Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discovering my Inner Julia

I saw the movie Julie & Julia tonight. My first reaction when I learned the book was being turned into a movie was shock. This was one of the few books I could not finish. I can recall tossing it to the floor on a number of exasperating occasions. Then I heard Meryl Streep would be in the movie as Julia Child and I was intrigued.

Meryl Streep was wonderful as Julia Child. Her performance reminded me of being a little girl and sitting in my grandmother's kitchen watching her cooking show on the small black and white television. I had no idea what that strange woman was talking about most of the time but she seemed to be having so much fun that I was hooked, loving her exuberance as she grabbed pots and pans tossing food around to create these masterpieces.

My mother was a good cook but she was a utilitarian cook. She cooked not from pleasure but from necessity. Meat, vegetable and a starch- each kept in their own place on the plate. My aunt, my mother's sister and nemesis was more adventurous. When she retired she decided to learn how to make Chinese food. My mother wondered why anyone would want to learn how to make Chinese food when you could just buy it (the pragmatic utilitarian). She also learned how to make pizza, lasagna and to bake her own bread. Unfortunately my Aunt's Chinese food, pizza, and bread never left you wanting more. She was amazing with desserts but outside of desserts she cooked by the book, a slave to the recipe; never veering off track.

I'm more the exuberant Julia (that is, when I'm not being rushed). Although I do prefer to create alone. It's like writing for me- playing around with the ingredients to see just what will happen if I add a little more or less. Most of the time I wind up pleasantly surprised. Lately I haven't found much joy in cooking; it's yet another in the long list of chores. But tonight Julia awoke.

The first thing I did after the movie ended was to rush out to buy my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I'm embarrassed to admit I've never owned a copy). Thankfully the bookstore did not have a copy or else I'd be up for most of the night cooking. It's impossible to see that movie and not want to race to the nearest kitchen. I have no plans to recreate the Julie/Julia project and cook every recipe in Mastering the Art. I'd just like to remember to let Julia out a little more often and have fun. Bon Appetit

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