Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julie/Julia & Foodie Me

I've been very foodie lately. I know, what else is new? I read Julie/Julia during the past couple of weeks. I also read Tom Colicchio's How to Think Like a Chef. And I'm reading My Life in France by Julia Child. I saw the film Julie & Julia last weekend.

The main thing I came away with from the books and film is that Julia is more interesting to me than Julie. And as good a cook as I am, I still have a lot to learn. I feel very frustrated because I don't know how to learn it. I could cook my way through the cookbooks of the best chefs. I can cook their recipes as many times as it takes until I'm satisfied with the results. But that only will tell me if I like it. It doesn't tell me whether they'd think I've got it right.

I want to be Julia Child, in a way, because she had the food career I've wanted from the time I figured out what brings out the passion in my foodie side. I've always wished I could be good enough to teach cooking and have my cooking taken seriously enough to sell cookbooks.

What I lack, first of all, is credentials. I could never afford cooking school and I didn't & don't want to cook in restaurants. My thing isn't cooking the same thing, exactly the same way, day after day, so customers get the same experience no matter how many times they eat in your place. That's what a restaurant chef does.

My thing is making great food for people. I love cooking for friends and family. I love creating recipes and honing them until they're just right. I love figuring out the best words to use to communicate how I made something to other people so they can make it, too.

Another thing I lack is a budget that would allow me to make a recipe over and over until it's just right, even if I end up with more than we can eat or have to toss some because they're awful. That limits my creativity. I can't take the chance that something I think might work doesn't and has to be thrown away.

The third thing I lack is large blocks of time in which to work in the kitchen. I'm thinking I could probably find some blocks of time I could use to work on a regular basis, if not every day. But that doesn't solve the other two problems.

Since I can't teach or write cookbooks right now, I'll take a cue from how Julia handled difficult situations. She did what she could without whining. So, I'll do the thing I can do. I can work on getting better at cooking the best way I know how--by cooking, but in a more scructured way than I usually approach the subject. I think what will work best is to set specific goals geared toward improving my skills, rather than just cooking what I'm in the mood for right now. As for my other two issues, I think I can manage the budget by adjusting my priorities and choices. As for not having teachers or going to cooking school, I guess I'll just have to trust my own instincts. I learned a lot from the chefs when I worked at HomeChef and I'll have to trust that I developed good enough instincts to know when it's right.

The difficult aspect of this idea for me is figuring out where to start. I'm, as usual, full of too many ideas. I don't know whether to dig out my technique books and cook my way through the basic stocks and sauces and so on or pick something I've always wanted to be able to make and try different people's versions until I feel I've mastered it or pick variations of interesting recipes and figure out my favorite. Or maybe there's some other approach I can use, if only I could figure out what it is. Whatever I choose, when I'm satisfied with the result, I want to create variations of the recipes because I can't leave a recipe alone. Ask my family who always complains that I never cook a recipe the same way twice. Not true, by the way. I cook my favorites the same way and then they complain I don't cook them often enough because I love variety.

If anyone's reading this, I wouldn't object to suggestions as to an approach to take. If you make a suggestion and I love it, it will give me a starting point. If I hate it, at least I'll know where I don't want to start.