Monday, July 19, 2010

Julie and Julia - Serving Up Inspiration

Last night my wife and I sat down for a quiet evening consisting of dinner and a movie. We had rented Julie and Julia (I know, I'm a bit behind the times) and cooked up a couple of steaks on the grill. I opened up bottle of 2005 Chateau Aney from Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux (left bank) . The Aney is made up of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and usually retails for around $25 a bottle making it an all around great little Sunday night pairing.

As we sat down to enjoy our pairing (Meryl Streep, Steak & Bordeaux - nummy) I had no idea I was about to be so inspired. If you haven't seen the film let me give you a quick run down. It takes a juxtaposed look at two women, Julia Child - the famous chef and Julie Powell - an American author. The film shows the parallels of the two woman as they explore their affinity for the culinary arts. The scenes with Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, are set in France post 1949. The movie looks at her education at Le Cordon Bleu through her role in the publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (published August 1961). It showcases her struggles and triumphs throughout the 8 year process of getting her book published.

Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, is a struggling author in the film, and apparently real life since the film is based on a true story. Julie's scenes are set in 2002 New York city post 9/11. The film follows her on a 365 day blog post mission where she has committed to making all 524 recipes inside Julia Child's Master the Art of French Cooking book. On her journey she learns that you don't need a Maytag Stainless Steel commercial kitchen to cook. Throughout her adventure she discovers a new passion for cooking and a new appreciation for Julia Child.

What I loved most about the film was the way director Nora Ephron showed the reality of cooking. It's not always rainbows and butterflies, shit happens, and that's okay. Food and wine have become this almost impossible strive for perfection. Sometimes you burn the beans, sometimes the wine doesn't really fit, but that's okay, just make the best of what you have and try again later. I love Julia's approach to cooking, she just has a wonderful "oh well" attitude. As some variation of a blogger I was also inspired by Julie Powell's role in the online blogging community. Many people identified with her and were inspired by her cooking stories.

Beyond blogging I personally find a number of parallels to both woman, few of which are anatomical. Julia Child prior to her schooling at Le Cordon Bleu had never boiled an egg. She was a novice in her craft, and I too was a novice in mine. Before assuming my role as a general manager of The Veranda Lounge wine bar I only briefly explored life outside of White Zinfandel in a box and Merlot with 3 ice cubes. I wasn't just green in relation to wine, I was 'culinarily challenged' (I just made the term culinarily up). I thought cheese came in individually sliced packages or squirted out of cans. And if my meal didn't come out of a Campell's can I questioned its quality.

I grew up in a quaint Central Minnesota city. We ate things like Hot Dish (just a MN name for Goulash or Casserole), chicken from the Crockpot and an ugly fish called Lutefisk. As a result I didn't explore food. I mean, I didn't try a mango until I was 25 and I had my first deviled egg when I was 26! But I also realize it's never too late to start enjoying the many flavors of cuisine. The meat and potatoes diet I grew up on kept my taste buds fresh:) We never had salt or pepper on the table, the food was seasoned in the kitchen (and usually not enough). Hell, I thought ketchup was a spice. And I always applied it to my steak, even at a fine dining establishment. In a lot of ways I was really bummed when I saw the head start many people throughout the rest of the world had on me. But in the same breath I was excited to start exploring, and almost everything was new to me.

That night watching Julie and Julia I realized that you don't have to be a great chef to enjoy cooking and eating. I found a new appreciation for food and exploration because making the food is as fun, and important, as eating it. Our taste buds are so amazing, and it's fun to work them all. It's also exciting to find pairings that complement the dish. A great pairing can be mind blowing. And sometimes the right pairing is a deck and a book, or a fireplace and loved one.

Today I would loosely describe myself as a foodie. Not because I'm overly sophisticated, but because I love food. So thank you writers, directors, editors, film crew, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and of course Julie and Julia for inspiring me to take a new approach to cooking and cuisine. When I think about my new assignment I am super excited. I aspire to wander the many flavors of food and wine and take time to enjoy and appreciate the amazing pleasures food and cooking can offer.

As always thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the Cru Wine Online shop for super cool wine accessories.

Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director
Cru Wine Online

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