Thursday, August 6, 2009

Catching Up

Lately, my blog has been a little deceptive. I have not been reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for months and months. In fact, I think it took me all of two weeks to devour it page-by-page. There are some horrific events portrayed in this novel, but one message that struck me is that no matter what the circumstances of our home country (hometown, etc), a national past time (or regional/family one) has a way of uniting us and bringing us back home again when nothing else can.

Of course, reading about the kite tournaments made me want to make a kite with Audrey. I assumed I would write one post about the book and the kite we made. But, we never got around to making a kite this spring. I'm hoping to move it to the list of projects for the fall.

In the meantime, I have still been reading, but have failed to update the "Now Reading" section of my blog. First, there was Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I was in the cookbook section of the library looking for a cookbook, obviously, when I ran across this one. I had seen posters for the movie so I thought I'd give the book a quick read. And, quick it was. This was not quite what I was expecting. I think I envisioned a little more food/cooking talk and less of a memoir. But, memoir I got, which now seems to be exactly what I should have expected since the writer wasn't someone focusing on cooking before her Julie/Julia Project (for those of you who haven't seen the movie trailers, Julie Powell makes it her mission to make all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year). This is daunting task, enough. But what I found jaw-dropping was all the dirt Powell fits between the covers of the book - from affairs to office politics, etc. Of course, I couldn't put it down as I wondered if any of her friends and family were still on speaking terms with her. Those of you sensitive to cursing or Republican jokes - this is not your book. A professor of mine gave this advice on including cursing in your writing: use it sparingly so that it has an impact when you do use it, or, use it so frequently that after a while your reader no longer notices (the movie Good Will Hunting comes to mind). This book lends itself to the latter option. (My professor gave no advice on the appropriate frequency of Republican jokes in writing).

Of course, what I keep thinking about when I remember this book has nothing to do with the personal dramas depicted or the food, really. What sticks out is a little fact about Julia Child: She didn't go to cooking school and begin the career that we all associate with her until she was 37. I have to say, I love this. I'm all about slow starts and late-found passions. I hate the conception that 37 or 57 or 77 is too late to begin again, learn a new skill, find a new direction. I believe in the slow simmer. I would hate to find all my best flavor extracted by a quick boil. Oh no. I want the slow simmer - to get good and aged and seep in new flavors every once and a while.

So now, I've moved on to Julia Child's memoir with Alex Prud'homme, My Life in France. To be honest with you, it's not a memoir I would have imagined myself reading before. If I had to choose a European cuisine to master, French wouldn't be it. Unlike Julia, my favorite city is not Paris (although, I could eat the pain du chocolat I was introduced to there - essentially chocolate baked in a puff pastry - every day). But after reading that she began this whole process of mastering French cuisine at the age of 37, I'm interested in hearing just how this all came about.

So in honor of Julie Powell's brave experiment and Julia Child's inspiration (and the mountain of cucumbers in our refrigerator), I made Julia's Concombers au Buerre, or Baked Cucumbers last night. While these got rave reviews on the website where I found the recipe, and in Julie & Julia, they were a little too tangy for me (I might have used too much vinegar). Maybe I need to try a different variation.

(Oh, I also read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold while in Dallas. It had been on my list for a while, ever since I learned that the narrator is a deceased character, which seemed an interesting perspective for a writer to tackle. Sebold does this creatively and seamlessly, and I flew threw this book in a week.)

And now we're up to date with my reading - and I still have a mound of cucumbers in my fridge.

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