My longstanding (and, in my opinion, very valid) excuse for not having a battalion of kitchen gadgets is I work as a restaurant critic. What good is a melon baller to someone who dines at home no more than two or three times a month?
But the better excuse, the excuse which remained in force even after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of restaurant reviews, is that I’ve always had access to Nathalie Dupree’s pantry.
I’m hardly alone in being able to make that claim. In addition to the countless friends and neighbors who knew they could pop by Nathalie and Jack Bass’ house on Queen Street to borrow a set of cookie cutters, The Post and Courier’s photo department had a standing invitation to borrow whatever they needed from Nathalie’s vast inventory.
If you’ve spied a mixing bowl or printed tablecloth in the background of a beauty shot in the Food section, it was most likely a piece acquired by Nathalie for a cooking class or recipe testing. Perhaps it had appeared previously on one of her television shows or was given to her by an equally famous food authority, such as Julia Child or James Beard. The items in Nathalie’s kitchen collection are outnumbered only by the stories behind them.
Indeed, there are so many items that whenever I asked to borrow something, the answer was never “Yes,” but always “What kind?” When this past summer I set out to make a peach pie, despite not having any of the basic accoutrements beyond a measuring cup, I had to settle on whether I wanted a straight dowel pin or the French tapered type; a short pin or a long pin; a pin made from wood or a pin made from metal. Don’t get me started on the plate choices.
Now it’s up to Nathalie’s many admirers to make those same choices.
Although Nathalie took as much as she could when she recently relocated to Raleigh, she left behind enough material to merit a four-day moving sale. The event starts Thursday.
“It just goes on and on,” says Janet Gaffney of Estate Treasures, which is organizing the sale. “There are multiples of everything. It’s just going to be the best.”
Gaffney’s team has spent the better part of a week sorting copper and china and cast-iron molds. In the living areas where Nathalie and Jack threw book parties and dinners for such literary luminaries as Pat Conroy and John Grisham, there are now stacks of Le Creuset cookware, sets of crystal glassware and every imaginable Cuisinart insert. There are treasures as small as napkin rings and as big as the heavy wooden table at which Nathalie wrote her cookbooks.
Of course, Nathalie’s interests aren’t limited to cooking. She and Jack are deeply involved in politics and lifelong supporters of the arts, so there are posters and prints amid the salad makers and soup bowls.
They’re also philanthropists, although there’s perhaps no cause closer to Nathalie’s heart than Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization that supports women in culinary fields and their professional advancement. Sales of select aprons, paired with cookbooks authored by Nathalie, will benefit the group’s local chapter.
“We loved living in Charleston,” Nathalie told me in an email this week. “It makes me sad, but it is time.”
She also told me to consider investing in one of her 14 castoff Cuisinart food processors. She’s been accumulating them since 1972 and is confident the multitasking appliance belongs in every home.
I suppose one deserves a spot in a kitchen, which has seemed especially ill-equipped since Nathalie moved away.
The sale at 100 Queen St. is scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. For more information, go to estatesales.org.