Sunday, June 27, 2010

One that didn't make it

I shopped this column around and no one was interested. It took me a while to write so I thought I'd share it here so ya'll can read it. Enjoy!

The movie Julie and Julia seems to be spawning a new generation of kitchen dwellers. I’ve always loved recipe wrestling. It all started in my 8th grade home economics class with Miss Wagner. We made a tomato rarebit once and some apple muffins. I still make the muffins today.

Once Miss Wagner got me interested in white sauces and the importance of filling the water glasses three-quarter’s full, I started watching and studying The French Chef. After all, there wasn’t any other way to learn my way around a gourmet kitchen. My mom is a great cook and entertainer, but she wasn’t exactly making souffl├ęs. And, after spending an hour a week in my home ec class, I had become a food snob. I would have none of her beef stew, or something I affectionately called “Irish spaghetti”.

To this day, I love to experiment with food and make things my husband, Ron, and I love to eat. But these experiments often drive the taste-free eaters who frequent our home to ask for something “normal” – food that is topped with things like French’s yellow mustard and a half-shaker of iodized table salt.

After seeing Julie and Julia, I cracked open “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia herself. Ron gave it to me as a gift before the movie even came out but I hadn’t done anything more than read it. Yes, you need to read it before you cook from it. Trust me. Not only does it read better than most novels, you also need to understand Julia’s reasons for following the directions to the letter.

Since I had a good four hours in my kitchen while I prepared a main course, side vegetable, and dessert, I really got the feel for Julia’s love of being in the kitchen. And I reflected on how she has helped women and men rediscover the delight of cooking from scratch. It’s sad but it took a movie to make butter the new margarine. Finally, food has a place in the kitchen again. And although we can’t discount all the other foodies that came after Julia, and the Michael Pollans who made us see that there’s nothing scary about real food, it did take a chick flick to get us to embrace kitchenhood.

What other movie has had that sort of effect on us? Sure, there are plenty of movies that have memorable kitchen scenes, but did any of them get us off our couches and inspire us to make, for example, Chicken Divan? I often wondered about that recipe. Does Chicken Divan translate to “chicken served on a couch”?

Stripes changed how I looked at spatulas and invented the term “Aunt Jemima treatment”. But, other than that, I struggled to remember kitchen movies or even kitchen scenes. 9 ½ weeks? The kitchen scene happened, in, y’know, a kitchen, but it wasn’t about food, per se. It did probably get some moviegoers to rediscover the wonders in their refrigerators, but they weren’t using the contents to do any cooking. Well, not any, y’know, real cooking.

The lobster scene from Julie and Julia was a ripoff from the lobster scene in Annie Hall, except Woody Allen and Diane Keaton made the art of boiling crustaceans alive a lot funnier. And that takes some talent. Looking back, I believe that may have contributed to my vegetarianism.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: Not a food scene so much as an incentive to start that diet or at least take the first step by passing on the after dinner mints. Not so with the dinner-sharing scene from Lady and the Tramp. I always wanted to try that single-strand-o’-spaghetti thing with my husband. I’m just afraid it would turn into a 9 ½ Weeks kind of moment, and, at our age, watching 9 ½ innings of the Red Sox is exhausting enough.

Rocky’s pre-workout breakfast in his little kitchen did make me want to cook when I left the theater. Strangely enough, though, only eggs. That was the pre-cholesterol days and consuming raw eggs wasn’t looked at as unhealthy so much as just plain gross.

A Christmas Story’s kitchen scenes were mostly funny. I think the mashed potato thing was overdone – or maybe it just reminded me too much of the mashed potato mountain on Richard Dreyfus’s plate in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I do like the turkey-stealing dogs and the “Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra” food scenes in A Christmas Story, but not enough to make me a carnivore again. Maybe if some mai tais went with the Chinese meal, or a mashed potato mountain.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm back, sort of

To my faithful followers (hopefully), it's been TWO weeks since I posted anything here. I know that. Had a lovely week's vacation to the MD/DC area for my cousin's wedding and things have been busy with work.

There are lots and lots of things running around my brain that I will share shortly. Hope everyone is enjoying the summer so far...

Friday, June 4, 2010

The write stuff

I created this blog to get/keep me writing something besides technical documents. I'm not doing much tech writing lately (though I am doing some technical editing) but I am doing a fair amount of creative writing.

If you don't see me post here, it's because I'm chasing down opportunities. Two months ago I started contributing to my local paper, The Westford Eagle, as a correspondent. The money isn't great but the experience is priceless. And, although I am still writing and pitching columns to bigger news outlets, this job has been more challenging.

All the creative writing I've done so far is in first person - like this blog. Writing as a journalist is a very different skill. You walk a fine line between injecting your own opinions into a story, and not making it personal enough for people to care about the subject.

With help from my editor, I've been learning the ropes. I prefer to write human interest stories because I feel that all news events have people at their roots. Think the BP oil spill is about oil? Nope. It's about people - people who created the problem, struggle to correct it, or are affected by it.

I'd love to do a Person of the Month spotlight for the Eagle and need to pitch that to my editor. I've met so many amazing people in town since I started my correspondent gig. Even though I'm interviewing someone for a particular story, I always feel that I'm just scratching the surface. There is so much unspoken because of the framework of my questions.

Joyce, if you're reading this, I'll be in touch...