julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

The Beginning: Part 2

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“You must have discipline to have fun.” – Julia Child 


On the way home from the restaurant, we stopped by a nearby bookstore and purchased a copy of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Despite the popularity of the book among her generation, my mom did not own a copy. When I asked her, she replied, “Are you kidding? I need a cookbook called Mastering the Art of Grilled Cheese.” There you have it.)

The first paragraph of the book explains,           

“This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.”

Seeing as how I have recently all but given up on my waistline and I one day hope to become a parent-chauffeur-den-mother, it seems Julia is telling me that if I’m going to learn how to cook, now is the time. And so we laid out the rules: 

Rule #1: I have 365 days to create all of Julia’s recipes.
While I don’t have to create one every day, all must be completed by the end of the 365 days. According to my calculations, that comes to roughly 10 recipes per week.

Rule #2: I do not have to personally eat all of the recipes, but they must all be edible.
This is my insurance policy. I’m sorry, but courage of my convictions aside, I just don’t think there’s any way I can bring myself to eat calf’s brains and sweetbreads. Any volunteers? Sign up today!

Rule #3: No cutting corners.
Julia herself says, “elimination of steps, combination of processes, or skimping on ingredients such as butter, cream and time…are death knells for good food.” I must adhere to the ingredients listed, following the recipe exactly. If I do not possess a certain tool (i.e. a copper pot), I may use the closest thing I have on hand, as long as it maintains the integrity of the dish.

Rule #4: Don’t sugar-coat it – tell it like it is.
This was Ben’s rule, and he’s right ­- I tend to be a find-the-silver-lining kind of person – sometimes to a fault. Throughout the duration of this challenge, it’s inevitable that I’ll experience some setbacks. During these times I am not allowed to put an overly positive spin on the situation – as Ben pointed out, not only would 365 posts of pure positivity be boring, but it wouldn’t be honest. The people want real drama! And so, it may not be pretty, but hard journalism is what you’ll get.

Rule #5: Upon successful completion of this challenge, my husband will take me to Paris.
Paris! That’s in France!! The closest I’ve ever gotten to Paris was when we took a road trip to Quebec. It seemed nobody we met spoke a word of English, but I felt certain that I could conjure up enough junior high French to get us through our visit. Unfortunately, during our stay not once did anyone ask me to count to ten nor did I have the need to ask where the library was located. Quel dommage!                                                      

Paris, France

So now, with the rules in place and the reward on the table, the challenge is ready to begin. Mark your calendars for August 1st and come along for the ride. Whether you’re a non-cook like me who wants to learn from the master, or you’re a skeptic who wants to see if I can actually pull this off and make it to Paris, tune in to A Year With Julia as it catalogs my (mis)adventures in the kitchen as both Julie (who has been through this before) and Julia (who literally wrote the book on cooking) teach me the ways of mastering the art of French cooking. I’ll upload photos of the dishes, videos of my attempts, as well as some French phrases we can learn together.

Julia Child loved to teach, Julie Powell loved to cook, I love to learn – and all three of us love to eat! Giving new meaning to Les Trois Gourmandes, it’s my hope that our experiences combined will bring you the education Julia Child aimed to teach in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In it she claims, “Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction.” Julia seems pretty confident. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Only time will tell.

 Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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One Response to “The Beginning: Part 2”

  1. Shelby says:

    YAY Jess! I can’t wait to follow you on this, it sounds so exciting. I want to come over to try one of those delicious recipes :)

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