An extremely pleasant and perfectly bright acquaintance surprised me by stating with his usual attractive confidence that food is a frivolity and cooking not part of our cultural life. His spouse, whose every meal gives the lie to such silliness, just smiled.
So I asked them if they knew that George Lang, best known as reinventor of New York’s Café des Artistes, had just died. His life, I said with my own brand of confidence, may be worth a look, because he personified and made public the need to feed as well as be fed. How can hospitality not be inherent to the world’s manifold cultures, a mythic boon everywhere?
Lang’s 1998 autobiography, slightly puffy and larded with “stars,” does have a frivolous title: Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen.Yet it tells a brave and even beautiful story of how a soul came into its own.
Here’s my Philadelphia Inquirer column about the book and Lang’s life.