January 26 entry:
Jason Epstein's Kitchen
2003. A cold January day and sitting in Jason Epstein's kitchen in Sag Harbor, a smallish room barely twelve feet square, talking about food. The kitchen – its layout – is much the same as when he bought the house thirty or forty years ago. The stove is in the same place, though it is not the same stove. The dark, round table we are sitting at was there, even the rickety chairs.
This house, large and on a wide plot that runs all the way between two streets, is the house you have always wanted, deeply comfortable and civilized. Books and bookcases, wide board floors with Oriental rugs, pictures, places to sit and read or write, and a broad garden on two levels with trees and random stone pathways.
An important editor nearly all his life – one of the great Brahmins – Jason Epstein is also a remarkable cook and writer about food. He has liked to cook for as long as he can remember, perhaps resulting from the visits to his grandmother's in Maine. It was a big, unheated house where they all sat in the kitchen in the winter, the woodstove going, and Jason, a boy of six or seven sitting in the blue wood box next to the stove, would watch his grandmother carry soup and pies she had baked to the table.
In his own kitchen, there's a fireplace with a knee-high hearth, an upholstered armchair, and only about two or three feet of workspace on a butcher-block counter. The other couple of feet are taken up by an elaborate espresso machine. Doesn't he need more space than this to work? "No, the more space, the more mess you make," he says. The first rule is to clean up after yourself as you go. He's cooked dinners for as many as fifty people here without any problem.
There's a refrigerator with photographs stuck to it, an old white sink, and pots and pans hanging from an overhead rack. A long magnetic strip on the wall has twenty or thirty knives in graduated sizes on it. There are no cookbooks. These are in an adjoining room, but Jason rarely uses them. As an editor he published many, and he sometimes reads one to relax. It's a kitchen where one can read, have drinks or hors d'oeuvres before dinner, or sit and talk. The kitchen is the real heart of the house and the life.
Life Is Meals
A Food Lover's Book Of Days
by James and Kay Salter