According to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you do not want to try her cooking. Not only is her tepid skill set as a chef a recurring joke in On the Basis of Sex, Mimi Leder’s new biopic of the Supreme Court justice, but Ginsburg even poked fun at it herself after the film’s New York premiere at Lincoln Center on December 16.
Sitting with NPR’s Nina Totenberg after the screening, which included guests Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, Ginsburg recalled caring for her husband, Martin Ginsburg (played in the film by Armie Hammer), while he underwent treatment for testicular cancer in the early years of their marriage. She maligned the fact that during those six weeks of radiation and recuperation, she was on kitchen duty. “Whatever food he ate that day, I had cooked for him — and not very well,” she quipped. “He tolerated it.”
The rest of the time, it was Martin keeping the Ginsburg family’s stomachs full — and to hear those close to the situation tell it, that’s exactly how he liked it. As their daughter, Jane Ginsburg, is quoted in Martin’s posthumous cookbook, Chef Supreme: “Daddy did the cooking, Mommy did the thinking.”
“For him, it was just part of the joy of sharing his life with Ruth. He loved taking care of people, and he loved taking care of Ruth above all,” screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman (the Ginsburgs’ nephew) told Vulture on last night’s red carpet at the Walter Reade Theatre. Added Leder: “He did cook. He shared in the co-parenting. He was a very revolutionary character, even for today’s times, and their relationship was based on equal partnership.”
Ultimately, Martin’s finesse in the kitchen informed Hammer’s performance, as well. Previously speaking on the matter, Hammer said how Martin’s humor and voice shined through his recipes, which helped him tap in. On the carpet with Vulture last night, he recalled putting his own skills to the test for the film’s cast and crew.
“I made what I called the ‘Party Marty’ meal,” Hammer said. “I wanted to cook and entertain for everyone because that was a huge part of Marty’s life. It’s what he loved to do, so I feel like doing that was sort of my way into who he was. I picked about eight or nine recipes from his cookbook [Chef Supreme], and I invited the cast over, and we sat and ate and drank and had a wonderful time. It enlightened how I feel like Marty really felt about doing that kind of thing.”
In the closing half of Justice Ginsburg sit-down with Totenberg, she applauded Hammer’s portrayal of her late husband and revealed that watching him cook onscreen — of which there are several scenes — was one of his performance’s greatest joys.
“Did you notice the scene in which he is in the kitchen chopping vegetables?” she said. “That was very reminiscent of Marty.”
Speaking with Vulture, Leder cheekily confirmed the sentiment: “She was mesmerized by the way he handled that knife, that’s for sure.”