This has been a damn good weekend. On Saturday, I drove up to A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, where Jean Anderson -- the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame goddess who happens to make her home close by -- was appearing for a book signing event.
I was fortunate to meet her a few weeks ago at a swank event to launch Sandra Gutierrez's wonderful "The New Southern-Latino Table." I'd had a brief exchange with Jean earlier that same day on her Facebook page, where she had posted a photo of a baked sweet incorporating wild persimmons, which will be featured in a book scheduled for 2012 release. I told her that I had been foraging wild persimmons at the time and used them to make jelly, and she kindly wrote back.
I first realized the reach of Jean's influence when her name was reverently dropped by Sara Moulton, on whose live show she occasionally appeared in the early glory days of the Food Network. I was happy to hear Sandra also credit Jean as a gracious mentor and immediately told Tim that I had to find a way to say hello. I eventually made my way to her table, where she was engaged in a lively conversation, and waited for my chance.
Andrea Weigl, Beard-honored food writer for The News & Observer, saw me and asked if I was waiting to meet Jean. "You'll wait a long time," she joked. "She knows everyone."
Andrea leaned in, hugged Jean like a favorite aunt and introduced me. The timing could not have been better. I grabbed a chair and wound up chatting with her for so long that Tim, who had driven separately, decided to head home and let me savor the moment.
I had planned on ordering her new and highly regarded "Falling Off the Bone" for Tim as an anniversary gift -- braising is his favorite style of cooking -- and, on Jean's recommendation, decided to hunt for a copy of her out-of-print "Green Thumb Preserving Guide" as well. I brought both with me to the book signing on Saturday, as well as my stained copy of "The New Processor Cookbook," which I bought in the early '80s when it really was new after buying a gizmo called a Cuisinart.
I also brought a little jar of wild persimmon jelly, which I decided to give her in thanks for the many great meals and inspiration she has provided. She accepted it and allowed me to get a photo.
About an hour ago, I checked my Facebook page and found that she had sent me a lovely message:
Jean: Great to see you yesterday at A Southern Season, Jill. Your wild persimmon jelly is PERFECT! Had some this a.m. on whole-wheat toast. DELICIOUS! Thanks so much for sharing! ja
Me: You are awesome! Thank you so much for these kinds words. You can't imagine how stunned and happy I am to read them. Tim was thrilled to have his copy of "Falling Off the Bone" personally inscribed. He made your succulent slow cooker pork shanks today. Can't wait to work our way through the book!
So here I am, giddy with the knowledge that my jar of jelly was on Jean Anderson's breakfast table this morning. Tim turned in early and doesn't know yet, but Graham has been high-fiving me with shared joy. I believe I'm going to have some wild persimmon jelly on whole-wheat toast for breakfast tomorrow.