Conversation around Richard Olney

An exchange on Richard Olney, occasioned by one of our estival Olney menu dinners on 28 August, which led to this IG post:


On Aug 25, 2021, at 11:34, JA wrote:


We’ll convene on Saturday at our place for the second Olney dinner this summer.  Festivities begin at 6.

Looking forward!

MM replies:

Bonus points to anyone interested in dressing up like Julia or Paul as Jonathan works his interpretation of the Olney food magic. 😘

Julia feeds Paul






Richard in his Kitchen









MM adds:


 “Richard Olney unpacked the way the French plan a menu and synchronize not only the dishes but the wines, occasion, time of year and company, to make a meal a work of art. He also gave us a model for eating that’s close to the earth and of living simply and beautifully.”

SJ intervenes :

Gosh, can I come as Richard?? He’s pretty handsome.  I guess I’ll have to take up smoking …

I reply (GL) :

If we doin’ drag I am too small to become Julia.

Richard always wore the same thing: cord espadrilles, khaki shorts and a usually checked cotton short sleeve., substituting long pants whenever restaurant protocol required. I don’t have any espadrilles anymore but when in the south of France I dressed just like him.

Yes, he smoked Gaulouses until he died at 71. He was one of rhe few who was allowed a post-prandial … cig at Chez Panisse. He called them “fags”. And I was allowed to smoke alongside him. His palette was based on nicotine, he claimed.

SJ replies :

Hah!  Thanks for the sartorial details!  Wish I had espadrilles, but I’ll pass on the Gauloises.

GL 2:

They, Gauloises, haven’t been for sale in the US for decades now. Fear of US litigation. The first years I was here I used to always bring back some packs from EU.

MM 3

Well, Nordstrom has options:  😜

I love y’all! I was just joking. And I loved those pics because Richard was in slacks and I thought barefoot in his kitchen. Thanks George for the espadrilles history. I presume the photographer or perhaps Julia insisted on the slacks. 😂

GL 3:

Since we’re on this jag, two more with Richard (courtesy of Judith Olney)

With James’s first wife, Judith, herself the author of several cookbooks. She’s on Instagram and still teaches cookery in Miami Beach. 

Richard with his sister-in-law Judith Olney









With his buddy Georges Garin in the stripèd tee, and Richard’s friend Mary Painter, by then Mary Garin, circa 1969. She was the dedicacee of Another Country. For more lit gossip see the second item in Baldwin once said, “When I realized I couldn’t marry Mary Painter, I realized I could marry no one.”

Richard, Georges Garin,, Mary Garin









Finally, the calling card of Garin’s resto on the Left Bank.  I had a fabulous 4 hour luncheon there as Mary’s guest in November, 1972, from which I emerged inebriated beyond measure to confront the full façade of Notre Dame in 5pm sunset glow. Took a cab back to my hovel in the 14th and slept until the next morning. 



GL 4

For info: Richard’s espadrilles were the basic provençal version, the rope sole with light canvas uppers. He would go through a couple of pairs every summer. Didn’t mind going barefoot either.

For those who haven’t seen it, R’s portrait of James Baldwin.


RB joins in:

Dear Georges,

Your reminisces and photos are fantastic, in all senses of the word! Wow!

And I really look forward to being with you all on Saturday!


GL 5 :

Thx, R-,

Not to be presumptious (o what the hell, why not?), the byline in my Insta account profile reads:  Memoria vitae bene actae iucunda est. Memories of a well-lived life are a pleasure.

This afternoon, anyway, I feel like I had a well-lived life 😇.


And JA’s IG on the event: