Feminist, Writer, Mama, Agitator with Extraordinary Super Powers
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Julie & Julia & Super Mon
I haven't seen the much anticipated Julie & Julia movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Yet. First, I wanted to read the books, Julia Child's My Life in France, and Julie Powell's Julie & Julia. Which I am doing now. I have tried to stay away from reviews of the movie too as reviews make me grumpy. The books are always better than the movies, anyway. I am always interested in the blogger who gets published on real paper kind of stories, and I am most definitely interested in food.
Since I didn't know about Julie Powell's blog or her Julie/Julia project until it was announced that the movie was coming out, I thought I better catch up. As a Foodie-come-lately (I really got into Food, big F, when I was 32 and pregnant--and I did so with a single-minded determination and/or obsessiveness), I have often admired what I know about Julia Child's life. She worked for the OSS in WWII, she was a true blue Democrat, she discovered Food (Big F), at 37 and she had a great and lasting love affair with her husband Paul Child. Sigh.
I used to only watch her television shows as a teenager-- we didn't have cable. I remember catching her show on PBS and being slightly embarrassed by, yet fascinated to watch this person. There was something kind of sexual (in my uninformed adolescent mind), yet also entirely too pragmatic, about the way she handled poultry and lamb. My mother is not a cook. And, my father never cooked for our family unless it involved a grill. My mom is a fine baker; she makes deadly fudge too. But spaghetti dinner at our house consisted of a pound of unseasoned ground beef, a box of Creamette spaghetti noodles and a can of Hunt's tomato sauce. I had a lot of intestinal issues as a kid. We had spaghetti once a week.
I was interested in the person of Julia as a teen; she was a spy, after all. But then I thought that was probably pretty nerdy. And, as I had already let it be known amongst my friends that I liked poetry and WWII and French history to much mocking and hilarity, that I kept my intrigue of Julia Child quiet, and eventually dropped it to pursue other, more exciting topics like local, Wisconsin boys.
I thought she was English for a long time too. I had no idea she was a native Californian until just a few years ago. Her voice was odd to me. High, yet, rumbly and strangely accented.
I have NEVER made any recipe she has crafted. I don't own her cookbooks, and French cooking in general scares the shit out of me. There's all that clarifying and reduction and dividing and fussing. I like Italian cooking with it's big, bold easy flavors, veggies, pasta, and CHEESE!!!! I make fantastic corn meal dough pizzas with pears, onions, mushrooms, spinach & Gorgonzola (or sheep's milk feta)and I broil a fine medium rare steak with a side salad and bob's your uncle. But, I admire the challenge Julie Powell undertook of making all 524 recipes from the Mastery of French Cooking in 365 days.
The Food Network kind of makes my head go all fuzzy and white inside. It's Food Porn, but it's not GOOD Food Porn. It's not very creative. I mean Porn should, er, get you off, right? At least I haven't found a show on that entire network that doesn't make me rock back and forth, yet. Emeril's BAM, and Rachel Ray's oeuvre don't inspire me to want to make and try new food. Not so sexy. I will say Emeril at least seems like a food lover. Probably my dislike comes from the fact that it's so MAINSTREAM. There is nothing nerdy about it. My sister has Rachel's magazines. I was reading one while at her house recently, With her $6000 stove, and her exposed brick kitchen, Rachel makes tostadas with bacon as the secret ingredient. And, that is fine for her. For her legion of fans. But, I would rather learn how to make ratatouille. Or authentic tamales. Or one of Julia's many sensual recipes.
Michael Pollan, wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch" about this phenomenon exactly. As well as talking about Julie & Julia and Julia Child's career. Pollan wants us to stop watching and start cooking. Obviously, with lots of local and organic vegetables. I'm all for it. It's certainly healthier and more fun to cook. I don't want to give up my food moderate dose of food porn, though. I am not going to stop watching or reading Anthony Bourdain, or PBS. And, I have a slight cookbook addiction and that's not going anywhere.
A little challenge: watch the robust, Italian lady on PBS's Ciao, Italia as she makes bread and cheese casserole. Then make it for your next potluck (maybe at my house) and I will make spaghetti carbonara and someone else will bring salad, and there will be wine and people will start thinking you are a food genius.