Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Silhouettes and Birthdays

My friend Carson attributes her happy marriage, in part, to her ability to follow the recipes of legendary Edna Lewis. Miss Lewis, an elegant cookbook author and chef, died two years ago but in the 1990s she was honored with a gala birthday party outside Atlanta.

For the event, the walls of the tent were hung with framed paintings that held meaning for Lewis. My favorite is a silhouette of her, positioned above the champagne table. It's almost regal yet unassuming, and I thought the concept might inspire some of you who are planning a celebration for a parent or grandparent.

(As seen in Karen Carroll's Entertaining With Southern Style.)

Somewhat more attainable than the beautiful painting of Lewis are these paper silhouette placecards. Angele Parlange made these for a joint birthday party for her dad and herself; the figures represent the guests of honor. Parlange photos by William Waldron, courtesy Southern Accents.


The Peak of Chic said...

Her recipes are always winners. The cookbook that she co-authored with Scott Peacock is fantastic.

Paul Pincus said...

He pointed to her recipe for shrimp and grits, a Southern classic. "It's just butter and shrimp, but it requires great butter and great shrimp, and a puddle of that over stone-ground grits," he said. "This pays homage to the frugal South, but it's also worthy of damask dinner cloth."

Throughout her life, the politics of race and the swirl of New York drew Miss Lewis with a pull as strong as her Southern roots. She took a bus to New York when she was in her early 30's, eager for work but restricted by the racial attitudes of the times. An acquaintance found her a job in a laundry in Brooklyn, where she was assigned to an ironing board. She had never ironed and lasted three hours before a manager showed her to the door.

She sewed better than she ironed and was soon copying Dior dresses for Dorcas Avedon, then the wife of Richard Avedon. She made a dress for Marilyn Monroe, Mr. Peacock said, as well as the African-inspired dresses that became her signature.

- The New York Times

hi courtney: i've just read the link you've provide to the edna lewis' times' obituary. the passage above jumped out at me! what an incredible lady! the framed silhouette is so very beautiful! captures what is clear in the photograph above. she is as you said regal yet unassuming!...and reserved and unpretentious and elegant and intelligent!...all the great qualities : )

beautiful post!

Style Court said...

Paul, how nice of you to take note of the Times obit. Everyone who knew her seemed to respect and admire her so much.


pve design said...

Stunning creature and chef.
Lovely silhouette.

cotedetexas said...

I AGREE with PVE - lovely silhouette exactly. While she didn't write a cookbook, we had our own Miss Lewis who passed and left such a hole in lives for catered food. And more recently, our Miss Jimmy who made all our cakes that we took for dessert whenever invited to a function - she passed this year and boy - she's been missed! Very very nice tribute you've done.

Mélanie said...

I love this silhouette , too ! It might have been a wonderful party

Style Court said...

Also, for those who don't know, Lewis was an adventurous spirit who led a very interesting life. She influenced culinary luminaries like Alice Waters and so on.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

That last image is fantastic! That cake and those silhouette placecards are just so cute! What a fun party!

Bailey said...

Hello -
I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your latest blog with the mention of Edna Lewis and her recipes.

I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:

and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:

My documentary is called Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

My website, has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

Bailey Barash