Calla Jones Corner
The author is a News-Press correspondent.
Julia Ransom Doty, my father’s first cousin, was a food and fashion editor for the Ideal Publishing Corporation, which published popular, glossy ladies’ magazines back in the 1950s.
Julia was more of an aunt to me than a cousin, as she was the same age as my mother. When she came out to Weston, Connecticut, from her Manhattan apartment for the occasional weekend, she shared my bedroom, gave me all sorts of tips on grooming and comportment, and made me walk around the room with a book on my head for five minutes, for my posture. She had been an instructor at the John Robert Powers Model Agency before becoming an editor, and was elegant, witty and very creative
I really didn’t appreciate Julia’s many talents until I was in my 20s and attended her funeral in 1969, where my father gave a heartfelt and amusing eulogy about Julia that included me.
Occasionally, Julia hosted us for a Thanksgiving dinner at her weekend home in Southbury, Connecticut, where she was a neighbor and friend of Victor Borge. The Danish comedian and pianist raised Cornish game hens as a hobby on his 310-acre farm.
One November, he told Julia that he would like to give her some of his hens and maybe she could “invent” a recipe for Thanksgiving that he could use for publicity for his exotic fowl. Borge is credited with putting the small fowl — the result of crossbreeding a Cornish game hen with other game birds — on the market and was applauded at famous restaurants around the world. Even the French started putting Cornish hens on their menus.
Borge knew Julia was an exceptional cook and, like many other editors, was always looking for fresh ideas. When she accepted Borge’s “generosity,” a family story was born.
It seems that when Julia told Borge she was cooking for eight for Thanksgiving dinner, her editor’s creative juices started basting her clever brain. I don’t remember if my parents and the other guests at her long, antique farm table were aware that Julia had “cooked up” for Borge the recipe that now was before each of us.
What I did recall, however — when my father reminded me in his eulogy for his beloved cousin — is that instead of one big, glossy, crispy turkey with chestnut stuffing flowing out between its thighs, were eight dainty birds, moist from an aromatic sauce running over each crispy carcass.
My father helped me carve my bird, but other than that, Julia’s hens were a hit. Even with adolescent me. Julia’s recipe appeared in one of her magazines, and Borge used it on his packaging.
My father’s eulogy ended with a “recipe for life” from Borge, which he found in one of the many cookbooks she left him. Julia had copied the recipe from an article she’d seen about Borge. It read: “The shortest distance between people is humor.”
My father left me Julia’s cookbooks, and I treasure them. They remind me that cooking for others can bridge a gap between people, as well as be creative in the kitchen.
Here’s Borge’s recipe for his Cornish hens:
“Put the hen in a Dutch oven, brown him in butter for 12 minutes. If you have a piano in the kitchen, play the “Minute Waltz” 12 times. Add a little water. Put the lid on and let simmer. When you have finished playing half “The Dance of the Hours,” dragging it slightly, you’re ready to eat like an epicure.”