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Down Mexico Way
Contributed by Julio Machorro

Photo 1 | Between takes, Ashley Judd with her signature garlands.
Photographs by Brigitte Lacombe
Styled by Barbara Turk
Party design by Sebastian Li

Photo 2 | The actress Salma Hayek, left, with the director, Julie Taymor, taking a break during the film's wedding scene. Hayek is the movie's producer and also stars as the artist Frida Kahlo.

Photo 3 | At the lunch that Judd serves the cast with recipes inspired by Kahlo. Back row, from left, Patricia Reyes Spindola, Saffron Burrows, Mia Maestro and Roger Rees, in costumes from "Frida." Front row, from left, Valeria Golino, Taymor, Hayek and Judd with her cockapoos, Buttermilk and Shug. Golino, Taymor and Hayek, in their own clothes, and Judd, in a bodysuit, $850, and flat-front wool pants, $2,950, Giorgio Armani. Bodysuit at Saks Fifth Avenue. Pants at Giorgio Armani. Shoes, Gucci.

Photo 4 | Scenes from a meal: left, the costume designer Julie Weiss is ready for her close-up; bottom right, Kahlo's painting "Viva la Vida" (reprinted from "Frida Kahlo," Bulfinch Press) influenced the look of the table setting, above. Food prepared by the Mexico City caterer Antonio Mata Ortiz.

Photo 5 | On Aug. 21, 1929, the photographer Tina Modotti gave the wedding reception for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at her house in Coyocan, Mexico City. Here, Hayek and Judd enjoy downtime during the shooting. They wear costumes designed by Julie Weiss.

Photo 6 | Tina toasts the newlyweds.

Photo 7 | The book "Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life With Frida Kahlo," by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle, inspired Judd to add a few of her own touches to the menu that she served the cast down Mexico way. Hair by Robert Vetica for Cloutier. Makeup by Troy Jensen for Luxe.

Photo 8 | Frida and Diego, played by Alfred Molina, pose for their wedding portrait.

Photo 9 | Ashley Judd poses as Tina Modotti. Cover scan of 'Style & Entertaining' supplement.

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November 4, 2001

By WILLIAM NORWICH

Lights! Camera! Guacamole! Life is a party the week Ashley Judd joins the cast of 'Frida.' William Norwich follows the fiesta.

The filming of the wedding -- Scene 54 from "Frida," a biopic produced by Miramax Films and Salma Hayek, who also is starring as the artist Frida Kahlo -- may last longer than the marriage.

Pendants and streamers decorate the upstairs patio of the Mexico City house, a dilapidated palacio, circa 1929, that has been shored up for the occasion to become the home of the photographer Tina Modotti. In this scene, Modotti, played by Ashley Judd, gives the wedding fiesta of Frida Kahlo and the painter Diego Rivera, played by Alfred Molina. It was an unlikely union that Kahlo's parents compared to "the marriage of an elephant to a dove." But to devotees of Kahlo -- whom the writer Christopher Goodwin describes as "feminism's premier art icon, the Sylvia Plath of the canvas" -- the marriage to Rivera has all the ingredients of a heroic love story.

"Love beyond fidelity," Julie Taymor, the director, explains.

The crew labors with the lights and sound. Many of the extras, bored and hungry, are eating the prop food, and the caterer is worried about his supply.

Time passes, and passes. "Hurry up and wait" is the behind-the-scenes truth of movie-making, not glamour. "Don't tell anyone," Molina says.

Judd is waiting to deliver the wedding toast, something she will do many times over in this 16-hour workday. While she waits, she sits on a wooden chair in a dark corner of the set and reads The International Herald Tribune, W and catalogs with tile selections for her Tennessee farmhouse. She is also planning the menu for a lunch she will give for Hayek and other members of the cast later in the week. With the exception of a few favorite dishes of her own, including one for peanut butter cake and a lemonade with cucumber, all the recipes Judd is considering are attributed to Kahlo. Although Kahlo was radical in so many regards, she was anxious to be an enthusiastic homemaker serving the traditional Mexican dishes she learned to cook from Rivera's ex-wife, Lupe, and later from a book called "The New Mexican Cookbook." When it came to entertaining, Kahlo often decorated her table with flowers that spelled out special greetings. Of course, in Kahlo's case, one might say "Viva Trotsky," as one of her floral arrangements did in 1937 when her favorite Communist visited.

Kahlo's recipe for Christmas turkey, from a cookbook titled "Frida's Fiestas," gets Judd's attention. "I love cooking and entertaining when I am home," she says. "I do it all the time; it's a joy to make something out of nothing." Judd learned to cook in second grade. "If my mother was away, I made my own breakfast. On Saturdays, I'd want to bake cookies." Not that mealtime wasn't sacred to her mother, Naomi Judd. It was. "My mother has always argued that all of America's problems could be solved around the kitchen table, and therein lies my native sense of meals being important." Important but not solemn. "Not at all!" she exclaims. "In fact, we play a game in my family -- kind of a get-to-know-you if someone is a little shy. We ask the person, 'If you could be on the nyt of a magazine anywhere in the world, what would it be and what would the nyt line say?' It gets the conversation going."

