Book Review: The Hamptons – Food, Family And History

Last season Silvia Lehrer’s Savoring the  Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of  Long Island’s East End was the go-to cookbook  in the Hamptons. That book is still a popular  wedding and housewarming gift out this way.  Ricky Lauren’s latest cookbook Hamptons Food,  Family and History is sure to be a hit this  year. This tome is handsomely illustrated and  includes gorgeous color photography by Ann  Stratton. Lauren’s previous cookbooks include  Ricky Lauren: Cuisine, Lifestyle and Legend of the  Double RL Ranch (Assouline: 2006).  Designer Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz,  has defined American style for over 40 years.  Along with his lovely wife Ricky and their  children Andrew, David and Dylan, the Laurens  are perhaps the quintesentially American  family. David married an American presidential  niece and granddaughter, Lauren Bush, last  year.

Ricky Lauren defines the Hamptons as lying from Southampton to Montauk. Sorry  Westhampton! Montauk? The Laurens  have enjoyed various vacation homes in  Southampton, Amagansett, East Hampton and  Montauk for over four decades.  The recipes in this collection trace a young  wife and mother’s journey from newlywed to  accomplished Hamptons hostess. These are  simple, family recipes for the most part. The  instructions and ingredient lists are admirably  clear and concise. To quote from the book’s  introduction, “I would like to share the sense of  grace and ease that I feel comes with mastering  a few basic culinary skills…Many recipes have  come from the wonderful and talented chefs  who we have been proud to claim as part of our  family over the years.”

The book is well organized, divided into  breakfasts, lunches, starters, dinners and  desserts. Between these sections are dense  history lessons on different aspects of the  Hamptons – to me they seemed quite dry  and unnecessary – I would have preferred  more recipes instead. To a housewife in the  Middle West, these sections on Hamptons  artists, architects and authors might seem  really “wow.” The Hamptons is a very special  place, after all. Lauren clearly has a deep and  personal affection for the Hamptons. There are  many influences at work from her Viennese  mother and from Jewish cooking traditions.

Lauren’s writing exhibits a lot of good sense  – just what you might expect from a trained  psychotherapist. To wit: “Summertime is the  perfect time to add ripe fruit to your salads.”  Lauren also defines the different cooking  methods like sautéing, parboiling and roasting  and reminds us that “soufflé” is French for  breath. Good to know.  Many of these practical, healthful recipes  date to a parallel time in American culture – the  1970s. This is the decade when a generation  of former hippies set about cooking for their  young families. This was when bean sprouts,  granola and yogurt leapt into mainstream  cuisine. Now, in the 2010s, Americans are all  about healthy, adventurous eating – we’ve even  coined new words and phrases like “locavore”  and “pickle that.” This collection of recipes is  timely in that it offers a good model for families  today, with its emphasis on local, seasonal  foods simply prepared.  Additionally there are adorable family photos  of a baby Andrew, a  toddler Dylan and  Ralph with a dark beard  and mustache. Ricky  shares her family’s  food preferences  including David’s  fondness for soup and  Ralph’s intense love of  Nana’s Rum-Laced Brownies.

I kept expecting to  read about Dylan’s raging sweet tooth since she  is the “Dylan” of the popular chain of Dylan’s  Candy Bar stores. There was little reference to  this until the very last recipe – Schaumrollen,  Puff pastry rolls filled with sweetened whipped  cream. This was Ricky’s father’s favorite  boyhood dessert and  now Dylan’s favorite.  I can’t wait to try  making the Curried  Butternut Squash and  Apple Soup – but I will  wait – until our local  apples and squash are  in season.

The Hamptons Food, Family and History by  Ricky Lauren (Wiley: 2012). Available locally at  Book & Books in Westhampton Beach. 

 

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