The Supreme Court of Cooking

I love the type of story I heard this morning on NPR.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s late husband, Martin, was by day a revered tax law professor, and in his alter-life, an accomplished amateur cook.  (With not an iota of judgment, I use the word ‘cook’ instead of ‘chef’, as I always understood the latter as the title of a trained cook with executive responsibilities.)

The cookbook, “Chef Supreme: Martin Ginsburg”, was the idea of Martha-Ann Alito, Judge Samuel Alito’s wife, at the time of Marty’s 2010 memorial service.  Marty Ginsburg’s love affair with cooking began when he and Ruth were newly married; neither was a cook.  One of their wedding gifts was “The Escoffier Cookbook”, the authority (then and now) of French cooking.  It was, and is, a masterpiece.  NPR reported that Marty, then a chemistry major, worked his way all the way through the Escoffier cookbook, one page at a time.  Remarkable.

“Over the years, Marty became a genuinely famous amateur cook”, said Clare Cushman, director of publications for the Supreme Court Society.  His range expanded to include many other ethnic cuisines.  “You get to know him while you’re cooking.  The way he wrote recipes was as if he was explaining them to a friend,” said Cushman.  Continuing: “She mentions one recipe in particular, for orange-scented biscotti, where the instructions were to “knead the dough several times and divide kneaded dough into two equal parts.”  Chef Ginsburg advised: “This is a miserable, messy, ugly procedure because the dough is horribly sticky. Do your best.”

“It exemplifies how Marty approached life. Very exacting and very precise,” says Martha-Ann Alito.

Martin Ginsburg’s interpretations of recipes exemplify how one’s worldview can be expressed in the science and creativity of cooking.  Its expressions are limitless, and Ginsburg permanently impacted his family, friends and peers through the joy and discipline he devoted to the culinary arts.

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