Nora Ephron and I have a few things in common. We both graduated from Wellesley College. We both love New York, which she called, ““the most magical, fraught-with-possibility place.” We are both enamored with food and epicurious.com. We’re ardent fans of each others work. (Half true. I am an ardent fan of her work). I once dreamed of following in her screenplay writing and film directing footsteps, but alas, it was not to be. Once thing I can do, though, is cook her favorite recipe.
Nora Ephron was born to two screenwriters on May 19, 1941 in New York City, and grew up in Beverly Hills in a house “full of apples and peaches and milk.” She graduated from Wellesley in 1962, and worked as an intern in the White House under John F. Kennedy, then began her career as a magazine journalist who wrote about culture and celebrities. She married Carl Bernstein (her second husband after Dan Greenburg) in 1976 (of Woodward and Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate scandal. When she discovered he was cheating on her while she was seven months pregnant, she wrote a novel about it (“Heartburn”) and soon thereafter earned her first Oscar nomination for Silkwood. She said of the star, “I highly recommend Meryl Streep play you. If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you. You will feel much better. If you get rear-ended in a parking lot, have Meryl Streep play you. If the dingo eats your baby, call Meryl.”
In return, Ms. Streep had this to say about Ms. Ephron, “She always wears black and she’s so cool and she always has the perfect bon mot to toss off just effortlessly. I mean, who can be like that? Anyway, I was intimidated.” (Streep also starred in the film version of Heartburn). Ephron was nominated for her second Oscar, for “When Harry Met Sally” (arguably her best film), in 1990. In the early nineties, Ephron began directing as well as writing. She turned out such classics as “Sleepless in Seattle” (third Oscar nod) and “Julie and Julia.”
She married her third husband, the one that stuck, Nick Pileggi (author of “Wiseguys,” the book “Goodfellas” is based on. In 2006, Ephron published the collection “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” a No. 1 best-seller. Nora Ephron died from pneumonia, caused by acute myeloid leukemia, on June 26, 2012, at the age of 71.
Nora Ephron left behind a legacy of legendary romantic comedies, inspiration to young women aspiring to success in her field, and an example of what a brilliant mind can do, even in the most dominated professions. And she left behind delicious traces of what went on in her kitchen.
Her recipe for Chilli: