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June 01, 2006 - Image 116

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-06-01

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International (where she had a brief
dalliance with a young Elvis Presley)
and then decided to take a chance on
a tryout at the New York Post.
"It meant quitting my job at UPI
because I didn't have enough vaca-
tion time coming:' she says. "But I
simply had to get to New York. My
father always told me I was going to
be a star, and that to me meant going
to New York?'
She got the job at the Post. In the
early '60s, that paper was in the
vanguard of letting women report-
ers handle top stories, and she was
given several plum assignments. But
her big break came a few years later,
when Greene freelanced a piece on
the countdown to the reopening of
the famed restaurant Le Cote Basque.
"It touched off a small scandal,"
she says, "because one of the guests
at the opening was Pat Nixon, and I
wrote that she was served a portion
of striped bass that tasted of gasoline.
It was the only restaurant story I'd
ever written, but when New York
magazine started up, in 1968, its edi-
tor, Clay Felker, remembered it. He
offered me the job as its restaurant
critic.
"I was floored. I didn't know how
to write about food. But Clay told me
that people were lined up begging for
this job. All he asked was for me to
make my reviews a must-read. What
a concept. He was in the process of
inventing the city magazine, and he
sensed that food and restaurants
were going to be a big part of it."
Still, Greene wasn't at all sure the
job would work out. She loved food
but didn't know if she'd be able
to explain the technical whys and
wherefores of a great meal.
"Frankly, I was intimidated by the
mysteries of high cuisine and impe-
rious French chefs:' she says. "So I
figured out that I would stick to what
I knew best: the sociology of restau-
rants. Who went there, what the scene
was like, what you saw and smelled
while there.
"I wanted it to be irreverent and
amusing. The first place I ever
reviewed was the Ground Floor in the
CBS Building. It had been planned by
William Paley. He and his wife, Babe,
were at the center of fashionable
Manhattan life then. I was obsessed
by their world. I wanted to be her.
"It was a cold, austere sort of set-
ting, and I wrote that it was the
`perfect place to break up a marriage.'
That sort of set the tone."
But the real shockwave hit with

Greene's review of a revered temple of
French cuisine, La Grenouille.
"I wrote that it wasn't worth the
effort:' she says. "It was actually a
temple of snobbery in which success-
ful businessmen were made to feel
like idiots because they didn't know
the right wine to order. Customers
who weren't known were treated like
nobodies.
"The regulars were outraged, and
they insisted I go back there to see
what it was like when they made a
fuss over you. But that wasn't the
point. A great restaurant has to be
more than a canteen for celebrities?'

A Sensual Life

Greene cheerfully recalls affairs
not only with Elvis but with Clint
Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, as well
as several of New York's celebrity chefs.
She has been married once and is
divorced.
The book's cover is a draped version
of a Titian painting of a nude, reclin-
ing Venus, wearing one of Greene's
hats and with the New York skyline
in the background. That's because
Insatiable is meant to be a celebration
of food as a sensuous experience and
the relationship of food to sex.
In fact, the abiding memory of her
brief fling with Elvis, says Greene, was
the fact that he ordered a fried egg
sandwich immediately afterwards.
"The two great revolutions in sex
and food occurred almost simultane-
ously," she says, "and I believe that one
paved the way for the other. I call it
(forkplay:
"In my career, I also saw the center
of fine dining shift from Paris to New
York, and I was fortunate enough
to watch it happen and be able to
chronicle it?"
Greene left the magazine in 2000
and now writes for a variety of publi-
cations, from Travel and Leisure to
Gourmet. She also was named one of
"10 people who matter" by the AARP
in 2004.
Greene remains active in Citymeals-
on-Wheels, an organization she
founded in 1981 after feeling pangs of
guilt about the conspicuous consump-
tion her job involved. It delivers free
meals to homebound seniors on week-
ends and holidays, when other such
programs take off. "I never feel guilty
[now] about not finishing everything
on my plate," she says.
She fully intends to keep on explor-
ing the sensuous side of dining in a
style that leaves readers hungry for
more. ❑

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