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.

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