Kelsey and I spent a summer evening visually savoring the delights cooked up in Julie & Julia.¬† Meryl Streep‚Äôs portrayal of a determined but light-hearted Julia Child attending Le Cordon Bleu and then painstakingly writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, intertwined with Amy Adams as Julie Powell, the lost secretary who changed her life by cooking all 524 recipes in a year, showed us the importance of practicing their passions.¬† We cheered when the aspic recipe fell on the floor because none of us wanted to watch anyone eat it.¬†¬†¬†The desserts were a hit all around (we’re game to¬†try eating a whole chocolate cake with our hands), cooking a lobster may defeat us, and boning a duck we would probably throw our hands up at, but we‚Äôre all willing to cook something beyond hamburgers.¬† We‚Äôre thinking the beef bourguignon; a pivotal recipe is several scenes.¬† Julia describes herself as ‚Äúfearless‚ÄĚ in the kitchen and her example¬†reignited my desire to cook.
Excited to dive into Mastering the Art of French Cooking,¬†I¬†leafed through¬†it at the bookstore.¬† Every recipe had multiple steps and a long list of ingredients.¬† I cap out at 5, maybe 8, ingredients and¬†a page of instructions made my head ache.¬† I¬†put the book down.¬†¬† Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not The Way to Cook,¬†Julia’s book that first taught me how to cook.¬†
Prior to marrying Keith, I prepared one dinner for him.¬† It was a given that he would be the cook in the family and with 5 recipes under his belt, his knowledge surpassed mine.¬† One year later, I couldn’t bear to eat another bite of any of those recipes.¬† Keith’s parents came to the rescue by giving me The Way to Cook.
The introduction hooked me: “I am aiming this, my seventh book, at the new generation of cooks who have not grown up in the old traditions, yet who need basic knowledge of good food so that they may enjoy fresh, healthy home cooking.¬†”¬†¬†That was me!¬†¬†The book is organized by technique¬†allowing me to fumble through one recipe and then apply what I learned to different foods.¬† Julia even laid out the first¬†steps for neophytes like me: learn to saute chicken, deglaze the pan and pop Provencal tomatoes in the oven (page 306, I love that recipe), toss a simple salad, and¬†I had a¬†yummy meal.¬†
I fell in love with Julia when¬†she understood I arrived home from work late and¬†did not want to tackle a¬†multiple step Martha Stewart recipe, not even on a weekend could I face them:
Even if you’re working all day, why buy Chinese take-out food, or frozen dinners, or eat at¬†a fast-food joint when you can make a fresh, informal home-cooked meal even in a minuscule kitchen–and you will know exactly what you are eating.¬† Pour out a glass of wine, and while you’re gossiping about the day and trimming the fish fillets, a big pot of water can be set to boil for skinning the tomatoes and blanching the green beans . . . While the fish has a short sojourn in the oven, you’re all by ready to dinner and everyone is refreshed and happy.
And that is exactly what we do, Keith comes home from work, pours me a glass of wine and we chat while I make dinner (Keith has clean up duty).¬† The Way to Cook changed our dinner life.¬† Julia’s love for cooking and confidence that anyone can master basic techniques and prepare tasty nutritious meals caused me to start cooking.
Since my first romance with The Way to Cook, I’ve fallen for other cookbooks, Mark Bittman is my current crush.¬† After watching Julie & Julia, I returned to Julia with my daughter, now she is the “new generation.”