Monday, July 23, 2007

Cooking well, living well. While on vacation I picked up Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (Julie Powell) at the library. Julie decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, her blog is http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/. In a year's time she not only grew as a cook, she also grew as a person, through the experience.

The day I finished the book we went to see Ratatouille, Disney's animated film about a rat who wants to be a chef. Oh, I understood that restaurant critic. The minute he tasted the ratatouille, he was instantly transported back to his childhood and his nana cooking for him.... That happens to me everytime I taste elderberry pie. I remember my grandmother slaving endlessing overy those tiny berries just to give us a special taste of something that we would remember.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to me to have absolutely fresh food, in season. I think this is a huge quality of life issue for me. I love going out to the garden and picking zucchini, or cucumbers, a fresh tomato, and slicing them immediately into the meal I am preparing.

I went to the library today to turn in a book I found under my car seat.
While I was there, I looked for "My Life in France" by Julia Child. I found it, and sat entranced for an hour or so. I didn't read all of it, but the photographs were charming. I did read the conclusion: "I learned why good french food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture - a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience."

Oh, Julia... AMEN!!! I have been learning this lesson for the last few years. And it doesn't only apply to cooking. It applies to everything in life. When I started gardening, I tilled one day and stuck the purchased plants in the ground the next. Not surprisingly, I had a big mess of weeds. Now I take care of the soil first, feeding it in the fall and spring with compost, tilling it in several times, then mulching the whole garden.

When I first started knitting, I wanted only to get to the END of the project - get it finished. If I made a mistake or dropped a stitch, I figured out a way to make it up without going back and correcting the problem. Again, not surprisingly, my finished garments showed my haste. Now I rip out stitches. Half the joy of the work is in doing it correctly.

Household repair projects done with duct tape almost never last.

I have finally learned, and will probably still be learning, that in order to have acceptable results, you must plan the project, use the best available materials, use the right tools, and take enough time in execution to do the job properly.

While at the library, I also picked up McGee's "On Food and Cooking - the science and lore of the kitchen" which at first glance appears to be a chemical process engineer's view of cooking! I spent an hour looking through the chapters on bread, pie crusts, and chocolate.

Also "Conscious Cuisine- A new Style of cooking from the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff". In the introduction, he gives a brief resume, covering his successes as an assistant chef and a saucier, creating rich and flavorful sauces and stocks, but then goes on to say "I had forgotten that I was taught to cook consciously with the seasons, to embrace the region in which I lived and worked, and to select only the finest ingredients in preparing foods."

It is rather late so I will save the rest of this book for another day. But Cary seems to understand me.

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