Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Denver Post :: Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins

Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins
By Ellen Sweets
Buy It Now
Step into Molly Ivins' kitchen with "Stirring It Up"
By Tucker Shaw, Denver Post Food Editor

What, exactly, possessed former Denver Post food writer Ellen Sweets to write a recipe-studded memoir about her friendship with late newspaper columnist Molly Ivins?

"The devil," she deadpans, before offering a more cogent explanation. "It was part catharsis. I was dealing with the loss of a really, really good friend. And it was part realizing that there was this side of Molly that people didn't know. I just thought that she deserved to be something other than one-dimensional."

Whatever the catalyst, Sweets worked hard to keep "Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins" from being overly sentimental or salacious. "I hate those tell-all books that crop up when someone dies, especially people who were controversial like Molly," she says. "I didn't want it to look like I was capitalizing on a friend who'd died. It felt untoward."

Ivins was well known throughout her decades-long newspaper career for her liberal leanings (her nickname for George W. Bush was "Shrub"). She was a dedicated civil libertarian — with a twist. "I think what made Molly so popular was that she could extract a humorous bent from things that made other people so angry," Sweets says. "It was a gift."

But what most people didn't know about Ivins — the fact that she was a fanatic foodie and crackerjack cook — is exactly what cemented her friendship with the equally food-obsessed Sweets.

"We shared a love of that indescribable capacity for food to bring people together," Sweets says. "We both understood that when you take the time to prepare a meal, and you sit around a table together, you engage with each other in a completely different way than you would if you were in a meeting, or at a restaurant."

Sweets concedes Ivins' superiority in understanding political nuance and crafting argument ("Molly was worlds ahead of me," she says), the two were equals in the kitchen — sometimes conspirators, sometimes rivals.

"Every now and then, she would declare an off-the-wall competition. 'We're all going to cook something green,' for example. It was fun. She had to spend too much time being serious and intense."

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