Julia & Alton

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. 


  1. I really want to watch Julie and Julia. I was at Barnes and Noble the other day and in their "Bargain" section was a large book called "Caribbean Cooking" for only a few dollars. I have to admit I bought it mostly for the full page pictures and short history / culture lessons of each region, but there are some FABULOUS recipies I'd like to try.

    If there's one thing I've learned to do fairly well is substitute. When living in a small town with only 1 (I don't count WalMart) fully functional grocery store about one-quarter the size of even a small Kroger, I find the basics. For example, unless I was processed and pre-canned (grated Parm... etc.), sharp cheddar, swiss, or American, I have to leave town and drive at least 30 minutes for cheese. So, when making "fancy" recipes, I've learned that frozen Lake Erie perch can be a good substitute for fresh Mahi Mahi. It may not taste the same, but it works!

    Maybe I should write the "Gourmet World Recipes from Midwestern Basics" cookbook.

  2. I can relate! I bought a Balinese cookbook for the same reason but have never cooked anything out of it. I just like looking at the delicious pictures and reminiscing about our time there.

    I keep reminding my spouse that if we do move to no-man's land like he would like, I would not be able to cook in this same style. I never realized how culinarily challanged I was living in said small town...lol. I'm so spoiled now...I know where to go for fresh lemon grass, arborio rice and all kinds of other crazy ingredients.

    You should write that cookbook! You're the most gourmet midwestern cook I know - you make your own pasta with your own herbs, for heaven's sake!

  3. That's what SAVES me, - my beautiful herb garden. I can grow my own fresh lemongrass and know exactly HOW organic it is because I'm the one who controls it.

    You know what, maybe I'll make that book my summer project.

  4. Go for it! Someone should so we all don't grow up thinking Chinese food comes in a double stack can!!