Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Le Boeuf - or Why I Leave Cooking to Julie (and Julia)

 (not mine - but let's pretend it is!)

You know when people say that the Oscars is their Super Bowl? That's kind of me.
It's nothing compared to the Olympics, but I enjoy the fashions, and usually the show is pretty good. This year not so much. It was a bit boring. But, I was determined to make it to the end of the show, mostly because my favourite movie (duh) Julie and Julia was in the running for the best actress category for Meryl Streep.
Confession: I never was the world's biggest Meryl Streep fan. But, I loved her as Julia Child. And, I REALLY wanted Julie and Julia to win - for obvious reasons.
I decided an Oscars party was in order, and there's nothing I love quite as much as a theme party. I really loved that I could make something from Julie and Julia (or really Mastering the Art of French Cooking). So, with a nod to Julie and to Julia I decided on the most obvious choice for the movie - boeuf bourgignon. And, of course the requisite gimlet.
If you've seen Julie and Julia you know the scene that features that meal. Judith Jones (Julia Child's editor) was supposed to visit Julie Powell. So, she makes Boeuf Bourgignon and then burns it. Then takes the next day off of work to make it for a second time. And then Judith Jones can't come because the weather is bad.
It's a big part of the movie.
And quite honestly, one of the only things I really had the inspiration to try cooking. Julie Powell I am not. I don't even own Mastering the Art of French Cooking (does that make me less of a fan?). I suppose I could have tried something a little more daring, like eggs in aspic, but GROSS! (that would be eggs in gelatin - I googled the picture for you)
But, the boeuf ... I wanted to try it.
I should also point out that since the kids were part of the party, I went with the decidely un-French pillsbury weiner wraps. A time-tested favourite in our house.
I combined that with some salad (from my mom), a chicken dish for my sister, and a little junk food since it's a party.
Let me tell you. I now know why Julie had so many kitchen disasters. This was not an easy recipe. I knew that going in though.
My cooking confidence - not exactly there.
I had Mike helping me and two children running around the kitchen. I was googling how to saute mushrooms the Julia way, and how to brown braise pearl onions. It was a disaster coming. And I knew it. But I persisted.
I was actually doing pretty well. I had browned the meat and measured the wine.
Disaster struck with my attempt to simmer the whole thing. It seemed really quite easy at that point. Just dump in a bottle of wine, and sit it on the stove. However ... apparently the container I made it all was not made for the stove. Who knew?
Not me. (or Mike)
Admittedly, the only pot that seemed adequate for the job was the pot from my slow cooker.
I thought something was a little bit off when the pot made a funny noise. And then CRACK. It just sort of dissolved into a giant pottery mess. A giant wine-pottery-beef mess.  The stove was covered in wine. I was kind of covered in meat and wine, and I had no idea really what to do.
Normally this would invoke panic or at least some sort of meltdown.
But ... my panic was replaced by my excitement over the fact that this was also the recipe Julie screwed up.
Crisis averted.
Recipe re-started.
Several hours later my boeuf bourgignon was done. Just in time for the Oscars. It was brilliant. Well, except for the fact that Meryl Streep didn't win.
And the consensus?
Surprisingly everyone liked it. Well, the adults anyway. The weiner wraps ... also a big hit.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Amazing Women

So as it turns out, Saturday was International Women's Day.
I didn't give it much thought at the time (admittedly, I didn't even know until I walked past an upscale lingerie store that had signs declaring the right thing to do for International Women's Day was to get a good bra fitting. Really?)
Ironically, I ended up spending Saturday with 3 different women: one I've known my whole life, one I met in highschool, and one I met just recently. All so different. Yet all who play such a big role.
My sister spent the day with me. I've been trying to reorganize my house. It's a disaster. And, as we went through my closets and drawers I realized that this is someone I can trust with anything. As I whined my way through Ikea and home depot and practically threw a temper tantrum as she made me sort through every piece of clothing I owned, I knew she could take it. And, unconditional love and acceptance is a wonderful gift.
I also had the chance to have coffee with a woman I've long considered a mentor. I met her when I was in highschool. Unhappy with the co-op placement I had (at a crappy newspaper) I begged my teacher to let me switch to a different placement. I found this woman from the yellow pages, called and asked if she would be interested in letting me learn from her. That was 15 years ago, and I still am learning from her. Not all the lessons are about work. In fact, I'd say that a lot of what I've learned from her is by watching her raise incredible daughters who are taking on the world. I can only hope that my children one day emulate them. And I can only hope that one day I can inspire someone the way she has inspired me.
Finally, I spent the evening having a drink with a new friend. She's younger than me. Her kids are younger than mine. And our friendship is still new. We don't have that comfort of old friends, and yet we connect on many levels - and sometimes the beginnings of friendships are really fun. The craziest part of it all is that she's a little younger and her kids are a little younger, and she asks me for advice - about schools and parenting and going back to work. Me. The person who can look back at my first year of being a mom and thinking I would never survive. And she's asking me for advice. I can't get over it.
And that to me is International Women's Day. It's not about whether you can relate to the feminist movement (I often can't) It's not about what you do. Or how well you do it. Or how many kids you have (if you have any).
To me it's about giving what you can - and taking what you need.
And if International Women's Day makes me appreciate the women in my life ... I'm all for it.