Organizing entertainments on the road is important for her sense of balance. "When I'm working, I keep my nose to the grindstone and I am not very open to my environment," she explains. "Planning an evening with great food, or a special cast lunch like the one we'll do later this week, is a great way to reciprocate."

Shortly before arriving in Mexico, Judd finished shooting her starring role in the coming "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," based on the novel by Rebecca Wells. "I wasn't very social," she says. "I was playing a character who was supposed to be having a nervous breakdown. But one night we did have a serious barbecue with a wonderful game of charades."

Hayek, who appears in 199 of the 200 scenes in "Frida," regards Judd's tile catalogs and recipe book with some interest, but a buffet table with guacamole and a wedding cake is more appealing. Hayek runs a finger through the frosting of the cake. She tastes. Something sour. Her nose turns up, causing her Frida Kahlo unibrow to plow downward.

Otherwise, "the food for this film has been unusually good," Hayek says. The cast and crew usually eat together, and meals -- traditional Mexican cuisine, mostly -- have become the great consolation in the grueling regimen of the 11-week shoot, which is considered a long time for a film with a relatively low $12 million budget.

"Have you seen my bodyguards?" Hayek asks.

She points to two burly fellows. "They are making the cook in the house I have rented very jealous," says Hayek, her accent both thick and thin, like hot chocolate syrup over ice. Her bodyguards like to cook. In the morning, they don aprons and make elaborate breakfasts for Hayek before they head to the set.

"I'm getting fat," she sighs.

"You're not," everyone within earshot tells her.

It is time for the Modotti toast again. Judd clinks a glass with a spoon and steps into the spotlight. "I don't believe in marriage. I really don't! Let me be clear about that," Judd says, channeling Modotti with an Italian accent she perfected that morning with the help of a vocal coach.

"I think at worst it's a hostile political act. A way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative, religious nonsense. At best it's a happy delusion. It's two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they're about to make each other." She pauses. "But when two people know all of that and decide, with eyes wide open, to face each other and get married anyway* well, then, I don't think it's conservative or delusional. I think it's radical. And courageous. And very romantic." She lifts her glass. "To Diego and Frida."

Playing Modotti, a small role to be filmed in less than a week, is unlikely to become the defining moment in Judd's career as a box office star. "I've known Salma since 1997, and we've become good friends," Judd says. "I recognize a lot of myself in her. When she called me and asked if I would do this favor for her, I said, 'Yes, of course."'

The actresses bonded at a dinner party. Both happened to be wearing white shirts. When Hayek spilled some red wine on hers, Judd took a napkin and put it inside her wineglass and drew the same spot on her white blouse.

"So we were twins! No one does that," Hayek declares.

Many actresses, including Madonna, wanted to make a film based on the life of Frida Kahlo. Just a matter of days before "Frida" began filming, Jennifer Lopez decided not to go forward with a Kahlo project that reportedly was to have been produced by Francis Ford Coppola. Hayek's "Frida" is a testament to her steely determination -- the driving force that has helped the former Mexican soap opera star make dust of the starlet trail in Hollywood. The "Frida" script was originally commissioned from the director-screenwriter Gregory Nava for HBO in 1994. It has gone through several hands, including those of Rodrigo Garcia, the son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and later, Walter Salles, the director of "Central Station," who, prior to Taymor, was expected to direct. The current script has been doctored by Hayek's beau, the actor Edward Norton, who will play the young Nelson Rockefeller in the film. What thwarted many of the previous attempts was getting the permission to film Kahlo's and Rivera's art, or a likeness of it, from Dolores Olmedo Patino, a former lover of Rivera's and a wealthy social figure who owns the rights to their work. Over a bottle of Champagne a few years ago, Hayek persuaded Patino to give her permission. How? No one else had bothered to visit the aging doyenne of Mexican art in person.

Judd delivers the Modotti toast once more with feeling.

Later, the wedding scene shifts to a "sea of people dancing and drinking," as described by the script. Behind the scenes, there is tension. Harvey Weinstein has landed in Mexico City for the day, and everyone wants to please the Miramax poobah during his short stay in the chalky capital.

The "sea of people dancing and drinking" starts and stops and starts again. Problems here, and problems there, and then here is the problem of the 3-year-old child that the actress Mia Maestro must hold in the scene. The child will not stop crying. Ultimately, it isn't a concern, because the postproduction dubbing will nyt it. But everyone is already nervous enough, and this wailing is not helping. Take after take, the child starts to wail the moment the sea of drinking and dancing commences and the cameras roll. Maestro never flusters, but the child's mother is mortified.

"The 3-year-old has on the wrong socks," says Julie Weiss, the costume designer.

A production assistant asks, "Is that his problem?"

Weinstein leaves Taymor's side and sails toward the child. A sea of assistants parts. Wearing an old polo shirt and khakis, the movie producer consoles the embarrassed mother.

"Don't worry if he cries," Weinstein tells her. "Want to see pictures of my daughter?" he asks the boy. "She's 3, too."

