I watched Julie & Julia a few nights ago. It melds the stories of Julia Child (what a cool lady!) and a middle-aged woman in a culinary rut who starts a blog documenting her efforts to hone her cooking skills by making all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm certainly no Julia and while I am not in a rut (nor do not consider myself "middle-aged"), I know my skills could use some honing. (If you remember, I said my baking was subpar.) I went to the library (fabulous place - all the books you need and more - for free) and checked out Julia Child's Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques & Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking and Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food: Food+Mixing+Heat=Baking.
Now, the other night I was talking to a friend, and she asked me if I'd ever made anything so good but then forgotten how I'd made it. I told her the answer to that was yes, all the time - because I was a "mash together a recipe or two and then add a bit of this and a bit of that because I had ideas how to make it better" cooker. I further described my cooking style as "Throw a Bunch of Stuff in a Pan and It Tastes Great." On the FIRST PAGE of AB's baking book in the FIRST PARAGRAPH it says, and I quote, "'Cooks' who enjoy facing a pan and tossing in 'a bit of this and a bit of that' usually get away with it as long as they don't burn the meat or forget to put water in the rice..." (Yes, I've since searched my kitchen for hidden cameras.)
That may explain my baking handicap - either that or my oven is on crack (AB says all ovens lie) - or both. While I've made excellent cakes from scratch and can throw down a tasty quick bread or pan of muffins in no time, my breads, pie crusts and biscuits, in a word, stink.
The rest of the first chapter goes on to explain why precision is essential to successful baking. Precision. I think I can handle that. I have a Salter Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale that measures grams as well as ounces (and mililiters and fluid ounces) and a mathematical mind (I did teach myself trigonometry after all), so I intend to use this book - and whatever Julia has to say in hers - to be a better Good Cooker. I don't think I will make a souffle any time soon, but I may attempd the herbed Italian loaf again. I'll keep you posted.