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.