A Review of a Local Cookbook: Hampton Weekends

At first glance, you might think that Ellen Wright’s newly released cookbook Hampton Weekends from East End Press is about weekending in horsey Virginia, but in fact it’s all about cooking and enjoying life in Bridgehampton. Originally released as Bridgehampton Weekends in 2000, this new version features homey sidebars with solid advice from its author called “Ellen’s Tips.”

The book delivers on its subtitle, Easy Menus for Casual Entertaining All Year Round in a big way. I was impressed throughout with Wright’s no-nonsense approach to cooking and entertaining. She’s so fearless that she invited James Beard to dinner years ago! She went on to help him develop some recipes. Beard went on to become a regular at Wright’s table. (I gave Gael Greene one of my peach pies when we first met—we’re still friends!)

Wright reflects on her background in pottery, “I knew how to use my hands. I knew about consistency and texture and I wasn’t afraid.” I discovered a kindred spirit in Wright, who wrote, “I was intuitive and brave in the kitchen. I always made new things for company and was undaunted.” And in regard to setting the table, “for me, less-than-perfect is best.” And that, to my mind, is “a good thing.”

Wright’s recipes look delicious and hassle-free. I can’t wait to try them—but I will wait—the book is organized into seasons. As per the “Summer” section, I’ll soon try making the Tomato Carrot Soup—but I’ll wait to make her Cranberry-Orange Relish until cranberries are in season this fall. Maybe I’ll even shop for ingredients at some of Wright’s favorite farm stands—like Falkowski’s. Since Wright’s weekend home is on Mitchell’s Lane outside Bridgehampton, and I’m in Sag Harbor Village, we have some choice farm stands in common.

Need even more encouragement to buy this book?—you’ll want to jump right into the many gorgeous, color-drenched  photos by Tom Eckerle. Plus all of the author’s proceeds benefit the Joe and Ellen Prosthetic Fund at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Joe Wright is Ellen’s second husband, and they have been enjoying their home in Bridgehampton together with friends and family for over 40 years. From their views of cantering horses to Joe’s garden to entertaining around the kitchen table, they clearly have enjoying Hamptons weekends down to a delicious science. Wright writes of this collection of recipes, “I have learned from experience. I know they work and I want to share them with you.” Thank you!

This new version of the book also promises “tips on how to make a dish lactose free.” Author Wright discovered that she’s lactose intolerant after the book’s original publication.

You might assume that Wright has hit on healthy substitutes for dairy, but consistently her substitutions consist of using Lactaid in place of milk. No doubt that often works, but if you replace the yogurt in the Yogurt and Blue Cheese Dip and omit the blue cheese is it still Yogurt and Blue Cheese Dip? Not so much. Replacing the cheddar in a cheese straws recipe with Lactaid cottage cheese? I’m not trying it.

I love that Wright’s Russian grandmother Bessie and her husband’s mother are acknowledged as contributing to Wright’s recipes.

As I said, I can’t wait to try many of these recipes and, as I do, I’ll remember fondly Wright’s words of wisdom: “Before you go into a complete state of panic, remember that there are things you can do to save the day. More herbs, a quick sauce, some bread crumbs, a different serving dish, a spoon instead of a fork can make all the difference.” I’m sure that I won’t go into any state of panic using these recipes, I’ll just go to my own private Bridgehampton weekend…

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