Weinstein opens his wallet.

When Harvey Weinstein opens his wallet, there is silence on the set.

The little boy looks, and then starts crying again.

"Anyone got a lollipop?" Weinstein roars.

A lollipop is produced. One of the most influential men in movies today gently removes the paper from the sweet and hands it to the toddler extra.

All is well. The child smiles.

A unit photographer takes his picture.

When the photographer is finished, the child starts crying again.

"What a ham," Weinstein says as he walks away. "But he sure is in the right business."

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SQUASH BLOSSOM QUESADILLAS
For the tortillas:
1 pound masa harina (a corn flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted lard.

For the filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped

5 cups squash blossoms, stems removed and discarded, blossoms chopped
Salt to taste
2 cups shredded queso fresco, Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (optional)
Corn oil or lard for frying.

1. For the tortillas: combine the masa harina and salt in a bowl and stir in 1 1/4 cups water and oil. Knead in additional water to thoroughly soak the masa harina but not make it sticky. nyt and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2. For the filling: heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the chilies and onion until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash blossoms and saute for 1 minute. Add 1 cup water and heat to boiling. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick. Season with salt. Let cool.

3. To shape the quesadillas, knead the dough in a bowl with enough water to reach a pliable, but not wet or sticky, dough. Remove the dough in 2 tablespoonful amounts and press between 2 sheets of waxed paper to form 4-inch rounds. Spoon a dollop of the filling onto the center of each round and top with a pinch of cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and press the edges together to seal.

4. Heat 1/4 inch of the oil over medium heat in a skillet and fry the quesadillas, several at a time, for 30 seconds a side, turning several times, until golden brown, adding more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels and keep warm. Serve immediately. This makes about 24 appetizer-size quesadillas.

Yield: 6 servings.

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CHRISTMAS TURKEY
For the turkey:
1 small turkey (13 to 14 pounds)
Salt and pepper
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, softened

For the stuffing:
4 large hard rolls (like Italian or kaiser)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup lard
1 large onion, chopped turkey giblets, washed and chopped 3 cups chopped celery
2 tart apples, peeled and chopped
15 pitted prunes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves.

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the turkey inside and out. Dry with paper towels. Set aside.

2. For the stuffing: break up the rolls into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and toss to coat. Set aside, tossing the bread occasionally to keep wet.

3. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the lard and saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the giblets and saute for 2 minutes. Add the celery, apples, nuts and prunes, and saute for 2 minutes. Drain the bread and add to the skillet. Stir in the seasonings. Saute for 2 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Set aside and let cool. Spoon the stuffing into the turkey body and the neck cavities, nyt with the skin flaps and sew up with kitchen twine. Rub the turkey with salt and pepper and then with 4 tablespoons butter.

4. Place an adjustable V-shape roasting rack in a large, deep roasting pan. Arrange so the turkey (breast side down) sits high in the pan. Add enough water to nyt the bottom, to keep the drippings from burning, but leave plenty of space between the water level and the turkey. Roast on the oven's lowest rack for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Turn the turkey breast side up on the V-shaped rack. Roast for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and rub with salt and pepper and 4 tablespoons of butter.

5. Melt the remaining butter. Return the turkey to the oven and roast the turkey for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the thigh juices run clear when pierced, basting with some of the remaining melted butter every 20 minutes. Add water to the pan as needed.

6. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, loosely nyted with foil. Remove the stuffing to a bowl. Carve and joint the turkey as desired.

Yield: 10 servings.

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ASHLEY JUDD'S PEANUT BUTTER CAKE (from "Recipes From Miss Daisy's")
8 ounces butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten well
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8- by 2-inch round cake pan (or a 9-inch pan) and line with a parchment round. Grease and flour the parchment.

2. Beat in butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in yolks and then peanut butter until smooth.

3. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Combine the buttermilk and water in another bowl and stir in the baking soda. Into the yolk mixture, beat in the flour mixture, in fourths, alternating with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture.

4. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the batter with a rubber spatula. Spread the batter in a prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in a pan on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. Invert onto the rack; invert onto another rack, so that the cake cools with top side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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GRENADINE PUNCH 1 quart white tequila
1 quart grenadine syrup
Juice of 20 limes (about 2 3 1/84 cups)
Ice cubes (about 16 cups).

1. Combine the tequila, grenadine and lime juice in a bowl and mix.

2. Add the ice and stir until it chills the punch. Serve.

Yield: 16 servings.

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LEMONADE WITH CUCUMBER 1/2 cup sugar 1 large Kirby cucumber 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.

1. Combine 1 cup of water and the sugar in a saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat to boiling and simmer over low for 5 minutes. Pour the syrup into a 2-cup pitcher and let cool, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile grate the cucumber into a bowl. Squeeze and press juice from the cucumbers through a sieve placed over a pitcher containing the syrup. Add the lemon juice and stir. Pour into ice-filled glasses.

Yield: 4 servings.

William Norwich is the editor of Style & Entertaining.

New York Times, November 2001

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