Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Lessons from Julia's book

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Lessons from Julia's book

Monday, August 24, 2009

I’ve just returned home from the neighborhood farmers’ market with a bulging bag of what August does best--corn and tomatoes and melons. Also pea tendrils from a stall of Asian vegetables where I was discussing recipes with two Haitian women. And long lavender Chinese eggplants I need to find a recipe for.

It’s the bountiful season, no doubt, that’s put me in the mood to cook the fruits of my hunting and gathering. But according to this morning’s New York Times, we’re also all under the spell of Julia and The Book. (And if you haven’t yet seen the movie, have you got a treat waiting for you!

My copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” has a slightly ripped binding. It’s old (first edition, 14th printing) and spattered and has notes penciled in beside many of the recipes (“next time make the brown-braised onions FIRST”). I was a new bride and Julia taught me to cook. She also taught me to be ambitious and adventurous in the kitchen. Maybe even outside the kitchen. And maybe that was her most enduring lesson, the reason a new generation of cooks is making her book a best-seller today. Yes, we know what is healthy to eat, but maybe eating shouldn’t be only about what sustains our bodies.

People in other countries seem to know it better than we do here in America, the idea that eating just may be also about sustaining our souls with food that we take the time to prepare with careful attention and eat not standing up or driving, but sitting at a table with people to whom we also give careful attention.

Julia’s ‘60s ultimately gave way to the excessive ‘80s and we started paying more attention to amounts on our plates--enormous or minceur--and her lessons started slipping away from us. But Nora Ephron and Julie Powell have given us a chance to relearn them. A little butter isn’t a terrible thing. Good food rarely comes in a box with listed ingredients. Cooking is an art, but it can be mastered. And savoring good food in the company of friends and family is one of the great pleasures we are given in this life.

Bon appetit to you, Julia. And to Nora, Julie, Meryl, Amy. And to us.

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Anonymous JJ said...

Yummm! Your column and the movie inspire us.

August 31, 2009 at 1:30 PM  
Anonymous JJ said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 31, 2009 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

Oh, no--just tried to delete a duplicate. Now it looks like something terrible was here. Good thing this wasn't a recipe I messed up.

August 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM  

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