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That Time I Cooked For Joan Rivers

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I’ve long felt a special kinship with Joan Rivers.

Not because we were both Jewish, but because we shared a Jewish sense of humor — no matter how bad things could get, we always found the funny in it.

The first time I almost met Joan was on a flight to San Francisco. I was on book tour and, in those heydays of publishing, sat in first class. I had ordered a vegetarian meal, having learned as a food person that when ordering a special meal more effort usually went into it. Joan was sitting behind me and noticed what I was eating. She asked the flight attendant how she could get a special meal and he explained it had to be ordered in advance. I wanted so much to talk to her and explain how it worked but I was too shy.

Image by Rose Levy Beranbaum

The second time, however, I found my voice through a somewhat ridiculous incident that I have never had the courage to write about before. But since it showed me what a warm and supportive person Joan Rivers was, now seems like the time to share it.

I was in the prep kitchen of NBC making pastries for my appearance on the Today Show for the “Pie and Pastry Bible.” Someone on the show announced that Brad Pitt was to be the next guest so when the door bell rang I stopped what I was doing and went running to the door, opened it. Instead of Brad Pitt, it was Joan Rivers! (I hadn’t realized that Brad’s appearance was being done remotely.)

I didn’t want Joan to see disappointment in my eyes so I exaggerated my greeting crying out “It’s Joan Rivers!”

She entered the prep area, looked at the apple pie I was styling and then went off to makeup. My appearance was to follow hers but when I went into the makeup room she was still in the chair and I could hear her saying to the makeup artist with great enthusiasm: “Just wait until you see Rose Levy Beranbaum’s desserts!”

I couldn’t believe that she would remember my name or that she would be so impressed by my baking. And I’ve loved her ever since.

This post originally appeared on Real Baking With Rose Levy Beranbaum. An interview with Rose to discuss her new cookbook, “The Baking Bible,” will appear on the blog next week”

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