Whodunit ?

W hen I asked Rand B. Lee, son of Manfred B. Lee and Kaye Brinker, if he perhaps had a better version of the photograph included in this special New York Times article from 1972 he, very apologetic, said he did not, but did remember the shop very well. He even added that he had worked there briefly one summer. "For free, of course" he added jokingly. He also remembered they made a chocolate fudge item named "Randy’s Little Roundies" which proved surprisingly popular. 

Anyone who was so unfortunate to lose a partner in life will understand the fact that restarting or simply going on is not easy. This article, published a year after Manny death on April 3. 1971, certainly attests to Kaye's strong character and will to get on with life...

           MRS.MANFRED LEE  widow of the author who was half of Ellery Queen, ...

MRS.MANFRED LEE  widow of the author who was half of Ellery Queen, ...

"Widowhood Led to a Thriving Business"


WOODBURY, Conn. — The sign over the shop on Main Street here reads “Escargo.” The missing T at the end of the French word for snail (escargot) bothers Kaye Lee no end. It used to bother her husband, the late Manfred Lee (who was half of the writing team of Ellery Queen) even more.

When Mrs. Lee and her son, Anthony, took over the catering business last spring, one of the first things they did was start labeling all the Escargot foods properly. The sign comes next —"We have to put the T back for Father,” Mrs. Lee said.

After raising eight children (two of Mr. Lee's and one of hers by previous marriages, plus five together), Kaye Lee should be fed up with cooking. The children range in age from 18 to 39 and all of them except Anthony, 28, have left home. One would expect that Mrs. Lee would be a client, rather than the cook of a food‐purveying business.

But when her husband died last year, she had her choice of “sitting home and feeling sorry for myself” or finding work to keep busy.

She didn't want to leave the big, 18th‐century house in nearby Roxbury where she has lived for 21 years. The area, lovely though it is, is not exactly bristling with job opportunities, especially for a woman who had not been trained in anything but acting. (As Kaye Brinker, she played the other woman in any number of radio soap operas and met her husband when she was in an Ellery Queen drama.)

She can, however, cook.

Manfred loved good food,” she related. “He hated to eat out ‘and disliked traveling. And he also believed that the kids should have as catholic menu as possible, so they grew up on French or Italian or Oriental food."

Closeted with all those children and dozens of animals — we even had cow for ,a while and I learned to milk it — cooking was a sort of creative thing for me , and relaxation for my husband. We learned together and got to be very good.

Her husband would emerge from the converted schoolhouse he used for writing (“He had to get away from kids yelling, dogs barking and cats giving birth”) and they would experiment in the kitchen, particularly with Oriental food.

When her husband died, Mrs. Lee decided to put her culinary skills to outside work by helping her friend, Dorothy Gayat, who owned Escargo. (“I guess she thought dropping the last letter made it easier for people around here to pronounce it,” explained Anthony Lee.) Mrs. Gayat retired last April and the Lees bought the business.

Asked directions to the shop one day recently, a Woodbury teen‐ager recommended: “Try the turkey grinders, they're great.” Grinders are the local name for the super sandwiches on French or Italian bread that New Yorkers call heroes. The turkey ones were very good, but even better were the ones made from the huge roast beef that had been cooking on a spit. Individual ones are about 8 inches long, but the shop turns out 6‐footers for parties and has the bread baked especially at a nearby oven.

The grinders are popular, but what the more sophisticated of the shop's customers look for are the specialties Mrs. Lee cooks early in the morning and late at night and sometimes freezes: seafood crepes with sherry‐cream dressing, herb‐stuffed chicken breasts, kebobs, ratatouille, chicken Tetrazzini, lasagna and, of course, escargots.

A lot of our clients are from Heritage Village [the well‐heeled retirement colony in Southbury] and they don't like to cook in summer,” Mrs. Lee explained.

Another Lee specialty is catering for parties and weddings and for these, they can supply barmen and serving persons, even glasses and linen. Ella Rita Hennessey, one of the shop's staff, is superb at wedding cakes, Mrs. Lee said —"she decorates them beautifully with fresh flowers.

There are days when Mrs. Lee wishes she had taken up the role of a traditional widow, rocking on her porch and doing some genteel needlepoint.

My own house is a disaster,” she said with a laugh. “I've been wanting to have a party around my own pool all summer, but I haven't had the time.

(From The New York Times, Aug. 27, 1972)

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