Claire Saffitz is teaching me to make cakes.
She’s not in my kitchen; she’s on screen, working out of the Bon Appétit test kitchen, high in the big, phallic spire of One World Trade Center.
Her skin has the luminous pallor of a woman in a John Singer Sargent painting, and in her black hair there is a single, evocative streak of grey. On someone whose face was less perfect, it might look like Cruella De Vil chic; on Saffitz, it looks less like an affectation and more an acknowledgement of the ways nature has been kind to her. She looks at the camera with guileless hazel eyes, a soft pink flush clinging to her high cheekbones. Her hands are always deftly working at one of many culinary errands, and she speaks in a deepish voice with a see-sawing, rhythmic quality to it. When her hands pause – which is rare, between the gesticulation and the chopping, stirring and sauteeing that take up much of her time on camera – they’re small and delicate, without polish, to match her bare, lovely face. When she tastes her creations, her bites are perfect, feminine without pretension, never messy. She reminds me of Hestia, Roman goddess of the hearth; of Degas’ “Woman Combing Her Hair”; of Rodin’s sculpted kiss in marble. She could be a milkmaid in a 17th-century portrait, or a queen sitting in her regal chair, so self-possessed is she, so lovely. And all of this is available on YouTube for free.
What I’m saying is I’ve fallen in love with Claire Saffitz, without ever having met her, or having the opportunity to interview her for this essay, although Condé Nast offered promotional photos and recipes to run alongside this narrow column of text. If Condé Nast had offered me a locket with a snippet of Claire Saffitz’s hair within it, wrought of the most delicate silver, or a painted likeness meant to be carried close to the bearer’s heart, this would perhaps begin to be appropriate. Claire makes me want to write courtly odes. To hoist my fat ass onto a destrier and knock knights around until I win her favor, perhaps a used wooden spoon, or a whisk. I would duel for her if I knew how to duel.