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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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‘Are We Really All Going To Spend Our Last Years Avoiding Bread?’ [Remembering Nora Ephron]

Posted Jun 27, 2012 by Jeff Houck

Updated Jun 27, 2012 at 02:54 PM

Books Nora Ephron

The waves of public grief about the passing of writer, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron are reaching profound levels, perhaps no more so than among food lovers who found a kinship with a woman who clearly embraced the pleasures of fine flavors.

In addition to directing and screenwriting “Julie & Julia,” Ephron was a well-known fan of all things tasty, the kind of woman who ate her Cobb salad with small, tidy bites and who fetched bone marrow appetizers for tablemates so they could taste the creamy goodness.

Of herself, she once said:

“If there is a Nora Ephron signature anything it is that there’s slightly too much food. I have a friend whose mantra is: You must choose. And I believe the exact opposite: I think you should always have at least four desserts that are kind of fighting with each other.”

She once told Charlie Rose during an interview to promote “Julie & Julia” that she was obsessed with food, that she thought about it constantly.

“The truth is, that people have forgotten how easy it is to cook and how much fun it is to cook.  And what the whole point of cooking is to me which is that it makes - it makes a place a home.  It doesn’t matter if you are related to the people in the home or not it is what brings people together.  They all want to be in the kitchen anyway.”

The quote everyone is trotting out today is one that seems prophetic in hindsight, when it should be just plain meaningful without needing to be morose:

“When you are actually going to have your last meal, you’ll either be too sick to have it or you aren’t gonna know it’s your last meal and you could squander it on something like a tuna melt and that would be ironic. So it’s important ... I feel it’s important to have that last meal today, tomorrow, soon.”

It echoes my feeling about food at the airport. If my plane ever craters into the ground or takes a swim in the ocean, I don’t want my last meal to be a grab-and-go chicken salad from Chili’s Express.

My esteem for Ephron’s writing is enormous, partly because she wrote The Best Movie Scene About Food In The History Of Filmmaking: The deli scene in “When Harry Met Sally.”

When Harry Met Sally

Some trivia about that scene:

* Sally’s picky and crazy eating habits were put into the movie after director Rob Reiner saw Nora Ephron ordering her food in the same way Sally did in the movie. When Rob brought this up, Nora said, “I just like it the way I like it,” a line which was put into the movie.

* The original script called for Harry and Sally to just talk about women faking an orgasm, until Meg Ryan suggested that Sally actually fake an orgasm at the table. Rob Reiner loved the idea and put it into the script.

* In an interview with National Public Radio in 2004, Nora Ephron credited Meg Ryan not only with the idea of faking orgasm in the well-known restaurant scene, but also with the idea of setting it in a restaurant in the first place.

* The infamous “I’ll have what she’s having” line was actually suggested by Billy Crystal.

* The scene was filmed at Katz’s Deli East Houston Street in New York City. The table at which the scene was filmed now has a plaque on it that reads, “Where harry met sally… hope you have what she had!”

* Years after the movie came out, Nora Ephron was on a plane and ordered something very precise. The stewardess looked at her and asked, “Have you ever seen the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’?”

Here, once again, is the best food scene in Hollywood history:

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