Thursday, August 27, 2009

Julie and Julia, Top Chef and all things Cheese Straws

I was feeling some trepidation going to the movie Julie and Julia the other night with one of my girlfriends. I had read bits of the blog and some of the book that inspired this film and yes, enjoyed the story overall but frankly found the author's liberal use of the F-word more than a tad bit off-putting. To indulge in using a culinary metaphor, a writer swearing so much within their body of work is kind of like a chef dumping way too much bitter dried red pepper into a dish that's already fine without all of that unnecessary sharp stinging flavor. A dash of d..m is one thing but a all too liberal dousing of swearing is a whole 'nother thing entirely.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful editing-out of that unfortunate dingy bar room n' gansta rap lyrics inspired potty mouth prose influence of the blog n' book within the movie itself and chuckled when the Julie character bemoans Julia Child's frosty reception of her blog asking if it was her use of the F-word throughout it that Julia doesn't approve of.

The reporter calling up Julie for a comment about this infers that it is the lack of respect towards food and cooking perhaps that has Julia frostier than the inside of a refrigerator towards the blog and its blogger or, as my Grandmothers would say, frostier than an icebox.

There's no frost however on the seats of movie theaters or bindings of cookbooks as the numbers coming out of Julie and Julia movie ticket sales and Mastering the Art of French Cooking book sales indicate.

Ah, all this increasing glamorization of food and all things "foodie". It's quite fascinating to watch as an outsider. A huge cultural turn-of-the-tide for Americans that seems to have begun gradually growing on a mass scale back when Julia Child's cookbook and television cooking show popped up on the United States' cultural radar. Thanks to Julia, folks woke up and began thinking to themselves, "Oh, wow, things can taste better than bland eh?" For us all eating across our nation, I am grateful that folks throughout the subsequent generations have embraced this and I too enjoy the results of such keen interest expressed towards elegant, sumptuous food and pairings of delightful wines going along with that. Or, in the case of the Deep South, pairings of perfectly sweetened iced tea during certain meals and also at picnics, porch parties, oyster roasts and SEC football tailgating events.

Until I met my husband, I lived within a world where frankly, aside from seafood and special occasion delights like homemade pound cake or cheese straws, food was entirely an afterthought. All the women of my family up until my generation enjoyed the advantages of in-home help which included maids, gardeners and yes, cooks. So I laughed out loud during the Julie and Julia movie when Julie subtitles her blog, "Nobody here but us servantless American cooks". Yes, my generation well understands that. I literally exist on salads, cheese sandwiches and cans of Slimfast until my husband comes back home from his work trips and begins to whip up something delicious in the kitchen. He comes from a family with long lines of culinary talent and food business ownership. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in his immediate family can seriously cook and could be put up against many of the contestants of Top Chef and hold their own. I LOVE this about my in-laws, ahh, it's food wonderful food 24/7 around them!

At breakfast they're mulling about what's for lunch and at lunch, what's for dinner while within the household I grew up in, we hardly even noticed we were eating breakfast let alone would give any thought to lunch.

For my family minus the meals prepared by outsiders whether within their homes or without well, let's let a great line from the book, Mating Rituals of the North American WASP suffice it to say that, " WASP parties the food was little more than a decoration." Yes, so true, and aside from parties, it was little more than a fleeting thought past the realization that, " gosh, I'm hungry and can't remember when I ate last" for me and my relatives.

One side of my husband's family is uber-Old South WASP and it would be interesting to find out when they derailed from the Olde' English Bland Food Train, hmm. Maybe it was when Julia Child brought French cuisine and culinary skills into the general American psychic realm?

As for myself, I revel in the wondrous outcomes of my former classically-trained chef husband's kitchen creations. I happily play Sous Chef to his Executive Chef and also am the clean-up crew after meals. Occasionally I like to bake but that's about it for expressing my inner foodie. The seriousness of the contestants and the judges on Top Chef makes me chuckle under my breath and Julia Child in person would have probably made me quietly giggle as well with her exuberant enthusiasm expressed towards food and the eating of food.

I laughed during the movie at Julia's unbridled joy and Julie's unbridled confusion and found myself very grateful that I, I am on the sidelines of this current love affair with all-things-food.

Pass me a Cassoulet, a glass of Chardonnay or heck, just pass me an iceboxed chilled can of Slimfast... I'm happy with whatever comes my way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Tale of Two iPods... pink and green Shuffles that is

I need to write a disclaimer before I go any further: yes, I am still a big proponent of simplifing life and quite decidedly not a techie or a trendy type of person. Being a lifelong "preppy" just scratches the surface of my general leanings towards all-things-classic.

That being stated, I have found however that incorporating a few newer things into one's life that really work for daily living is handy indeed. Case in point, the iPod shuffle. Earlier this year, I began my enchantment with my husband and my joint Christmas present to ourselves, another trend that we've embraced: the Wii Fit. Or rather, should I say, the Wii "My Fitness Coach" program which I actually look forward to doing on a regular basis. This began supplementing and then overtook my usual around the island walking or jog-runs. For years, while exercising I had held in one hand a clunky CD disc Walkman that went through two headsets. Yes, for over a decade I used that thing. However, while strolling through our local electronics super store to get the Fitness Coach program, my eye espied those cute, oh so tiny iPod Shuffles. I just had to check them out. It was all too easy to justify the purchase of one since gosh, how great is this to simply clip right onto my clothing while working out?! So light and hands-free.... so sold!

