Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Of course I've had both volumes of the classic for decades. We were a household where my ex and I each had a copy of it and just as Julie Powell in the movie thanks Julia for teaching her how to cook, so my ex constantly referred back to basic recipes in Julia's volume one... and still does. One need neither reinvent the wheel nor try to improve on perfection.

Much of what I have learned from Julia over the years came from watching my beloved cook from Julia's techniques, such as drying meat with paper towels so it will brown properly. Today I will dry my two racks of ribs before putting the dry rub on this morning.

Hence, do I need to tell you I enjoyed Julie and Julia last night?

This morning I came across an article in Newsday titled "Critiquing 'Julie & Julia' food scenes."

Trailer from the movie site:

I think a great deal of what works so well when learning from Julia is that her cooking is honest. It may often, though not always, take longer than we are accustomed to in our American haste. But things like drying the meat so it will brown, not crowding the mushrooms, or using lots of water when you blanch your haricots verts (green beans) are simple, straightforward techniques that were learned by generations of cooks and make a huge difference in your result. The goal is not something pretentious but something delicious.

And delicious is not what we usually treat ourselves to. We settle, more's the pity. We settle for cookies with vegetable shortening instead of real butter. We settle for bland, for way too long on the shelf instead of fresh from the garden, for homogenized, for crammed with additives. We need to respect and love ourselves and those with whom we share food far more than we do.

I say this as one too lazy to cook for himself, who eats cheese and crackers for supper because it's quick. Granted, I eat better cheeses than I knew as a child. And even by junior high school my mom and I had switched from American "cheese" to sharp cheddar. (If it's processed, it ain't cheese. End of discussion.)

Bon appetit!

--the BB


Earthbound Spirit said...

I am so looking forward to Julie & Julia, as everyone I know who's seen it is raving about it. Julia was not my TV chef - I watched Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet) - but he had similar views. Use real ingredients - juice straight from the lemon, not from a bottle. Use fresh whenever possible. Use real butter (the shortening is just as bad for us, we may as well enjoy the real thing). Last evening our vegetables were extremely fresh - picked from our garden just before we ate. That, my friend, is heaven on earth! (along with a nice white wine, good bread & good cheese)

Paul said...

Ah, ES, one cannot imagine the difference it makes to eat freshly harvested vegetables until one experiences it. Heaven on earth, indeed! Sounds like a wonderful meal.