Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Dining Room of Marguerite Littman
Look through the chic cookbooks on your bookshelves- specifically R.S.V.P.: Menus for Entertaining from People Who Really Know How by Nan Kempner and Alex Hitz's My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist, if you have them- and you'll find mentions of that famous Southern belle, Marguerite Littman. Born in Monroe, Louisiana but a resident of London for decades, Littman has charmed legions of people and amassed numerous interesting friends throughout her life. Well-known for both teaching Elizabeth Taylor how to "speak Southern" for her role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and supposedly being the inspiration for Truman Capote's Holly Golightly, Littman is also a noted hostess, often gathering her guests in the dining room of her Chester Square townhouse.
According to the book David Hicks: A Life of Design, David Hicks decorated the home that Marguerite shares with her barrister husband, Mark, sometime in the 1960s. Hicks's work included covering the dining room's walls, windows, and table in a red floral print cotton. Hanging above the round dining table was an antler chandelier that evidently had an eyeball spotlight placed above it. What the book doesn't mention is whether the chandelier was Hicks's choice or that of the Littmans.
Fast forward to the 1993 when Diane Berger's book, The Dining Room, was published. In the book, a photo of the Littmans' dining room appears, still wearing the same vibrant floral fabric. But, by 2000 when Nan Kempner's book was released, the dining room had undergone a big change. Gone was the crimson fabric, with stripes now taking the place of flowers on the room's walls. The antler chandelier did, however, remain a prominent feature in the room. I do wonder how the room looks today.
So what about the food served in this beautiful room? Kempner wrote that Southern and Creole food is often on the menu as is traditional English fare, including such dishes as Barbecued Spring Lamb with Rosemary (English yet Southern because it is marinated in barbecue sauce) and Sautéed Bananas. But what both Kempner and Hitz wax rhapsodic about are Littman's famous Twice-Baked Potatoes. After reading the recipe in Hitz's book, I certainly am eager to make one of Marguerite's Stuffed Potatoes for myself. I'll just have to pretend that I'm enjoying it while sitting beneath an antler chandelier.
Photos #1, #4, and #5 from R.S.V.P.: Menus for Entertaining from People Who Really Know How. #2 from David Hicks: A Life of Design. #3 from The Dining Room by Diane Berger, Fritz von der Schulenburg.