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A Welcome Antidote To Those OTHER Kennedy Books...
on November 30, 2000
This is a marvellous, beautifully presented look at the entertaining done by President and Mrs. Kennedy during their too-brief thousand days in the White House. Letitia Baldrige was Mrs. Kennedy's Social Secretary, and she has collaborated with Kennedy White House Chef Rene Verdon on reminiscences and recipes that really do evoke that very special time and place. Baldrige's anecdotes give glimpses behind the scenes that help us all understand how distinguished the hosts, guests, and entertaining really were- and her comments are often very funny indeed. Verdon's recipes are drawn from menus actually served at the White House on historic occasions, such as the famed evening when cellist Pablo Casals played for the Kennedys and their guests. The book is incredibly generous with its illustrations, which range from White House photos, to pictures of actual invitations for the events described, to fashion designer Oleg Cassini's original sketches for Mrs. Kennedy's clothes. For Jackie devotees, the book is a bonanza, with many photos showing her in her full splendour as First Lady; one 1954 photo of her lighting the candles on her dinner table may be the single most beautiful ever taken of her. I have one small, gentle caveat: Verdon's recipes have been given before, in different form, in his 1967 "The White House Chef Cookbook". The versions of the recipes in this new book have been changed a bit from the 1967 incarnations, mainly with an eye to increasing the strength of flavour; today's palates are evidently more demanding than those of the Sixties. Still, you're getting a look at the Kennedy White House from the people who made it HAPPEN- no gossip, no hearsay, no errors of research. Baldrige and Verdon were indisputably THERE, and you could do much worse than to buy their book. Come to think of it, if you've been reading some of the other Kennedy books issued recently, you have.