Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Julie-Julia Connection

Yesterday my good friend Macey, her mom, Kay,
and I saw the movie, Julie and Julia. This has been on the radar of many of my gal pals (and myself) for a long, long time. Who doesn't remember the uproariously fun and ultra-talented Julia Child? The PBS station that carried her show for years - the first cooking show of its time. But the blogging about Julia's monstrous tome, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was something I'd not heard about yet. Who knew?! Meryl Streep did a marvelous job as Julia - whatever piece of acting work that woman tackles is a slam dunk. Meryl, as Julia, was funny, determined and vulnerable. All the perfect components for a great chick-flick but I've gotta tell you - there were a few men taking up space in the theater, too, and they seemed to enjoy it about as much as we girls!
So this got me to thinking.
Here was Julie Powell determined to take on this Julia Child masterpiece of French cooking by preparing at least one recipe a day (and often more) in a year's time. Sadly, once Ms. Powell completed her project successfully, the real Julia Child was unimpressed by her Herculean efforts because she didn't feel Julie Powell gave the book the "respect" it deserved.

Of course
the great Ms. Child was well up in years by the time this project came to her attention and she was probably feeling a little, well...cranky. If not just downright envious that the physical limitations brought on by her advanced age prevented her from going out into the world and simply starting her amazing life all over again.

Now. Let me tell you something about respect.
I have SO much respect for Julia Child that when I purchased my one and only cookbook by the great chef, way back in the mid 70s when the book ("From Julia Child's Kitchen") was originally published, that I never prepared a single recipe. To look at my book today, one would think I'd have prepared hundreds of the recipes contained inside. It's worn cover and dog-eared pages seem to suggest otherwise. But no. Instead, over the years I have looked and looked and looked - and looked some more at the recipes - most of which cover at least a couple of pages of cookbook real estate.

The recipes are amazing.
And the recipes are long. They contain, sometimes, strange ingredients. And the recipes are long. Sometimes the preparation calls for actions way beyond my comfort zone. Oh - and did I mention the recipes are long?

But Julia compiled the book in her folksy way - the way that only Julia could achieve. And she did, after all, set out to create cookbooks on French cooking that were for the American cook who didn't (sniffle) have "help" - i.e. their own servants - in the kitchen. Well, that sure would be me.

So I thought, "Why not?"
After owning the book for over 30 years, perhaps it's time to take the plunge. Like Julie Powell, why not venture into this exciting realm of Extreme Cooking? Although, unlike Ms. Powell, I have my limits.

Glancing through the pages of "Kitchen,"
I came upon a picture of a rabbit (lapin)on page 203, all skinned and layed out on the chopping block. It's feet were intact because that's the way they are (or were) sold in Europe - so that one would know one is truly buying a rabbit. Ummm..ok. As opposed to what, exactly? Cat? Guinea pig? Oh, never mind!

So the delights (?)
of rabbit (tastes just like chicken) or tripe or live lobster may go unexplored at Maison Hammond. I think I prefer my lobster the way nature intended - the tail served up attraceively on a plate with a small bowl of drawn butter.

Here's the plan:
prepare once a week a recipe from my old Julia Child cookbook. Purchase the ingredients on my weekly trip (Mondays) to San Jose - stopping off in Los Gatos at Whole Foods, possibly, for the freshest ingredients I can find to pay rightful tribute to the work of Ms. Child. For the meat or fish or poultry, nothing beats our local fish monger, Michael, owner of Poppy's here in Morgan Hill.

Starting with one of two classic chicken dishes,
Coq au vin or perhaps Chicken fricassee (one with red wine, the other with white) I will take the plunge next week. No shortcuts. No "Quick" anything. It'll be the real deal. And I'll let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned -
I have lots to catch up on. But for now, in the words of the immortal Ms. Julia Child -
"Bon Appetit!"


  1. I attempted to read the book and I got half way through. I just wasn't feeling it and my new thing is to not waste my precious time with books I don't love 'cause I have too many on my reading list and not enough time (insert picture of my two boys here). Anyways, I still want to see the movie, I think the movie looks great and I think maybe for the first time, I might like the movie better than the book!

    Good luck with those recipes!

  2. Sounds like a good plan to avoid time-wasters...believe me, those little boys will only be "little boys" for a very short time. I actually didn't realize there was a book (Julie/Julia) - I just had my big old fat cookbook literally since before my kids came but always was afraid to try anything out - so I'll let you know how I did. Hopefully no major kitchen disasters over here! :)