I finally bought a copy of Julia Child's (and Simone Beck's and Louisette Bertholle's) Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I was avoiding it, if only to avoid a cliche. I've read Julie Powell's Julie & Julia twice, most of The Julie/Julia Project online, and Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France. I've seen the film Julie & Julia at least eight times--it's sitting in my DVD case right now. I really really really wanted to grab this book off the shelves and commit the next year of my life to mastering the art of French cooking. I'm a copycat, I know. And for that very reason, I didn't purchase the book. Until today.
I did mention, earlier in this blog, that I have a lot in common with Julia Child. I am tall--not quite her Amazonian 6'2", but pushing 6'0". Today, however (without referring back to the old post), I don't know exactly what I have in common with her at all. Except the height. And curly hair, though hers was more a product of the salon than of genetics. And I look darn good in pearls. I think what I meant before was that I was searching for something to do with my life--something reliable, tangible, tactile--and I found it in some way through cooking. I think I meant that I was married to a lovely man and that my physical location in life was dictated by his job.
I admit these things do not make me just like Julia.
I, for one, don't live in Paris, France. I live in Pullman, Washington. No one will be writing romantic poems about Pullman. No one flocks here for anything more cultural than the Lentil Festival, early each fall. And they don't really flock for that either. We have no monuments, no individual culture--not much to recommend us. No one will write a book about the art of Pullmanite cooking.
I also don't exactly have nothing to do with my life. I am a writer, pursuing a higher degree in fiction. Granted, it's not something you can put your hands in, knead, mold, chop. But it's a greater influence in my life than cooking, to be sure. It's a greater occupier of my time. If I had to choose between cooking and writing, writing would win the day.
But--cooking is a lovely diversion. It is a great way to entertain, though I have not yet acquired the exact social graces I desire, and do not live in such a formal society as existed when Julia Child penned her masterpiece. I do not wish to gain twenty pounds by cramming 500+ butter-filled recipes into a year, but I do wish to learn to be a better cook and a better hostess. I've got my basic red-and-white checkered cookbook. I've got Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess. And now I have Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Tonight: Potage Parmentier. That's leek and potato soup, the first recipe in the book. I figure it's as good a place to start as any. And I'm taking Julia's advice right from the first line of chapter one: "An excellent lunch or light supper need be no more than a good soup, a salad, cheese and fruit." Add a glass of wine to that and it sounds like a lovely evening.
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