Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I am not Julia Child

...not even close.

I can hold my own in the kitchen, but only if you have really low expectations.

Generally, I don't cook. I assemble.

Back when I worked in corporate America, I was the queen of food assembly. I'd stop off at Whole Foods on my way home from work, pack up ready-made foods in cardboard containers, and assemble them on a plate at home.

But that was only if I was having company. If I was alone, meals went straight from cardboard box to belly.

The food was bland, very expected and super expensive. But it was done and doable so I went with it.

But those days are long gone, baby! I'm now sitting pretty in a pad in Paris with nary a harrowing work schedule in sight. So I bought myself one of these:
Oh Julia. You make it seem so easy.

I purchased the English Bible of French Cuisine: The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and her two culinary cronies Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

What one doesn't realize going into a tome like this is that you can't actually begin the cooking process for about a week after you purchase the book. There is a lot of background on the kinds of wines and butters and cookware you'll need before you even begin. Then there is a lot of shopping.

All this means you'll spend a long time licking your chops in anticipation. Much longer than you anticipated, in fact.

I started with her poached eggs, which taste the same as the usual poached eggs. But it took so long to read the instructions before and during the process that my I started to believe these would be The Poached Eggs to End All Poached Eggs.

Nope. Pretty standard stuff.

But then I moved onto Suprêmes de Volaille aux Champignons.

Translation: Chicken breasts with Mushrooms and Cream.

Translation for anyone who grew up in the 80s: Chicken breasts swimming in Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.

For this, I bought a cast-iron-dutch-oven-pot-thing like all the fancy chefs use on TV.

As I walked this heavy-as-heck pot home, I realized my One Suitcase nomadic days are over.

There is that moment in a girl's life when she makes the dutch oven purchase. 

Another era hath begun.

The Suprêmes de Volaille aux Champignons took all I had. There was the trip to the grocery store. Easy enough. But then I had to go to the wine store and ask for Medeira, which according to Julia was to be of a medium-dry type. Now all that's fine and good until you have to ask for it in French. But off I went to the wine store. I smiled, spouted my rehearsed line and the guy handed me a dry white saying in perfect English, "You don't want the Medeira. This is better."

Why do I even get stressed about these things?

When I got home, I turned on Julie & Julia on with the French voice-overs so I could practice French and get in the mood, but I soon shut it off when I realized there was browning and simmering, there was putting things in the pot and taking things out of the pot to put them in again later. There were too many instructions for what was once:
  1. Cook chicken 
  2. Add Cream of Mushroom soup
  3. Heat
I'm glad I had that dry white wine because I didn't realize how stressful French cooking could be. The end result, I admit, was better than my Campbell's soup concoctions of yore. And I even found that at the end of the meal, I was scooping up every last trace of sauce with my fingers. And that practice was once reserved only for chocolate pudding.

Mmmm... I wonder if Julia has a recipe for that.

Bon appetit!


  1. Ha. I just made my mom's pork chops with Cream of Mushroom soup the other day. It was cold, rainy and I needed comfort food!

    I look forward to future cooking attempts!

  2. I can't believe you carried a dutch oven home from the store. Mr. W recently asked me to buy him one (he is the gourmet in this relationship...I will not be tackling Julia's cookbook anytime soon) and that thing weighed a ton! I was so thankful for my shopping cart.

    I do love that the purchase marked a new era for you, though. Classic.

  3. Nice to see that the adventure continues...this time in the cooking realm. I love to cook but Julia is a little too wordy with instructions.Check out French cuisine ( and vegetarian) on Google and start simple. Build on your skills and you'll find it can be very rewarding - akin to exploring a new country. I'd love to see some food photos;)

  4. Gone are the days of meatloaf and mashed potatoes and peas your favourite (just kidding). I'm really surprised that you are enjoying the cooking part because when you were kids it was usually not a pleasant scene,a least you knew enough that cookies don't just come out of a box.How things change when you are ALL GROWED UP

  5. Ha! A new era indeed. I have a ginormous Le Creuset dutch-oven-pot-thing I lugged home FROM PARIS in my carry-on luggage, as well as heavy copper saute pans-and-lids from other Paris trips. Honey, sounds like you're not going anywhere for a while! But they're so wonderful to make dishes just such as that in. :)

    If you want to check out the le spécialiste du matériel de cuisine to end all, go see E. DEHILLERIN at 18 et 20, rue Coquillière. To die for.

  6. Oooooh that sounds amazing. You've actually inspired me to try to make a real meal this week. That's saying a lot.

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