Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mastering the Art of Cooking (so that you can master the art of eating)

I'm taking this week between Christmas and New Year's off from work, and I am very, very happy. I think that one of the things that contributes most to one's quality of life is the ability to sleep until one naturally wakes up, as well as not having to scream at people to brush their teeth and comb their hair and eat breakfast while packing their lunches in order to get them sent off to two different schools. It's times like these that I fantasize about moving to a cozy mountain cabin, free of television, where we'd subsist on the land and the land alone. With my stamina for physical labor we'd surely starve, but what is food when you have love? (As a side note, for Christmas my very kind husband (who apparently does read my blog after all) surprised me with the LV Tivoli PM...spectacular! So even though the mountain life might be quiet, the deer probably couldn't fully appreciate the Louis, so maybe we're better off being part of society after all.)

This week I've been thinking that although I wouldn't make a very good stay-at-home mom, I would indeed make quite a good stay at home person. There would be thousands of activities I could explore, none of which need to be revenue-generating: I could paint movie sets, knit hats and experiment with butter all to my heart's content. This week, I did something that I never usually get to do: watched movies. I watched The Devil Wears Prada (I told you, it's been a long time since I've watched a movie), which was basically like my experience on Wall Street but with more attractive people and nicer clothes, and Julie and Julia, which I really didn't think I'd like but which I found quite entertaining. I love to cook. And even more, I love to eat. But lately I'd been feeling like all the new cookbooks I'd seen were recycled variations on everything I've already tried. The best go-to cookbook I have is The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, which, aside from providing the best recipe for cooking well-known recipes, gives you scientific detail, and results of kitchen testing, resulting in a fascinating course on cooking. For entertaining, I love Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home from which all my dinner party greatest hits are spawned. But after watching Julie and Julia, being properly and overtly influenced by the media, I flipped through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and it's far flung from the cookbooks of today -- no pictures, just recipes. But in looking through it, it did pique my interest -- Julia (and Simone and Lisette) did do her own kitchen testing a la America's Test Kitchen, and it can't hurt to have the classics. She also provides helpful and effective substitutes for French ingredients that can be found in American grocery stores. I've linked above to Amazon, which currently has a great deal going -- a 2-volume set, hardcover, for $39.98 (56% off list price). So at that price, the risk is pretty low, and should pay for itself with a single use (think at least $100 for a party of two to dine on anything close), so go ahead -- follow my lead --and buy lots of butter.