Sunday, August 9, 2009

Me and Julia

I am a very good cook - maybe a very, very good cook. I enjoy it and love having people over to cook for. I usually prefer up to 6 people at a time as it is easier to manage a recipe for that many people although I have been known to make meals for 20 that haven't turned out too badly either. The larger parties usually mean a less complicated and less expensive menu that consists of pasta and a roast of some kind. On the shelf alongside my favorite cookbooks, I have a 3-ring black binder with recipes I collect from magazines, newspapers and from people who's meals I have enjoyed and are willing to share the formula of their creation. Having said that, I cannot remember if I have ever followed a recipe where I did not alter it to accommodate the likes or dislike of an ingredient, suit my taste more or use up something that has been in the fridge too long. With much anticipation, this weekend, I saw the movie Julie and Julia. The movie was okay - Meryl was great as was her character. I found the Amy Adams role a little dull. Seeing the movie however, spark my interest to pull out my 1971 copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and cook one of the recipes. So I spent most of Saturday shopping for and cooking boeuf bourguignon (page 315). The results were excellent - even if I do say so myself, but not without alteration. The recipe calls for 3 cups of very good red wine and 2 - 3 cups beef stock. a) that is too much liquid as only 3 total cups is needed to cover the meat. b) unless you make the beef stock yourself, the store bought version is either salty or tasteless (low sodium version). c) 3 cups of red wine adds a sharp taste to the sauce that can be unpleasant. 2 cups is enough. d) my frugal personality cannot pour over 1/2 a bottle of good wine into a sauce when I could be pouring it down my throat. Other adjustments included using pancetta as I had a piece in my freezer and I couldn't find a slab of bacon in my hopelessly white-breadish Stop & Shop. The same for not using thyme as I wanted fresh and it was nowhere to be found. As usual, I blame my mother for causing this inability to not follow recipes in its strictest detail. She never owned a measuring spoon, never measured a thing, and used regular cups (not measuring cups) to determine the right amount of flour. Recipes for Armenian foods are not easy to come by, so if I wanted to learn how to cook these foods, I had to sit in front of her taking out what she put into the bowl to measure it and then write it down. She so hated my doing that as it interrupted her thought process. Consequently, it was not quality mother/daughter time. I have found that there are cookbooks meant to cook and others meant to teach. Julia's cookbook is meant to teach you how to cook as stated in her forward which goes, "Our primary purpose in this book is to teach you how to cook, so that you will understand the fundamental techniques and gradually be able to divorce yourself from a dependence on recipes" To summarize, spend quality time with your mother by buying the cookbook and then get a divorce.


Cindy said...

My 9-year-old (who is pretty handy in the kitchen) and I are planning to see Julia--our first "adult" movie together. I'm really looking forward to Meryl Streep in it. Is there nothing she cannot do?

Thanks for the point to the Kindle article. It's top of my reading list for when I recover from my vacation.

I like Cooks Illustrated's recipe for Daube Provencal, but I'm with you on what I call off-road cooking.

jen said...

Saw the movie last night. Julia was amazing. She smoked, drank martinis AND wine, ate everything and lived to be 90. Here am I, a nonsmoker, agonizing over a martini OR wine, skinning my chicken, shunning duck and cooking with fake fat and fake sugar. I'd better live to be 100, or I'll really be pissed!