Friday, August 28, 2009

Julie & Julia & Me

Yesterday I saw the movie Julie & Julia, the story entwining the lives of Julia Child, renowned American French chef (I mean, an American who was schooled in French cooking methods) and Julie Powell, a writer who never got off the ground until she decided to cook her way through Mrs. Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, and blog about it. Julie was successful, in the cooking and the blogging and, eventually, the book.

The movie made me think about the types of work that really make me happy - cooking and writing. I have considered going to cooking school. The more I learn about cooking, the more I realize I don't know. That doesn't bother me, it excites me. It means there is so much I can learn.

As a cook, I am self-taught, including cooking shows and websites and books and just plain experimentation. My husband encourages me, because in almost 29 years of marriage, there have been only, by his count, two meals that were inedible, and neither of us remember them. There have been many good and a fair number of great meals, though, so I guess I'm still on the plus side.

There's something freeing about cooking for me. Often, I decide on the fly what I'm going to cook, and it changes as I go. I may stand in front of the pantry or the freezer, pondering the contents - what's there that I've forgotten about? Can I do something interesting with this? Hmmm...

When things don't work as planned, no worries. Sometimes I'm the only one who knows. My mom taught me that there are never lumps in the gravy, but there may be dumplings! If the sauce doesn't thicken, then call it au jus. As long as it is (1) not raw, unless that's the proper state in which to serve an item, (2) not burnt, unless you are torching a brulee, (3) hasn't been dropped on the floor, unless you are Julia Child - then serve it with your head held high!

Over time, I have developed a few fail-safe classics - tomato basil bisque (I know, it's technically not a bisque unless it contains seafood), pears poached in red wine (and its summer cousin, peaches poached in white wine), pasta with fresh vegetables and garlic, marinated flank steak. In fact, I always - I mean ALWAYS - keep canned diced tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, evaporated milk and good Parmesan cheese on hand. You never know when you might need to whip up a pot of tomato bisque for unexpected guests!

Alright, I've convinced myself. I'll sign up for a knife skills class at the local cooking school. Let's take it one step at a time and see where this leads. I won't be dedicating my life to cooking my way through the recipe collection of, say, Alton Brown - that schtick has been done. But I may wax poetic about my culinary successes, and I'll share my failures, with a modicum of humor and a dash of salt.

And now, I'm hungry!

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