Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tea with Crescent Dragonwagon

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to have tea with noted cookbook author and children’s book author Crescent Dragonwagon. I have known Crescent for a couple of years. I met her before I knew anything about her amazing cookbook Passionate Vegetarian (because I’m an unabashed Passionate Omnivore), but I soon figured out she was a pretty interesting and amazing lady. Yesterday, however, I got to know just how amazing she is.

I was at her lovely old farmhouse in the Green Mountains to interview her for the newsletter where I work (circulation 5,000) as Crescent had enthusiastically agreed to be our featured local producer. I have interviewed about 30 people since I have taken on this job and I have to say that Crescent was one of my favorites. First of all she was such a wonderfully gracious hostess. She prepared a southern-style cornbread for us in a skillet, one of the recipes in her newly published cookbook The Cornbread Gospels, and then made shortbread out of it by slicing it in half, filling it with her homemade from her own organic garden green tomato mincemeat (a recipe that can be found on the Passionate Vegetarian Cookbook) and served with fresh whipped cream. She served this as a dessert to follow little egg salad sandwiches on rye bread or something herbed and creamy amazing on oatmeal bread; cut into little squares, of course, as it was a tea party.

Tea was Assam or this very lovely kind of smoky Russian black tea which I forgot the name of (yes, and I was taking notes!) so I guess I’ll have to email her for that information and it was brewed in a gorgeous antique china teapot that she bought when she was eighteen with a gorgeous dragon for handle and spout. She was meticulous in her tea ceremony, warming the pot before she added the tea, and even warming the milk. I let her be ‘mother’ and pour. I confess I haven’t had such a nice tea since I lived in England.

Conversation was lively and entertaining and I mostly eschewed the time-dulled practice of interviewing her by asking questions. I let the conversation flow freely, and I’m sure it was far more fun for everyone that way. After tea Crescent led us on a tour of her home, which was the same one she’d spent every summer in as a child, including her wall of photographs where I learned that Crescent had dined at the White House with the Clintons, but even more impressive to the artist in me had been photographed by Annie Liebovitz! What was really remarkable was that this fascinating and multi-talented woman who wrote novels as well as her cookbooks and kid’s books, was so wonderful forthright about herself without ever seeming boastful or vain. She is truly a special and unique human being.

Oh and another notable was the fantastic paintings in her dining room done by her grandfather or great-grandfather I believe.

(photo credit: Walter Fogg)

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