When it comes to a summer barbecue, Ralph Lauren, whose elegant runways are studies in beauty, refinement and luxury, loves nothing more than a good hot dog, with mustard and sauerkraut and a juicy kosher pickle served alongside.
So reveals Ricky, his wife of 46 years, who, in her new hybrid cookbook-meets-history-meets-family album, "The Hamptons: Food, Family and History" ($40, Wiley), serves up, among other things, a delicious slice of the Lauren family lifestyle in the Hamptons, where they have summered for decades.
Lauren wrote the book, she says, "because I see summer entertaining in a universal way, it's a shared experience." And she does share -- 130 not particularly challenging but very appetizing-sounding recipes. In fact, she says, ease was a goal. "I wanted to make the recipes simpler and alter them to suit the times, with a focus on using healthy, quality food. If it's too complicated, you don't need it. And why bother, especially in the summer."
But that's what's so, well, endearing about the book, because despite all the fantasy and ostensible pomp surrounding the Lauren image, it reveals snippets of the Lauren life that show they are -- like the magazine headlines blare -- "just like us" (meaning, of course, regular folks who eat hot dogs). Unless you count things like the Ricky alligator handbag, which can run more than $20,000, and a multibillion-dollar empire. On the handbag, Lauren says she was honored that her husband chose to name a bag after her, and she does sometimes carry the Ricky, but not, she jokes, "when I'm Rollerblading."
Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lauren dishes out a fairly extensive serving of Hamptons history that includes the settling of the region and information on artists, architecture and Hamptons writers. "I wanted to tell the story of where I lived," said Lauren, "and I needed to know more. . . . The creative juices and energy spread in the Hamptons. It was a mecca of creativity only 90 miles away from New York City."
So is it a coffee-table book, a cookbook or a reference guide? "I think you need three," joked Lauren. "One for the coffee table, one in the kitchen and one for the shelf."
The book is divided into four sections representing the areas where the Lauren clan (Ralph, Ricky and children Andrew, David and Dylan) has lived in the Hamptons: Southampton, Amagansett, East Hampton and, finally, Montauk, where they reside today in a modern house with Asian influences once occupied by John Lennon and Leonard Bernstein. "It's very private and an escape."
Family photos are interspersed throughout -- Ralph with black hair and a beard and mustache in 1970, the kids mugging for the camera, Ricky in overalls. "I still wear them today, and jeans, and painter's pants. It's all casual there, but if you want to put on a white blazer or white pants, you can."
And speaking of fashion, Lauren, who is a front-row fixture at her husband's glamorous shows, dedicated the book to him, as "the captain of our ship and the anchor in my life." And that doesn't surprise fashion insiders, who've watched unwaveringly gorgeous presentations for the past 20 or so years, where at the end of every one, she lovingly embraces and kisses her husband. "I never see a show until he presents," she says. "He doesn't tell me anything about it. And I always get a thrill. You can imagine the excitement that I feel for this man who continually creates this magic."