In Memory of Jaimee Young, a Delightful Writer Who Delighted in Life

Cookbook author and TFT food writer Jaimee Young died early on Monday, January 9th, after battling cancer for over a year. Jaimee’s writing, suffused with a wit that was sharp without ever being mean, says more than any summary of her activities and characteristics could. She managed to find the simple pleasure in everything she wrote about — even toast:

Toast. Everybody can make it. It can be as cheffy or as slobby as you like. It can pass as a snack with tea or a cocktail party tapas. It can be loaded up with good stuff for a full meal or drizzled with sweeties for dessert. I love toast. It has the capacity to be anything to anybody, while still retaining that humble “who me?” innocence that is so coyly endearing. And it smells good too.

In the last piece she wrote for The Faster Times, Jaimee recommended hanging on to summer a little longer with a cool glass of basil lemonade:

But let’s just wait, say, five minutes more. There’s no sense in rushing toward the inevitable autumn. Let’s sit for a moment more in the sun. We can have a nice refreshing glass of basil lemonade while we take a deep breath and psych ourselves up for the exhausting onslaught of hustle and bustle that is to come. Soon enough we’ll be too busy to dangle a string in front of the cat and icy beverage sipping will be at the very bottom of the bottomless to-do list.

Like the foods she wrote about, Jaimee’s writing was itself one of life’s simple joys. We invite you to grab your favorite snack — Jaimee would have liked that — and to sit for a moment with her work. Below is one of our favorites, Jaimee’s memory of cocktail hour with her grandparents.

The Cocktail Hour: 60 Minutes to a Better World

Does anyone enjoy cocktail hour more than an eight-year old? Not possible. Though my grandmother was an excellent cook, her pan-roasted pork chops with string beans and potatoes remain the height of culinary achievement in my estimation, it was the hour or so before her dinners that most resonates.

When we were ages, say, six through ten, the years when our parents were busy getting divorced and starting careers and such, my brother and I had dinner and drinks with our grandparents just about every weeknight. It was all so sophisticated. My grandfather would come home from his office and make martinis in a shaker, strain them into a proper glass with little stars etched into the side. My gran would have a Seagram’s and 7 or a screwdriver in a cut-crystal highball. They’d make us our own Shirley Temples in these shiny tin cups and put two maraschino cherries (picture perfect, as if from a slot machine) on top.

And there would always be a plate of hors d’ oeuvres set up on the coffee table, too. Salty mixed nuts served in a delicately painted porcelain bowl (my grandfather had won a set of them in a talent competition at his VFW hall) alongside Ritz crackers and sliced cheddar fanned out on a plate. Or cubes of Swiss cheese and pimiento-stuffed olives skewered with a foil-tipped toothpick. Or skewered slices of smoked sausage painted with barbecue sauce. Foil-tipped toothpick skewering was key to an appetizing presentation. Even on the nights my gran was kind of phoning it in (pizza rolls heated in the microwave) you better believe those rolls were cut in half and run through with a party pick before being arranged on the platter. Because that is the way my grandparents rolled: even when your guests are a couple of elementary school latch-key kids whose conversation didn’t much rise above speculation as to which A-Team episode would be re-run that night, you still put on a fancy spread to make for a civilized evening.

It’s possible, probable even, they would have done the same if they had only had each other for company. And why not? In my experience, having a little drinky-poo and snack before dinner will never ruin your appetite. Rather it prepares you for what’s to come. If the dinner is very good, it’s that extra bite that will prevent you from making a pig of yourself. If the dinner is very bad, it’s that cocktail inspired serenity that will allow you to compliment the cook with eyes that are loving, if only a bit glazed over. Either way, I’ve come to believe it’s the cocktail hour that is the cornerstone of our society, makes us into better people.

In a more perfect world we’d always take an hour as the sun goes down to eat a little something off a toothpick and drink a little something topped with a cherry. Sixty delightful minutes when we can all, pre-teen and senior citizen alike, act out our fantasy of what it is to be a grown-up. Which is a lovely way to start the night, I think, no matter if after-dinner plans include doing math homework or laundry or the bossa nova.

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Jaimee Young’s Cookbook, Campfire Cookery

More by Jaimee Young on TFT:

January: A Glorious 31-Day Window of Opportunity to Eat and Drink Too Much

What to Eat When Your Heart’s Been Broken

Kale is Good. Moms are Scary.

Consider the Pickle

Why Cheese is So Awesome

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