Cancer themed the takes of Amy Tan, Beth Henley, Nam Le, and David Anthony Durham, whose revelation came as he took his dying mother’s hand. Five other distinguished writers included Guggenheim Fellowship recipient W. Ralph Eubanks, the director of publishing at the Library of Congress; versatile novelist Jay McInerney, whose Bright Lights, Big City became a movie, then a stage musical; and Ana Menéndez, a daughter of Cuban exiles, who has written a collection with a prizewinning title story, “In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd.” Her literary heroes? “Growing up I loved Hemingway, then I graduated to Faulkner.”
Oft-anthologized short story writer Debra Magpie Earling was hailed for her first novel, Perma Red, set on a Native American reservation. At first her words seemed from the “magical realism” school – but later conversation revealed that to be untrue. “All Indians have some psychic ability,” she said. “I do myself.” She is a member of the Bitterroot Salish tribe, pejoratively called the Flathead Indians. “By the French,” she added.
Tijuana-born, prize-winning Luis Alberto Urrea revealed a universal truth that writers (indeed all of us) would do well to heed. He drew a gasp when he strode onstage and then threw his notes to the floor. Speaking of his writerly beginnings as a missionaries’ translator in a Tijuana garbage dump “city,” he learned that, ultimately, “There is no them, only us.”
HE COOKS TO CONQUER
When Barry Glassman dons a white toque for Chef’s Night, his fans anticipate a cordon bleu dinner for a good cause. A money-management guru, he painstakingly plans the tasting menu, takes over the kitchen to cook it, and underwrites the evening. Glassman cooks to conquer deadly illness and donates the proceeds to the National Brain Tumor Society, as he did recently at Teatro Goldoni, under the eye of Enzo Fargione, the restaurant’s award-winning chef.
Media personalities served as “celebrity waiters” who passed hors d’oeuvres before the varsity Teatro staff took over: WUSA TV/ CBS anchor Andrea Roane, Kiki Ryan and Patrick Gavin from Politico, Nikki Schwab, who co-pens the Examiner’s “Yeas and Nays” column; Pulitzer-nominated author Myra MacPherson; Christine Delargy of Media Bistro’s “Fishbowl D.C.”; Bill Press, now hosting his own show on XM/Sirius Radio; economics reporter Jodi Schneider; and Liz Glover of the Washington Times. Appetizers were a mélange of buttery- smooth burrata mozzarella, prosciutto from Parma, and green olives from Sicily. The first course partnered risotto and roasted butternut squash puree, with lobster sauced with a port wine reduction heightened by fresh thyme and pancetta.
The second course, an anise-dusted seared Ahi tuna loin, was accompanied by a bi- colored tomato terrine with roasted eggplant. Third course (are you still with us?): artichoke- and-prosciutto-stuffed roulade of Guinea hen with mascarpone and seared mission figs. Glassman’s mother, Ronnie Glassman, who was visiting from Massachusetts, hooted when asked if she had taught him to cook. “He’s been reading cookbooks for years the way others read novels,” she said. Her son is also a wine buff, and the bottles he served and donated to the silent auction certainly reflected it.