The surprise hit at the Supreme Court gift shop (and perfect present for D.C. lawyers/foodies) is a cookbook: “Supreme Chef: Martin Ginsburg.”
The book, released two weeks ago, is an affectionate tribute to the late Marty Ginsburg — renowned tax lawyer, husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a darn good cook. He died in June 2010, and Martha-Ann Alito and the other spouses came up with the idea for a collection of his best recipes.
“Marty himself was the inspiration; he traditionally made a birthday cake for each Justice,” Alito told us. “Immediately I asked for the recipe for the cake he had made for Sam as it was definitely not a boxed ingredient cake. . . Reading his recipes you see how talented and curious a cook Marty was.”
He became a chef because his wife had many talents — but cooking wasn’t one of them. “I learned very early on in our marriage that Ruth was a fairly terrible cook and, for lack of interest, unlikely to improve,” he said in a 1996 speech. So he taught himself, and became an accomplished French chef.
“His recipes are as if he’s talking to a friend,” said Clare Cushman, who edited the book for the Supreme Court Historical Society. Ginsburg made complicated recipes and techniques easy and, according to his fans, delicious. “He was not afraid of cream and butter.”
And he loved to share, preparing dishes for the court spouses’ luncheons three times a year. The book contains not only recipes but also personal stories and tributes. “Marty generously gave and protected us within the group, always focusing our exchanges on family, friends and food,” said Alito. “He steered conversations gently away from divisive or political themes.” (Think tortes, not tort reform.)
The original idea was to give the 400 copies to Justice Ginsburg as gifts for family and friends, but she was so delighted with the final product that she requested some of the cookbooks be offered through the court’s gift shop. Sales of the $24.95 book have been “incredible,” said marketing director Kelly Harris, who’s waiting for the second printing to arrive. “It’s a wonderful read, even if you’re not a cook.”