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Inside Hollywood: Kitchen Cupboard Confidential

Published in Gourmet Live 02.15.12
What do the prized possessions in our kitchens say about us—and vice versa? Stars, directors, and other Tinseltown pros open up to Adam Harrison Levy

Clockwise from top left: Ali Landry; Laurie David; Mariel Hemingway; Oren Moverman; Anna Chlumsky

Hollywood people know how to tell a good story. So for this special Hollywood edition, I asked Mariel Hemingway, Ali Landry, A. O. Scott, and other industry players to delve into their kitchens, choose one very special object, and describe what it evokes. Like the proverbial madeleine, these totems proved to unlock childhood memories, surface revealing anecdotes, and symbolize important relationships. As you read these monologues, imagine them as scenes from a movie, with tracking shots that move from kitchen to kitchen as each character shares a tale of family, food, and memory.

Laurie David: Producer of An Inconvenient Truth and coauthor of The Family Dinner “My kitchen table has more emotional significance attached to it than any other item in my house. Honey-colored, custom-made to fit into its nook, big enough for 12 and, if you really squish (we are often squished), 14. Around it, I raised kids from ‘I only eat noodles’ to ‘More kale, please.’ We played hundreds of games around it, including poker with a former vice president. We laughed with comedians both professional and amateur, spilled milk, and wiped up crumbs, crayon marks, and tears. We’ve celebrated birthdays, Shabbat, and long, quiet Sunday brunches. This table saw me through marriage and then a divorce and set the scene for post-divorce dinners with my ex. It has been, always will be, my anchor, the place where true nourishment happens.”

Mariel Hemingway: Actress, Manhattan, and author of Mariel’s Kitchen “My object is a Vitamix. I think I was a chemist in another life. I love to mix, blend, and create concoctions. I love puréed soups, shakes, smoothies, sauces, dressings, and frothy foods. My Vitamix helps me to be a creator!”

“I always know that if I can blend something, I can make something soft and smooth and homey. I always loved creamy, soft, smooth foods as a kid—puddings and puréed veggies. Perhaps it has more to do with not wanting to grow up, wanting to be placated by pablum.”

“I think food is one of the greatest gifts we have on earth. I honor and respect food as though it were sacred. It provides everyone with a sense of satisfaction and often love. If eaten with relish and ceremony, food can be healing.”

David MacKenzie: Director of Perfect Sense “I’m going to choose an enormous Arts and Crafts chest. My wife and I went to a salvage yard in Glasgow, Scotland, about a year ago and we saw it there. It must have come from one of those grand old homes with a big scullery kitchen and servants. It had cans of paint in it and was pretty beaten up. It is 10 feet tall with glass doors, and it’s made of solid hardwood.”

“It sat in our front hallway for eight months. We really didn’t have a place for it in our kitchen, so it forced our hand to do building work, which then completely spiraled and it ended up costing me a lot of money. We changed and reconfigured the kitchen—and as a result, the house—to fit this bloody thing in. It’s been driving me insane for a year. ”

“We keep everything in it—plates, cups, glasses, utensils, stationery for the kids. On the top are the domestic appliances that we never use. The drawers have deep-red felt lining which we tried to take out but couldn’t. I started to sand the outside but got halfway through and stopped. So it has all these layers of paint on it: blue, white, and an undercoat. I like the textures.”

“The other thing that gives it a lot of character is that it bows in the middle. It’s not exactly straight. So I live my life in constant fear that the cupboard is going to snap in two or that my children are going to lean on it and it’s going to fall on top of them. As a result, there is constant dramatic tension in our kitchen.”

Anna Chlumsky: Actress, Veep “My father is a chef. He has equipped my kitchen ever since I moved into my first apartment in college. About three years ago, I put a KitchenAid Mixmaster on my Christmas list. I never expected to get it. But I did.”

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