In most sexual abuse cases, it’s one person’s word against another’s. In the Frugal Gourmet’s case, it was his word against 20 or more. Four days before he was to face trial in Tacoma, Wash., Jeff Smith, host of the popular PBS cooking show, agreed July 1  to pay an undisclosed sum to seven young men who had accused him variously of groping, kissing and raping them when they were teenagers. “Based on my interviews with a lot of the principals involved, I think it would have been pretty ugly,” says Deborah Holton, a Portland Oregonian reporter who has followed the story closely. Court TV had asked to cover the trial, and it could have featured testimony against Smith from more than a dozen people who didn’t sue him, as well as the seven who did.
The publication last year of a 700-page, hugely detailed biography of Julia Child (Appetite for Life — Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch, Doubleday) has bestirred a Manhattan memory. One evening toward the end of the 1960s, my wife and I were having dinner at La Caravel, a gracious French restaurant in New York. Dining there was a treat; the food was excellent and the service quietly efficient. The place held a special allure for me because it was the site of a superb documentary by Nell Cox, French Lunch. The short film records events in the kitchen from the first luncheon order through a frenetic, almost balletic crescendo of culinary movements at dinnertime — punctuated by the flare of flaming dishes — and finally subsides in a relaxed, post-service meal for the waiters and cooks themselves.