WELCOME SUMMER: Remembering Julia Reed, Her Best Recipes & Selections from Reed Smythe

I don’t think there’s a month that goes by that I don’t think about something Julia Reed said, wrote, cooked, or – in later years – Instagrammed about but I particularly miss her voice in the summer.

No one loved summer more than she did – the food, the music, the flowers, the Southern heat, the beach, traveling – she loved it all and so do I.

The very first article I read by Julia Reed was in Vogue magazine in 1996 when I was still in college. The title of the article was “Dis-engaged” where she told the story of calling off her wedding – it was funny and real and honest. I could not believe there was this smart, down to earth, sophisticated, stylish woman from the South (Mississippi) writing for Vogue, living in New York and being so forthright about her life.

She considered cheese straws a delicacy (because they are), drank whiskey, loved to entertain, celebrated the casserole, vacationed in Seaside, Florida, appreciated politics but not in an overly partisan way, and loved her parents – all of these attributes I identified with but couldn’t believe someone was writing about it and proud of it.

I continued – like so many – to follow and read her articles and books throughout the rest of her (too brief) life. Inevitably even now I will find an article that I pulled out of Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Vogue or some other publication stuck in a file or an old book.

“In a way, she was a foreign correspondent in her own land, filing dispatches about the sacred and the profane — and revealing, often subtly, the porous border between the two.”

-Julia’s dear friend and author Jon Meacham

I saw Julia speak a couple of times at various Antiques and Gardens shows but I actually had the chance to meet her in March of 2018.

I was staying at The Carlyle Hotel in New York and was waiting in the lobby for my husband to come down when I saw her walk out of the elevator with a couple of friends. I was nervous but knew I would always regret it if I didn’t tell her what a fan I was so I introduced myself and when I told her where I was from and my name, her response was “well of course it is.”

And we both laughed. (I don’t think you can get more Southern than “Julia” or a double name beginning with Mary.)

We proceeded to chat in the lobby…she introduced me to her friends (how gracious), asked me what Broadway shows I was seeing, told me what she was going to see (“Beautiful” by Carole King – this was her second time seeing it), asked where we were eating and then gave me a recommendation for the restaurant Orso, and told me the best things to order on the menu. (I tried to go there recently and it has since closed – so sad!)

I was starstruck. What a class act she was, and I know how many of us miss her voice and her spirit so much.

Here’s to summer and here’s to Julia – may we all live life as fully and richly as she did.

Plus – a few recipes, her collection of books (I never realized how long her book titles were before putting this together!) and a selection of items from the company that she started with her dear friend and Co-Chair of the “Crabmeat Caucus”, Keith Meacham – all below.

I loved these illustrations that accompanied her articles. Here she is with her infamous hot cheese olives.
Recipe can be found here.
Remembering Julia Reed, 'Mississippi's Answer to Dorothy Parker' | Vogue

“The magic of her writing was that she invited readers into the party, handed them a drink, and then turned up the music,” he said in an email. “We were all voyeurs, in a way, her readers and editors, to a life so much larger — and more fun — than our own.”

David DiBenedetto, editor in chief of Garden & Gun
This article from Garden & Gun, From France, With Love – about the memories evoked by certain foods, is one of my all time favorites. Worth the ten minutes it takes to read it.
Photo number 01 of Le Mas de Gancel
You will immediately want to plan a trip to the south of France with your friends. Here is A Rental House in the South of France, the subject of Julia’s article above.
The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story: Reed, Julia:  9780061136658: Books - Amazon
The House on First Street:  My New Orleans Story documented the process of revival and rebirth after Katrina.
The subject of her book, the house in New Orleans.
The house she built near her childhood home in the Mississippi Delta, with the help of Birmingham architect James Carter.
This portrait showed up in many of Julia’s homes over the years – it belonged to someone in her family and she had a funny story about it but I cannot recall what it was – something about having no idea who the boy was or where it came from but just liking the portrait. One of the traits I admired about her the most was that she didn’t take herself too seriously.
Julia Reed - Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Julia loved a party.
Tour the New Orleans Apartment of Author Julia Reed
Her apartment in New Orleans and with her beloved beagle, Henry.
She also loved a cocktail.
grapefruit cocktail recipe
THE SAINT CLOUD GRAPEFRUIT COCKTAIL, made with freshly squeezed grapefruit and fragrant rosemary sprigs.
Backyard Party Ideas from Julia Reed - Julia Reed's South Book |  Architectural Digest
A summer party, hosted by Julia and her friend Keith.
Summer Squash Casserole – serve it like Julia did with fried chicken, sliced tomatoes, okra fritters and biscuits.

8 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing baking pan

2 pounds yellow summer squash, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch slices

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 large onion, chopped

24 Ritz crackers, finely crumbed in a food processor

1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

4 slices plain white bread, toasted

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat the to 350 Fahrenheit. Butter a 2½ quart baking dish. 

Place the squash slices in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times so that the squash is chopped fairly finely. You will likely have to do this in batches. 

In a large, fairly deep skillet, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the squash. Saute for about three or four minutes and stir in the garlic, peppers, and onion. When the vegetables are tender, about ten more minutes, remove the skillet from the heat. 

Meanwhile, crumb the toasted bread (but not too finely) in the food processor. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with the crumbs. (You can substitute a sleeve of Ritz crackers for the toasted crumbs—and I often do—but I especially like the contrast of the toast.)

In a large bowl, place squash mixture, Ritz cracker crumbs and cheese, and mix well. Stir in beaten eggs, cream and seasonings. Blend well and pour into buttered casserole dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake for 40 minutes, until crumbs are golden brown.

Fried chicken and sliced tomatoes.
Photo credit: Paul Costello
Juli’s recipe from her New Orleans book, Grand Aioli including shrimp, crab, crawfish, and redfish with traditional aioli, Lime Sriracha Aioli, and Saffron Aioli.
Cheese Dreams – the ultimate Southern appetizer

“When I returned home for visits, I’d rent the biggest car I could find in Memphis — even though in those days there was a plane from Memphis to Greenville — roll down the windows and blare the air, and breathe in that inimitable Delta scent of soil and pesticide. I swear it was like heaven.”

Julia Reed
Two lives taken too soon.

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