Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Someone's in the kitchen with George Szell

Shows where my mind is, here I am reading the new George Szell biography by Michael Charry, and what thrills me the most?

The part about how someone noticed that Szell's music library held a copy of "The Joy of Cooking."

And it turned out Szell was friends with Irma von Starkloff Rombauer, the original author! That his her full name. I had always thought it was just Irma Rombauer. But it is not!

Charry explains that Szell liked Rombauer's German heritage, which I would concur is a most excellent thing in a woman. A friend of Szell tells him that Szell contributed some of the recipes.

Wow! Which ones?

Perhaps the Chicken Paprikash? (Or Chicken Paprika as it is called in the 1940s edition I scored at a garage sale.)

Or perhaps some of the German Christmas Cakes? Cookies are called cakes in that old edition.

Perhaps I have been cooking Szell's recipes and never knew it.

Szell is quoted as saying about Irma Rombauer: "She was living in St. Louis when I went there to conduct and we became very friendly. That was one of the reasons I went back the second year. You know how it is when people live far apart. Nothing came of it but I'm still very fond of her. Some of the recipes she got from me."

"Nothing came of it.." This book is kind of dense and gray but that is a paragraph I have pored over, I will tell you that right now. It is on page 28.

At the time they met, Charry writes, Rombauer was 54 and Szell was a young whippersnapper of 33. But the book says, "Her vivacious personality, her love for music, and her interest in cooking would have made her attractive to Szell.

Here is a picture of Irma Rombauer.

"Nothing came of it."  Hmmmm.

I guess sometimes it gets hot in the kitchen!


  1. And life being endlessly circular, Michael Charry was a friend of Kay Swift's.

  2. Katharine, what an honor to hear from you! I'm enjoying your book. The woman who was supposed to become the woman in Hitler's life, I couldn't get over that.

    I interviewed a cabaret singer last year who knew Kay Swift and was telling me about her. His name was Ronnie Whyte. He called her a "zippy lady."