Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Waaaay Back in the Day.

Back in the day, I used to have elegant dinner parties, usually eight, since that's how many the table held comfortably, and sometimes I'd cook from Julia Child. I believe Veau Prince Orloff is as fancy as I ever got. Sometimes I made that fancy dish where you slather a filet of beef with pate, and then wrap the whole business in pastry, and even cut out little decorative doo-dads out of pastry to put on top. Beef Wellington. A big-assed production to be sure.

When I was whipping up these delectables, I weighed 103 pounds and smoked like a chimney, chased my little boys around, played nonstop tennis and only sat down to eat and read the paper. If we ate like that now, we'd weigh, well, we'd weigh a whole lot more than we already do.

Julia Child's masterwork is now the #1 best seller on the "how to" non-fiction list. As I type, I have the first edition 1961 in front of me. I think it was not such a big best seller back then, because in 1961 I didn't know how to cook and would have been intimidated as hell if someone had given me such a monster treatise on cooking.

So my copy of Julia arrived much later, but still a first edition. The Veau (Veal) Prince Orloff is a production, but there are many recipes which are not labor intensive at all, and don't require a king's ransom in ingredients.

Before I stopped eating veal, I always made Saute de veau Marengo, which was a very simple veal stew with tomatoes, onions and mushrooms. One could even use white vermouth as the wine. It was delicious and perfect for now when one can buy or even grow decent tomatoes.

Julia's recipe for ratatouille will never be beat, but it is a pain in the ass to make, cooking every veggie separately. But it you want to know le vrai ratatouille, whip up a bunch. Again, this season is the perfect time. I love it cold, and it's sooooo good for you.

Another simple recipe, peasant food, really is a Clafouti. A Clafouti (a fruit flan) goes together in minutes with milk, eggs, flour and sugar. Use whatever fruit. I have a fab recipe, not Julia's for bananas. Cherries are traditional. I'm thinking of a nectarine one this evening.

Tonight we're having a shrimp salad with lots of veggies, a Penzey's recipe. We're had a modicum of luck dropping a few pounds with main course salads (skip the cheese), soups and grilled meat and veggies. We eat Insalata Caprese daily. Soooo good. Those home grown tomatoes really up the ante, flavor-wise.

I sent out a bunch of queries, esp. for Festival Madness, and got back a bunch of not-interesteds. Burning Man starts in 3 days, and I was hoping to drum up some interest. Not. Trying to keep a stiff upper lip, as a short story will be published in a couple of months, and I have some other irons in the fire. It's hard, though, character-building one could say.

I am amazed that I'm still writing, still enjoying it. Only a crazy person . . .

Crazy as a loon,


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