BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Being Julia

with 7 comments

Pillowy perfect Quiche Lorraine and greens with a Dijon vinaegrette at Le Patissier.

Pillowy perfect Quiche Lorraine and greens with a Dijon vinaigrette at Le Patissier.

It seems sacrilege for a budding food writer to avoid the foodie movie everyone’s talking about until now. Hey, I saw Food, Inc. before its release. My journalistic instincts just remain more muckraking than gourmet. But Julie & Julia beckoned. I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore. In anticipation, I found myself grabbing lunch at our surprisingly excellent strip-mall French patisserie here. Le Patissier has delicious (and quick to disappear) almond cream and paste croissants. But the savory items, buttery quiches and salads with a snappy Dijon vinaigrette are also memorable. The bakery uses many local ingredients (strawberries in the tarts, etc.) but you’d never know, because they don’t advertise it for fear of being labeled “greenwashing.”

Julie & Julia was of course heart-warming. And Nora Ephron brilliantly melded Julie Powell’s memoir with Julia Child’s rebirth as a cook in France. I teared up several times, mostly in vicariously experiencing the letdowns and eventual joys the two leads had upon finally getting good news from editors/publishers/readers…our tenuous existence as food writers/bloggers/cookbook authors is in their hands. Of course Julie Powell’s self-doubts about the narcissistic nature of blogging, and her desire to forge on with this self-imposed project anyway, resonated with me. Perhaps the most poignant, but subtle, part of the film to me: when Julia cries, with envy, upon learning that her sister (who also married late) is expecting a child. Did she regret not having her own? Children would have compromised her career, she said, but she missed not having grandchildren. If only you could have one with out the other. It takes a void, for sure, to throw yourself headlong into something, as Julia Child did with French cooking.

But frankly most of her recipes, and much of French cooking, doesn’t really interest me. I’m only drawn to choice French desserts and pastries. I’ll attempt a few dishes: chocolate mousse, braised cucumbers, perhaps, and I’d love to learn to bone a duck. Julie Powell can also be a model of what I don’t wish to become. Sure, she had a great idea but could have poured much more curiosity and reporting into it. As with Harry Potter, I’m skeptical of the books everyone is reading or ordering at once. I’ll wait to turn to Julia when the trend cools down. At lest I’m not the only one who finds food of this style inaccessible and daunting.

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Written by baltimoregon

September 5, 2009 at 2:46 am

7 Responses

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  1. yeah french cooking’s overrated – or used to be at least – its just not that much fun. i think society’s evolving beyond it

    guess can’t blame Julia for doing it tho – hard to know better at the time and guess she was stuck there anyway – still i’d be more impressed if she wrote Mastering Mexican or something

    rd

    September 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm

  2. but i vouch for Patiss being excellent – guess i dont have a problem w french pastry

    rd

    September 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm

  3. Ha! French pastries have indeed stood the test of time (even though if you work with them enough everything starts to just taste like butter)…and yet, like the “lingua franca” I suppose french cooking has indeed grown a bit stale and impractical– especially for the vegetarians…guess that’s why I’ve always leaned more towards italy in the old french vs italian cooking debate! But maybe france can redeem and modernize its culinary traditions a bit if it is willing to adopt some of the culinary traditions of its newer immigrant population… I’m sure a political integration would be more likely to follow if ppl were sharing tastes :). And speaking of which- have you seen “the class” (entre les murs)?

    there-in-spirit

    September 6, 2009 at 2:15 pm

  4. Well Diana Kennedy moved to Mexico a few years later and did the same for that cuisine, so guess she’s more your girl.

    baltimoregon

    September 6, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  5. Ha! French pastries have indeed stood the test of time (even though if you work with them enough everything starts to just taste like butter)…and yet, like the “lingua franca” itself I suppose french cooking has indeed grown a bit stale and impractical– especially for the vegetarians…guess that’s why I’ve always leaned more towards italy in the old french vs italian cooking debate! But maybe france can redeem and modernize its culinary traditions a bit if it is willing to adopt some of the culinary traditions of its newer immigrant population… I’m sure a political integration would be more likely to follow if ppl were sharing tastes :). And speaking of which- have you seen “the class” (entre les murs)?

    there-in-spirit

    September 13, 2009 at 10:07 am

  6. I love that thinking about the nouveau French cuisine really reflecting its North African/Arabic/West African influences. I need to see The Class! Thanks for the reminder. Hopefully that will inspire me to start planning for my community college classes:)

    baltimoregon

    September 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

  7. I like “Between the Walls” as a title better than The Class:) Should have stuck with a direct translation.

    baltimoregon

    September 14, 2009 at 9:15 am


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