors of making and styling food for a film until Susan Spungen sent in this morning's enlightening piece. I admit that I'd gotten an idea when she appeared between takes on the day I spent on the set of Julie & Julia, in a well-used apron and her hair a bit astray. But then, she'd spent heaven knows how many hours--it was mid-afternoon--styling food for a terribly chic French cocktail party where Julia Child meets her future collaborators, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (I got to be an extra clear on the other side of the screen from Meryl Streep peering intently at a tray of soigne little hors d'oeuvres). It all looked pretty spiffy to me, but then I was agog the whole day, and happily stunned when I saw Susan appear at all--I hadn't known she was working on the movie.

But just yesterday official confirmation appeared in the paper of record, when Sam Sifton, the culture editor of The New York Times and one of my favorite writers on food in any publication, wrote about the understandably daunting task of cooking for Nora Ephron, the writer and director of J&J. He leaves the actual review to his colleagues (whom he probably edits), but he does allow himself one observation:

Opinions about movies are for film critics; I hazard them at great personal risk. (I work closely with film critics.) But I can say that the food in Julie & Julia is beautiful. (Can't I?) The aesthetic of Ephron's sole is perfect. She may be to food as Scorsese is to bar fights.

Way to go Susan! And these are just the advance notices.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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