Sunday, January 24, 2010

Come Back, Weekend! Come Back!

I won't wax too poetical today on how quickly the weekend flew by compared to the work week that proceeded it. I'm sure you all feel the same way.

It was a good weekend, albeit fast. We had our first 50 degree day in a long while on Saturday. Since it's winter, anything about 32 degrees farenheit is considered warm. In comparison, Saturday was absolutely balmy.

As I headed out to run errands on Saturday, it occured to me how different the interpretation of temperature is. When I lived in L.A., 50 degrees was cold. I'd reach for my thick jacket and shiver until the heat in the car came on. At night, it would dip down as low as...forty-five degrees and I'd put my thick down comforter on my bed and still manage to be cold. I'd hug my hot-water bottle, hoping to warm up. When you live in a climate where 65-70 degrees is pretty average in the winter, anything below that starts to feel cold.

Yet, here, in the Midwest, I've acclimated back to what I knew before L.A.: In January, 50 degrees is a treat. It's sort of a little tiny gift to remind us that even though there's more cold in store, spring isn't quite so far off and all we have to do is wait. In Ohio, 50 degrees in December means getting way to warm in your winter coat as you go in and out stores in the mall or even outside. It's not quite cold enough to cool you down if you keep that coat on so, as you move on to your next destination, the coat comes off and gets flung on the passenger's side of the car. Sure, it's a little bit chilly when you get out but it's not cold.

I think it's supposed to cool back down this week. I believe I even heard 'snow' in the forecast but I might be mistaken. Either way, it's going to cool way down below that 50 degree mark and re-remind us that it is winter and we have a little bit of hibernation to go before the spring bulbs start shooting and the grass starts greening.

Nevertheless, it was a nice way to kick off the weekend. Nothing like a 50 degree day to make you feel like you don't have to move in slow motion. So I didn't. I ran a multitude of errands on Saturday, even though I'd actually planned on being lazy. I ended up grocery shopping- planning on Kroger but ending up, by fate, in the parking lot of Meijer, another good grocery store. I have to say, despite my love affair with Jungle Jim's, Meijer is smaller but it has a good selection. I was able to procure the small cipollini onions that had thwarted me at Jungle Jim's. Now, if they start getting fresh quail eggs, Jungle Jim's might have some serious competition.

It's funny that going to a grocery store is part of my weekend entertainment. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I suppose it's quite natural that the possibility of ingredients for a new dish makes me happy. Yet, there's something about having free reign in a grocery store that just makes me feel at peace with the word. Yes, I know that's sad...but I can't help it.

It was a food-filled weekend, in one form or another. A coworker loaned me the book of Julie and Julia, upon which the movie was based. I saw the movie, as I mentioned last week. As for the book, well, let me just say as a blogger, I quite would have liked to have to have slapped Ms. Julie Powell a couple of times. Yes, I know what she did was quite unique. She managed to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. I admit, I couldn't do it. For one thing, that is WAY too much fussing around with food. I love to cook but give me the Mario Batali/Giada Di Laurentis school of cooking any day- simple is good, simple is tasty, simple is...simple. Maybe this is why I prefer Italian over French...although I wouldn't say no if someone were to cook me a French meal. Yet, in her book, there is something quite irritating about Ms. Powell. For one thing, she's just...not a pleasant person. She does acknowledge this in some ways. She's stuck in a cubicle job she hates and finds cooking to be her escape.

I can relate to that. I've found that I cook best on days when work has been awful. It really is an escape. It's being able to focus on the mire poix on a soup, making sure the aromatic base simmers to perfection before you pour in the broth and ingredients. Yet, there's something about Julie Powell that is just unlikeable. I know, it's a work of 'fiction'; she herself says in the beginning of the book that she 'made a lot of stuff up.'

