Blue eyes. Butch Cassidy. Salad dressing. That’s the way most people will remember Paul Newman. A Westport neighbor. A great dad. Homemade marshmallows. Those are some of the things that stick in my mind.
In an interview Paul’s daughter Nell Newman did with EatingWell Magazine last fall, she shared her own childhood memories.
“It was crazy with all the traveling for movies but when they were home, my parents each cooked their own specialties,” Nell said. “Mom did all the birthday cakes and made breakfast, Dad did the burgers, steaks, corn and salad, of course. I’ll also never forget Dad making marshmallows from scratch. God knows how he did it, but there’s love for you!”
The interview was done by Kathy Oberman of K2 Catering in Westport, Connecticut, a friend of both Nell and me. Kathy, who often cooks for the Newmans, sat down with Nell to hear the story of the famous all-organic Thanksgiving dinner Nell served her family in 1992 (which helped Nell launch Newman’s Own Organics) and to share recipes, including Nell’s Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and sources for an entirely organic Thanksgiving meal.
Nell told this story:
“It’s rare for my parents to let me even toy with our favorite family recipes. But one year I wanted to prove to my family that organic food was not only healthier but delicious. I had wanted to start the organic line of Newman’s Own and needed Dad to understand and like this “new” food. So I brought organic salad greens, veggies and potatoes, ordered an organic turkey and cooked the whole Thanksgiving dinner myself. After we ate it I told him it was all organic! His words were, “You got me, kid!” The really cool thing was that Pop got it. Here is this guy who really didn’t know what organic was and probably had some bad association with something my mom made back in the ’70s. It was a revelation to him that organic food could be so delicious.”
Since then, Newman's Own has brought more than 150 natural foods into the market and helped to bring organic Fair Trade coffee to McDonald’s. They have lived up to their company motto, "Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good” by raising more than $250 million for charities through the Newman’s Own Foundation. Champions of all things local, the family helped start the farmers’ market in Westport, Connecticut, and revived the Westport County Playhouse, where I once had the amazing experience of watching Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward play divorced parents on stage, while sitting in the audience with one of their other daughter's, Clea, and our friend Kathy. After, we had drinks with the family at the restaurant that is now The Dressing Room (another homegrown Newman project) and Paul talked about his other passion, car racing. Yes, even at age 80, the blue eyes were mesmerizing.
Nell’s been a fierce champion of local and organic and when I asked her a few weeks ago if she would write a foreword to our next book, EatingWell in Season, The Farmers’ Market Cookbook, she answered immediately: “Sure I’ll do it, but I have to warn you, I may have to drop the ball and don’t want to leave you in the lurch.” She didn’t: her story arrived last week and the book will be out next spring.
This morning, I read the following post after Nell’s interview on eatingwell.com:
Dear Nell, Your Dad passed away two days ago and I have been feeling so blue, not because he wasn’t fulfilled in life...but because I miss the idea of not having his positive energy here with us…. Your Dad and Mom have been an inspiration to our family, politically and socially....and this tradition now continues with you. Thank you for bringing your family "up to code" on organics and bringing your excellent products to us all. You truly do well by doing good.
—Pat, Beverly Hills, CA
Amen. Thank you, Paul Newman, for all you gave us.