Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins
by David Finkle
Sometimes when dreams don't come true, they come partially true. On Rick Perry's entering the presidential race, I dreamed (that's to say, daydreamed) that superb Austin, Texas-based political commentator and first-rate reporter Molly Ivins, who died in 2007, was still here. She'd know everything -- good and bad (mostly woundingly comic, I figured) -- about the publicly God-fearing, evolution-theory-questioning, job-creating(?) candidate. I could almost hear her passing along everything worth passing along, and she'd sure as shootin' do it in her inimitable thigh-slapping fashion.
Well, don't you know that within days after fixing on this unsatisfied need, I become aware of Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins: A Memoir With Recipes by Ellen Sweets (University of Texas Press, 272 pp., illustrations, $29.95) Turns out that the author, a writer and often food editor, had been friendly with the late, great Molly for several decades during which they shared a love of cooking and eating.
Turns out further that knowing Miz Molly -- as the well-named Sweets sometimes refers to her -- in the kitchen, at the supermarket and grocery store, and around the dining-room and restaurant table is a great way to reflect on who Molly Ivins was, how profoundly and amusingly she thought and the enormous amount she had to contribute to our understanding of Texas and national politics. Not the least of her contributions, it so happens, are the recipes for her favorite foods, which ranged along the wide spectrum between extremely elegant to hilariously inelegant.
"Beer-in-the-Butt Chicken" is only one example of the latter sort but -- as Molly adapted them -- that'un gives an idea of the humor with which she embraced life, right up to and including her death from cancer. A woman who scoured stores and the Internet for every type of classy and less classy utensil, Molly was unflaggingly eager to gather friends around her not only in order to feed them but -- as the devoted Sweets emphasizes -- because they would feed her with their wit and knowledge of the world. A list of the people with whom she broke the bread she often baked isn't exactly endless but it sure is long and includes, not surprisingly, many of the leading liberal thinkers (often Yellow Dog Democrats) of the last half century.
Read the entire article »