Nani Steele’s book of recipes does much to explore the alchemy of a South Coast family’s spirit.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
“There are so many facets to the Fassetts,” Romney “Nani” Steele says, and she should know. After growing up as one of the four grandchildren raised at Nepenthe – she was very close with her grandmother and remembers the people Lolly pulled in clearly (like the hulking ex-Hollywood stuntman called Robot who would play with the grandkids, balance tables on his chin, then crash on Lolly’s kitchen floor) – she grew up cooking, then organized weddings and events, and served as chef for a nascent Cafe Kevah named after her great grandma.
She knows it even better after aggregating anecdotes along with 60-plus recipes for South Coast delicacies like the ambrosia burger, Nepenthe’s cheese pie and the California crab Louis (which will be served Friday) for My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family and Big Sur. Her book will emerge this fall; she’ll read from the manuscript Friday, and her textured blog already ticks through a trove of revelations, to which she’s inviting Nepenthe visitors to add theirs.
Here’s three morsels culled from her blog and book, which she admits ultimately is more about people than a place, and as much a memoir as a cookbook:
• Longtime jack-of-all-trades and master storyteller Bill Fassett, after abandoning ship as a merchant marine to track down his wife-to-be, dreamed of a hot dog-coffee stand called Bill’s Place rather than the sweeping vision that embraced the “aesthetics and poetry of place” in his wife’s mind, where sanctuary-seeking pilgrims could forget their worldly cares.
• Henry Miller would come in with his entourage, take over, and stay all night long. On past midnight Lolly would send a signal from her log cabin that it was time to go: a staffer asking Miller, “How would you like your eggs?”
• During the filming of The Sandpiper, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (Taylor drank tea; Burton had a couple drinks) ate there every day. Burton requested Helen Weston (of Carmel Westons) as his waitress. She’d temptingly make him “passion cookies.” (The recipe is in the book; the other names for the treats, Steele says, are too naughty to publish.)