For years, she had been in remission from leukemia, a condition she chose to keep hidden. She had planned her own memorial, and because she was passionate about food and cooking, she wanted favourite recipes included in the service. She died from pneumonia, a complication caused by chemotherapy. I admired Nora Ephron; her intelligence and creativity remain an inspiration.
At first, Rachel vows to win back Mark, despite the fact that he confesses he loves his mistress and has never loved another woman as much. Still, he wants Rachel to stay with him, at least until the birth of their child. How kind.
Eventually, Rachel takes her children and leaves Mark. The catalyst is her discovery that he has spent a small fortune as a down-payment on a necklace for his mistress. Soon thereafter, a sense of clarity comes to Rachel.“You can love someone so much,” she thinks, “that you don’t see anything at all. You decide to trust him and you kind of notice that things aren’t what they were, but it’s a distant bell, it’s through a filter… I can’t stand feeling sorry for myself. I can’t stand feeling like a victim… I can’t stand sitting here with all this rage turning to hurt and then to tears.”
Rachel tells the story of her marriage “because if I tell the story I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me. Because if I tell the story it doesn’t hurt as much.” In this manner, Rachel can begin to forget.
The narrative of the novel is interspersed with Rachel’s recipes, some of them quite mouthwatering. There’s even a recipe index at the end of the book: Cheesecake, page 49. Key lime pie, page 166. Vinaigrette, page 177.
Ephron’s novel was socially significant. At the time of its publication in the early 1980s, divorce rates were climbing, but divorced women kept quiet about their predicament. Ephron was the first to write openly about living with a philandering husband and about experiencing a painful divorce. She empowered women by changing the way divorce was talked about. She encouraged women to talk candidly about it and to share their stories.
With this reading of “Heartburn,” I am participating in Cook the Books, a bimonthly (not semimonthly) Internet book club/cooking event that features a different book for each round. The challenge is to read the book chosen, cook something inspired by it, and then blog about it. I chose to make carrot cake because that's what the unsuspecting heroine of “Heartburn” serves to her husband’s mistress. Years ago, I found myself in a situation similar to Rachel’s. One of the most important things I learned from my experience was not to be the victim in a relationship. Love, cohabitation, marriage, all relationships, even friendships … they should be victim free. Easier said than done, but as Rachel Samstat says in “Heartburn,” when your dream dies, you are left “with a choice: You can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking dish with the butter and flour. This is an important step, don't forget it.
Use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. On medium speed beat the butter with the mascarpone and cream cheeses until they are smooth. Add the vanilla and the orange zest and beat until they are integrated.