Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins
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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