Monday, September 14, 2009

Could I Possibly Admire This Woman Any More?

Given that I adored Meryl Streep's interpretation of Julia Child in the movie "Julie and Julia," naturally, I rushed out and bought My Life in France. Oh! What a marvelous book! This is one of those books where there really aren't enough exclamation points to do it justice.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Julia Child had quite a persnickety side to her. The recipes had to be right! Her frustrations with Simone Beck were rooted in that intuitive flair that the French chefs that I knew had and with which "Simca" approached their collaboration. Julia thought that all fine and good, but not for a cookbook. The bit on beurre blanc cracked me up. But that sort of dogged pursuit characterized her personality and, I think, was critical to her success. Although she had flair, it wasn't about her flair. It was about you and her cookbook propped open on your kitchen counter. By god you were going to make something that would make your guests grin with pleasure. She guaranteed it. You didn't need flair. You had her looking over your metaphorical shoulder, telling you to add the stock NOW.

Of course, there's lots of description of the food, but the food doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's the people at the table, their friends, the conversations, the ambiance of the restaurant, the collective appreciation of the food and the people eating it, in short, it's the whole enchilada that makes France so magical for her. As much as this book is about her evolution into the persona that became "Julia Child," there isn't a chapter that doesn't include descriptions of people, who they meet, who they like, the people who become their dear, dear friends. The book is as much a paean to her love of food as it is her love for the table and who is sitting around it.

This is certainly why I went into cooking. It was the ambiance around my mother's dining room table that inspired me cook. That wonderful moment when you raise your glass of wine to each other in the most basic spirit of camaraderie. We are breaking bread. Together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Computers are evil and Canada

I have wasted an entire week of my life trying to deal with a computer virus on my new laptop. And as much as I hate Microsoft on principle, I've been on the phone with a number (FAR TOO MANY) of extremely helpful phone minions. Depending on the severity of the problem, they keep bumping you up to someone more savvy. But it took hours of phone time on crappy connections, and while I have some facility with accents, a weak connection makes that sort of back and forth difficult. What command? Plus, the entire thing was a PC guilt trip because I really couldn't hear, but I was sure they thought I was being an American xenophobe. Sigh. Is xenophobe a word? You know what I mean.

Anyway, am setting up daughter in new apartment for her second year of college. It's in a kick-ass part of town with lots of, well, everything around her. Kinda funky, but then that's college and I am envious. Living in a semi-dump has its advantages. Life is simpler. No hanging baskets or roses to fret over. No driveways to seal. Meals are haphazard affairs. Not that I don't love my house, my yard, my cats, but all these silent demands for attention tend to overwhelm on occasion. Love the roses, hate the upkeep deal. But then I do love roses and we put up these graceful trellises, and once again it's that no free lunch deal. Trellises+roses=beauty+upkeep.

And let's not even talk about the college issue. I buy lottery tickets on a half-assed basis, and my greatest fantasy is not about buying that chateau in France with my millions. It's about buying time. I would become a full-time student again. I'd start off in landscape architecture (Gertrude Jekyll being an idol of mine) and then? Who knows? I think college is wasted on the young. What I know now? I look at the list of my daughter's classes and I salivate over the possibilities.

I return to the U.S. tomorrow. And book number three. I am up to 9000 words and have a goal of finishing this sucker by Christmas. Ambitious, but not impossible. I have reached a stage in my writing where the process is more intense, but it's neater and cleaner. I write and it takes twice as long to finish a chapter, but it's a chapter where the concept is done. Written in stone. That's why I love writing. It's not static. The process changes the more adept you get. In some ways it's much harder, because I tend to overwrite and then I must go back and parse out all the bullshit writing, but now at least I have goals. How to get there, conversely, has because harder because I am less satisfied with my writing the more I write, but having goals is half the battle. What am I achieving in this chapter? You should always have a goal--actually several goals--in each chapter.

Edit. Winning the lottery would allow me to write full time. Perchance to dream.

Will post answers to crossword puzzle. Got derailed on that because of ugly virus and then getting daughter settled. There really aren't enough hours in the day.