Terry Weeks died in early February at age 93 at her home in Baltimore, and as word spread around Stonington, particularly in the village where she and her husband, Louis, lived for several decades, she was remembered for her intelligence and friendship and of course for how she made her name — writing about food.
She wrote for Gourmet Magazine, and became a contributing editor, but to say she wrote about food does not do justice to the dozens of pieces under her byline through the years from her travelas here and abroad. She wrote about ambience and architecture, about landscape and countryside, about history and culture, about art and about folk, in the kitchen and in the field, and about elegance of the place setting and on the plate.
In perusing “Travels with Louis: Two Decades of Writing for Gourmet,” a collection of her work between 1980 and 1993 published in 2015, I came across these telling examples of detail and delicacies that ever flavored her writing. She and her husband, her faithful traveling and dining companion, were in Key West. Terry (she was born Teresa Herring) Weeks was conversant in French, Spanish (her mother was Colombian) and Italian, and her pieces didn’t shy from it, but here she wrote in her typically erudite and conversational English:
“A tour of a different sort makes its rounds at the Key West City Cemetery. Established in 1847 after a hurricane effaced the island’s burial grounds, the 15-acre graveyard now has over 35,000 headstones … One well-known stone, of a B. P. Roberts, 1929-1979, reads, ‘I told you I was sick’ – surely the hypochondriac’s ultimate victory.”
And then she and Louis go to lunch:
“Conch fritters with wasabi and pepper jelly were light but assertively seasoned, and a starter of beer-steamed shrimp with remoulade sauce, coleslaw and tomato-corn relish was a standout. The slaw consisted of red, green and Napa cabbages; red, yellow and green bell peppers; cucumbers; scallions; and a dressing spiked with cayenne, black pepper and mustard. We went on to dolphinfish, the catch of the day, served with a Cuban twist of black beans, fried plantains and lime. … An Acacia Chardonnay rounded out our meal. Louie’s lime tart with raspberry puree is a nice variation on the ubiquitous Key lime pie theme.”
Terry Weeks knew what she was doing.
However, as she told the Barnard College alumni magazine in 2015, it took a few years to figure it out, especially since she returned to finish her degree at Barnard 30 years after she left the college to marry and raise a family.
Her physician father did not encourage Weeks to go to college, but the head of Barnard, Dean Virginia Gildersleeve, was a patient of Weeks’ father and was incensed to learn that young Teresa was not in school. In February 1944, she was in her first year at Barnard.
“With no thought to her future,” reads the alumni magazine piece, “Weeks took the poetry, literature and language courses that interested her, ducking the essential core courses until later. But as it happened, there was no later. She met Louis Weeks, a Columbia law student, and ultimately left school to marry him and become a stay-at-home mom to their three children, born in 1948, 1949 and 1953.”
“I was a very good mother for the next 30 years,” she told the magazine. “All three children went to Country Day School on Long Island, and I went to every event at the school — I didn’t do anything but that. But when the youngest went off to boarding school, I figured I was either going to, maybe, like Julia Child said, become an alcoholic or learn to play bridge. As that was unacceptable, I decided to go back to Barnard.”
She graduated in 1976, having negotiated a dreaded physics course along the way.
She then went to the New School to learn how to prepare and submit manuscripts, and after a family Christmas on the Caribbean island of Nevis in 1978, and at the urging of her oldest son, she wrote about the experience, submitted the piece to Gourmet and, to her wonder, the magazine took it. She would go on to write more than 40 pieces for Gourmet, which ceased publishing in 2009.
In 1982, the Weekses purchased a 1797 center-chimney colonial at 68 Main St. in Stonington Borough, living and entertaining there until they sold it in 1998. Terry Weeks took pride in a designing what would be lovingly called a “cook’s kitchen,” with ample surface area near the upscale stove. They moved to 12 Grand St. in the borough, in a home that was graced by a garden created on what had been a parking lot.
Louis Weeks died in 2010, and Terry Weeks moved to Baltimore to be near one of her children.
One of her friends in Stonington, Charlie Clark, who wrote smart restaurant reviews for The Day from 2005 until 2011, had this to say in an email:
“Soon after I met Terry in the late 1990s, I learned that she and Louis had visited Maurice Ravel’s house, now a museum, in the Paris suburbs. She had a deep love of French music and the writing of Ravel’s colleague, Colette. This became a lasting link in our friendship. And we talked about food, and writers like M.F.K. Fisher, who she once met in California. … All of her friends will miss her immense kindness and intelligence.”
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.