As a novelist, I make a lot of stuff up. Yet if I were to write a book based on my experiences in the kitchen and tied it in to someone like, say, Julia Child's life, I probably would be a little less honest in stating that I 'made stuff up.' After all, her book is supposed to be based on a true story. Without a detailed description, how do we, as readers, know what she 'made up' and what was actually true?

admit, some of this is probably a little bitter. After all, she blogged about food, got a publishing deal and now had her story turned into a movie. I'd just love that.

Yet, the other part of me is a wee bit angry about the whole thing. For one thing, she's pretty honest about stating how she added a Pay-Pal link to her site in order to cover her ingredients. Ok, so I wasn't in on the Julie/Julia Project phenomenon but this does seem a little cheeky. Based on her book, she wasn't exactly a great cook. She was trying to get through the recipes. She had more failures than successes. It was, as most good moneymaker's are, a gimmick.

I'm not saying that Julie Powell wasn't smart. I wish I'd had the idea before her. Yet I find it a little...offensive that she asked for donations to cook her dishes that she couldn't afford.

Perhaps if I were on her side of things, it would be a little different. Yet the only view I have is the one she presents in her book. She seems to have this fantastically loyal husband. He seemed to not want to throttle her at most stages of her attempt to cook through Julie Child's recipes. That, in itself, seems like an accomplishment. Interestingly enough, it seems in her second book, Ms. Powell confesses that she cheated upon her overly patient husband. I haven't read it so I can't judge but, in all honesty, it doesn't surprise me. In Julie and Julia, I'm actually quite surprised she had a husband at the end of the book. She's just not a very nice person. Yes, cooking is hard but there's no reason to treat your husband's migraines like an irritant in the way of conquering aspics. If you don't like aspics, don't try to make them. I don't care what the challenge; there's nothing more irritating than a martyr who thinks she's doing something for 'the cause' even when it means her life is hard.

That's what Julie Powell is, in my opinion: A big martyr. I understand her challenge. I respect her challenge. Yet she was the one who decided she wanted to cook her way through Julia Child's recipes. It was her idea. Does she really have the right to 'beg' for money to complete her challenge? Should she really be whining how hard it is? How much her life sucks because she drops her dessert on the streets of New York?

I'm being mean, I know. Yet, if you take on a challenge, in my opinion, you should be prepared for it. Gourmet cooking is expensive. Yet, as much as I hate to admit it, there's something to be said about using butter over margarine, parmeggiano reggiano over store-brand grated parmesan cheese. If you want to cook properly, you have to be willing to accept that it's not always inexpensive.

I think the point at which Ms. Powell set up PayPal on her website was officially the point at which I'd like to have slapped her. For one, she does nothing but make fun of people. Yes, Julie Powell, Republicans do things with which you don't agree. Yet I guarantee at least one of those people who sent you money was a Republican. Perhaps you could have toned down your slightly pathetic bias in order to accept that these were the people who were indulging your attempts to learn to cook. I don't honestly know which party I fall in to; I tend to agree more with issues than lean one way to the other or not.

Ok, I'm not about to turn this into a Twilight sort of hatred. I'm just not enjoying Ms. Powell's outlook on life that much. Mostly, I think she was an exceptionally lucky average-Joe who takes what she has for granted. She blogged about it and her blog got attention. I'm happy for her there. I love it when anyone reads this blog. I'm exceptionally grateful for those that read it regularly.
Still, people like Julie Powell make me appreciate my own life where I can dabble with cooking yet still appreciate the life I have around me. I actually didn't cook this weekend, other than to make a fresh tabbouleh salad that involved no cooking at all- just chopping, which I love.

All in all, reading Julie and Julia makes me appreciate the fact that while I may set guidelines for myself, deadlines in life, writing, cooking, etc, they're on my own terms. If i know I'm going to have to be in order to make my deadline, I won't do it; I'll reconsider and arrange the timetable so I can get everything done on my own terms.

And even if the terms are a weekend that flies by way too quickly, I will, at least try too meet it. If not, I'll move forward anyway. Life always gets in the way of fun; it's the way things are. I think accepting this is half the battle. The other half...

Well....that's up to us, isn't it?

Happy Monday!

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