Friday, March 7, 2008

Cooking for books

Moveable Feast heads to the ?Wilder Shores?

Express Staff Writer

"The Wilder Shores of Love"

The Community Library's annual celebration Our Moveable Feast is a fundraiser that mixes food and literature. This year's theme book is "The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler, and each food station will have a travel-related book as anchor.

The theme traveled into the invitations, as designed by Muffet Jones, who took the "idea of a travel theme and executed it with great originality," Event chair Peggy Goldwyn said. "I can't wait for everyone to see how the library has been transformed.

As well, "this is the first time we've had a professional set up our background music and I'm really excited about it," Goldwyn said about DJ Matt Boyle and several live musicians.

Caterers Judith McQueen and Raspberry's will prepare a buffet of food from the Middle East, as represented by "The Wilder Shores of Love" by Lesley Blanch. The book is a nonfiction account of four 19th-century women who defied convention by departing for the wilderness in North Africa and the Middle East.

A nomad herself, Blanch died in 2007, a month shy of her 103rd birthday, in Menton, France. Born in London, she married the French novelist and diplomat Romain Gary, whose career took them from the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa and Mexico to the milder climes of Los Angeles, where Gary left her for American actress Jean Seberg.

Our reviewer, author Judith Krantz, is best known for her best-selling novels "Scruples," "I'll Take Manhattan" and "Princess Daisy." More than 80 million copies of her books are in print. Despite the raciness of her novels, her own taste is for classic English literature. A long-time book club member in Los Angeles with Our Moveable Feast Chairwoman Peggy Goldwyn, her choices run from "Middlemarch" to "The Barchester Chronicles," with a touch of Dickens in between.

Book Review

Everything Lesley Blanch wrote, from fiction to nonfiction to cookbooks, is worth exploring. Some of my favorites are "Around the World in 80 Dishes" and "Nine Tiger Man," but "The Wilder Shores of Love" is her most remarkable book. Blanch was one of a kind and her four subjects in "The Wilder Shores of Love" were as unique as herself. You might say the women might find themselves at home in one of my books—and perhaps I was unconsciously inspired by them when I read their stories long before I thought I was capable of writing fiction myself.

Isabel Burton canonized her husband, Richard Burton, the famous Victorian traveler, and dove wholeheartedly into his life in the Middle East. She stayed for days in harems while maintaining 59 trunks of baggage. Blanch picked her because of her passion for Burton, which led her to his passion—the Middle East.

Jane Digby was a renegade. I find it very intriguing that she was an ancestor of Princess Diana. She careened from one incredible love affair to another, first across the face of Europe, then escaping to those wilder shores of love where she married Sheik Abdul Medjuel El Mezrab and mastered the sport of dromedary racing.

Aimee Dubucq de Rivery was the only one of these 19th-century women who did not choose her live in the Middle East. Captured by pirates as a schoolgirl, she was sold into the harem of the Ottoman Sultan and ultimately became the mother of Sultan Mahmoud II, who helped to create modern Turkey. She was a childhood friend in Martinique of the girl who grew up to become Empress Josephine of France. I have to wonder: Did either know what had become of the other?

Isabelle Eberhardt was the most independent of the four women. Originally Russian, she dressed as a man and converted to Islam, while at the same time exploring the width and breadth of worldly experience.

To me, Lesley Blanch is the fifth woman of her book.

"Did I have adventures with foreign men?" she said on her 100th birthday. "Many times—I like them!"

Our Moveable Feast

What: A silent auction and dinner fund-raiser.

When: March 9, 5:30 p.m.

Where: The Community Library, Ketchum.

Tickets: $100, with $90 tax-deductible.

Available at or at the library.

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