Publisher: Originally published in 1983, the Virago Press edition was published in 2008
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Heartburn is the story of Rachel, a cookbook author, wife and mother living in Washington, D.C. Rachel is not a trained chef, just a woman who loves to cook, do food demonstrations, and write chatty cookbooks.
Everything in Rachel’s life is going pretty good. Her husband is a respected political columnist, her cookbooks are selling well, she has a sweet two-year-old boy, and she’s seven-months pregnant.
And then her world falls apart. She learns that her husband has been having an affair with someone in their social circle. He says he’s in love with her.
This story of a marriage falling apart is told in the first person from Rachel’s point of view. I was completely sympathetic to Rachel. I could remember how it felt to be seven months pregnant and feeling fat and moody and tired. I had the urge to do something evil to Rachel’s husband and the other woman. I would have cried along with Rachel but the way she told the story was so funny that I primarily laughed throughout the book.
Rachel talked a lot about food during her tale of woe. At one point she worried that her husband cheated on her because she cooked too much. (Really? Most men would be thrilled.) During the course of her story she gave the recipes for fifteen different things – literally from soup (sorrel) to nuts (toasted almonds).
The recipes are all told in a casual, chatty style. There is no listing of ingredients or a numbered set of directions as we use today. It occurred to me that the way Rachel (Nora Ephron) wrote the recipes is the same way a friend would tell me how to make a dish. I liked her style.
I want to share one of the recipes with you. It’s for a cheesecake that is exactly like the cheesecake I used to make. She said, and I believe she’s right, that the recipe came off the package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Here’s Rachel’s telling of the recipe.
Make a nice graham cracker crust and pack it into a 9-inch pie pan. Then mix 12 ounces cream cheese with 4 well-beaten eggs, 1 cup sugar and a teaspoon vanilla. Pour into the pie shell and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and cool 15 minutes. Then spread gently with 2 cups sour cream mixed with 1/2 cup sugar and bake 10 minutes more. Cool and refrigerate several hours before serving.
As I said, I’ve made this cheesecake many times. It’s delicious and extremely easy to make. I often put a little cherry pie filling on the top and serve it on Valentines Day.
About the author:
Most of us know Nora Ephron from all the movies she has written, directed and/or produced: Silkwood, Sleepless In Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Julie and Julia, and the movie from this book, Heartburn (starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep). Heartburn was her first novel.
I’m not being gossipy when I tell you that Heartburn is a “thinly disguised” memoir of Nora Ephron’s experience when she was married to Carl Bernstein. The facts were well known at the time. “Writing the book is Ephron’s roman-à-clef. It is the amusing revenge of a woman scorned: ‘I always thought during the pain of the marriage that one day it would make a funny book,’ she once said – and it is.” (from the publisher’s profile.)