Promptly I was putting all of my favorite Classic Rock and highschool era 80's dance tunes on my new, darling hot pink Shuffle. And I'm really enjoying it. I exercise to it, mow the lawn areas with it and even at times wear it while I attempt to cook, er mostly bake actually. It's been great. Price per wearing/using indicates that I'm getting my money's worth outta' this, oh yeah.

The only "downfall" to the Shuffle is that the tunes all intermix and though it's fun to reshuffle them, it really is best to keep the same genre' on one Shuffle at a time. Otherwise it's a bit jarring when I need a dose of what I call my "Zen Time" of enjoying quieter music such as classical orchestral pieces, Japanese flute and such since it's very difficult to calm and center oneself if one's iPod Shuffle jumps from say Bach to the Beastie Boys in a matter of minutes and so...

...a second iPod Shuffle entered into my life. (Thank goodness for columnist checks coming in each month entailing my bit of mad money that lets me get-away with such frivolity as purchasing two Shuffles, wheh!)

This second Shuffle, but of course, is the green one. Green for calming, cooling Zen-mood music and the hot pink one for energizing rock n' roll tunes. Perfect! My pink and green little shuffles sit up on a bureau top in the bedroom always at-hand when I need them. This methodology of music has worked out so well for me and lets me enjoy my favorite tunes without them barging in on other's listening around the house to the television, radio, our CD player and also to the wonderous silence that we all enjoy around here with being out on 5 acres by ourselves.

If you would have told me last year that I'd have not only one iPod device but, gasp, two... I would have bet ya' at least 5 whole bucks that that'd never, ever happen.

Gotta' love the ironies of life and gotta' love laughing at oneself! Here's to pink n' green iPodin'!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

From white to champagne.... "party frocks" in middle age

After my recent posts in this blog about all-things-lowcountry-preppy regarding the various white dresses within my life signifying special moments, I naturally began of course to notice plenty of darling all-white dresses around in the stores this summer and even tried a few on. However, despite having a bit of a tan along with using more sophisticated accessories and shoes, these all-white dresses seemed almost "too sweet" for my now 40-something personhood. I do wear quite a few white blouses still: especially tailored, Irish linen ones with camisoles underneath for that effortless n' breezy islander style which helps get me through these torridly-humid months around here but I truly think that my all-white dress wearing days are officially o.v.e.r....

However... like any Southern Prepster worth her weight in gold, and the weight of her thin gold bangle bracelets, I've happily moved-on from the milk of youth so to speak to the champagne years of adulthood and frankly, what fun!

This year I've worn a delightful party-frock that's champagne-toned to 2 weddings so far and its garnered a few compliments here n' there. In February, I added a complimenting paisley shawl, pearls and champagne with bronze trim pumps to this dress for an afternoon wedding. Yesterday, I added my diamond earrings and strappy champagned metallic summer heels, via Talbots' wonderful recent sale going on. Need great shoes? Check out Talbot's website!

(Note: If one is a Southern Prep with a Scottish background, it is not only considered good judgement to wear special occassion clothing more than once, it's considered an honoring-one's-heritage cultural requirement. Men especially see how long they can wear-out their bespoke tuxedo before its inevitable fraying and fading has threads disintegrating into disrepair. My father STILL wears his HIGHSCHOOL tux...I literally kid you not! My husband's tuxedo gets dusted-off upon occassion as well.)

Speaking of Talbots (who I wished paid me for endorsements or better yet, outfitted me as a spokesmodel, haha)... my fellow-Talbots-groupie is pictured here in this photo of the "it's not all white dresses anymore" special occassion champagne dress blog post.

M is a great friend and "sister"in-law relative; with our husbands getting along so well plus their wonderful children whom we enjoy hanging around with, it's always so much fun to be together for family weddings plus of course visiting one another as we can throughout the years.

M, her husband W, James and I are perennially-Preppies in upbringing, style and lifestyle.

Ironically enough, at the family wedding this past weekend up in Charleston, SC... I was the only female in my family and extended family to NOT be wearing pearls...shock of shocks!

I had initially put on my pearls as a matter of ingrained-habit but for some reason, the sparkle of this champagne dress and the evening hours of the wedding festivities just seemed to call for yet more sparkle so out came the diamonds instead. I remember my Grandmother's maxium of, "a lady doesn't wear her diamonds until the evening hours except her engagement ring" and she would have been proud of me last night but...quite agast, that I also like to glitter-by-day upon occassion as well. Modernized times indeed! Bling in the sunshine, oh my.

Now that I'm happily sporting this "champagne sparkle" in party dresses and crystal flutes, the transition from white dresses seems natural and kinda' exciting in a way. Sometimes when we grow older, the additional wrinkles that show up all too well against the flatness of bright white can find a compliment instead in the glittering distraction folds of champange-toned silk...