71. Letitia Nussbaum, Caterer

“You should only know.”

The other day, a long-standing client remarked, “Letitia, you are the most organized and classiest person I know. How did a woman named Nussbaum get a British accent and learn to make Mexican and Italian food like you do?” Letitia’s response: “You should only know.” But no one knows. And Letitia isn’t saying. Not now. Not ever. Letitia learned about Mexican food from the man she lived with for four years after running away at 14 from her ultra-orthodox Jewish family. Her father had picked out a husband for her and had a wedding date set. She wanted none of it. So, early one morning, she sneaked out of the house and got a bus to London. Lying about her age, she got a job in a Mexican restaurant and moved in with the chef. It was not a good beginning for a new life. He was a creep and she was a child. But she stayed with him until she was 18 and legally independent. She left when he threw a pot at her. She headed for Italy and, there, got famous as a chef in her own right. Customers loved her style and her food. But, outside of work, her life was a mess. She had a couple of disastrous relationships, a miscarriage, a bit of trouble with cocaine, and what she preferred to describe as a “case of nerves.” For a break, she went on holiday to New York City. It was supposed to be a ten-day get-my-head-back-on-straight interlude. But, she loved the place. And she met a man. He was everything she could have hoped for. Kind. Sophisticated. Smart. Successful. A television executive.  Not bad looking either. After a whirlwind romance, she married him and took a job with a catering firm as executive chef. All of which led her to starting a company of her own, developing a strong following, and becoming, in terms of outward appearances “organized” and “classy.” The fashionably-dressed, trim owner of a well-run, efficient, and profitable company. After five years, she and her husband divorced. They were happy enough but she had this brief infatuation with a waiter. And that put an end to things. Letitia and her husband are still friends and, occasionally, spend the night together. They’ve been talking about spending a week – “Just the two of us” – on the Vineyard next fall. Beyond that, Letitia’s love life is quieter now. She has a complicated business to run and, at fifty, claims, “I’ve learned a few lessons. And with my history, I’m avoiding getting in to any new relationships.” There is one thing though. After all these years, her family has chased her down. Letitia’s father is now in his late seventies and wants to see his oldest daughter again. She’s been thinking about it. Not sure that it’s such a good idea.

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