The Marie/Julia Project

October 30, 2009

I saw Julie and Julia this summer and immediately went to my local book store to find Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I also started this blog.  I couldn’t find a copy of Mastering after visiting 2 Barnes and Noble and the pretentious book store on Court Street.  Oh well.   Instead I read Julia’s book, My Life in France which I just finished while doing a production of Candide at the Heights Players.  The plot of Candide takes the audience thru Spain, Portugal, Germany, Bavaria and Surinam (among others in Europe) and I loved reading about the exotic locations Candide and Julia were in while I was backstage in a serving wench costume. 

I’ve been to Europe, but only 2 times, and the first was in September of 2001.  The world went from normal to completely changed forever while I was in Florence, Italy.  The second time was only for a day.  Ran and I spent the day in Prague last summer on our way to Israel.  I hate to report that we ate pizza.  So sad!  We did have beer though and that seemed to be a bit more authentic to the city.  So even with my limited time in Europe I could start to understand why Julia fell in love with France and the French way of cooking.  It’s so unbelievable to think of all the butter they used and all the cheese and all the heavy cream!  But it was a different world in the 1960’s when Mastering was first published.  There were no Wal-Marts in Europe so people still went to a butcher for meat, a fishmonger for fish, a cheese shop for cheese.  Now we live in the era of mega-marts.  Not just of the Wal variety, but also Stop N Shop, Wegman’s, and even my beloved Fairway! 

Where I live in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn we have 2 butchers, a cheese shop, a fishmonger, and many cafe’s where one can plug in a laptop, enjoy a coffee and write their blog.  Food is so trendy right now with many celebrity chefs on TV showing us how to do it under 30 minutes or semi-homemade.  Back when Julia was on TV there were no other cooking shows.  I recently caught her show on PBS last weekend and it was in black and white and shot in one go.  The whole 30 minute show was done in one long continuous shot.  She was so charismatic and had such personality that it made the show interesting even if visually it was a bit dull.  I watched Julia spit roast a chicken and concoct a boullabaise with fish that I had never even heard of!

Finally I got a copy of Mastering as a gift from Ran and started to read thru it.  Of course I looked for the obvious recipes like the Beouf Bourguignonne first.  But then I started reading from the very beginning and found out a couple of things I didn’t already know from my years of Food Network watching.  Like, you should dry off the meat before you cook it with paper towels so that it will brown better.

Then, I embarked on some recipes.  First, Oeufs en Cocotte which were deliciously decadent.  Eggs baked in a ramekin with dollops of whipping cream and butter.  I made them as a dinner entree along with some side dishes.  We enjoyed it despite the fact that it took me twice the cooking time to get it right.  My stove isn’t as strong maybe?  I even used less of the whipping cream than the recipe called for because I couldn’t fathom using the whole thing no matter what Julia says!  Then Aigo Bouido or Garlic Soup.  I had to try it becuase I love garlic and it seemed pretty easy.  Some of the recipes are way too advanced for me at this point and need loads of ingredients that I don’t have in my pantry.  Money and time are still considerations when cooking dinner. 

Sidenote: this was one of my Boeufs with Julie and Julia.  Julie Powell was living in a shitty walk up in Queens but could afford the ingredeints for Lobster Thermidor and Boeuf Bourguignonne twice! Unbelievable!

Garlic soup was tasty.  I made garlic bread to go with it and it was a nice accompaniment to dinner one night.  Didn’t reheat well the next day and I was bummed when it looked like salad dressing that had come apart into oil and water. 

We also tried Sauce Bechamel twice and added cheese to it to make a quick macaroni and cheese.  There are few things in life I love more than macaroni and cheese, especially one with Swiss, Cheddar, Parmigiano Orreggiano and Blue Cheese melted into it.

The untold story here is that I was enjoying a few weeks of not counting points on Weight Watchers.  I had fallen off the wagon and was so busy with Candide and working full time that I let WW be the thing that got left by the wayside.  I went back to my Monday meeting this week and was greeting by a 3lb gain.  Alright, it sucks.  I had my usual moment of “what the hell have I done?”  I beat myself up and I start to feel like the world is ending over 3lbs.  The moment passed and then I thought, “wow I really enjoyed cooking those meals and eating them with Ran.”  I was on a food staycation!  I didn’t go anywhere exotic, but I ate exotic foods and took a break from the WW life.  I’ve lived to tell the tale!  I’m not thrilled about the 3lbs, I would have much rather prayed really hard to the WW scale Gods and been even or only up a pound.  But then it wouldn’t really be a wake up call, would it? 

I’ll still make Julia’s recipes.  I will omit the extra fat where I can and probably no one will know the difference. Even Julia herself would say that French food had to be eaten in moderation.  She was concerned about her and her husbands weight and health too.  So for now, Bon Appetite! and I’ll let you know how I do next Monday on the dreaded scales!

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One Response to “The Marie/Julia Project”

  1. Abby said

    I had the same response to Julie & Julia! How on earth at her supposedly low-level, government job did she afford all those ingredients? I wasn’t a huge fan of the book though I appreciated the dedication to the project.

    Cooking is my big stress relief (besides yoga). There’s nothing I like better at the end of the day than to come home and put together a really colorful, healthy, gorgeous meal. Some people get stressed out by the thought of cooking, but I love it. Getting creative and colorful with food is so fascinating and fun! And it nearly always tastes great!

    Keep up the good cooking work! If you find any great recipes, I’d love to hear about them.

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