Posts Tagged ‘Julie and Julia’

When Blogs Beget Books

The Art Of Eating In

Because for years I worked at an internet company, and then moved to my current job where I’m employed by the internet division of our company, I assume I can be forgiven for not constantly keeping on top of the latest blogs, trends and memes.  When you spend 8 hours a day on the internet for your job, the last thing you want to do is come home and surf the internet a whole bunch more.  In fact, it’s a wonder I ever started this blog in the first place (2 years and counting!) since it obviously requires a fair bit of my spare time be devoted to the blasted internest, but it’s all about food, so it’s a labour of love to me.  I never fell for Myspace, I didn’t fawn over Facebook and even though I have a Twitter account, I find it to be of very limited value.  I guess you could say that in some respects I’m a bit of an internet rejectionist, since I have little time and patience for it as a medium.

That being said, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I’d even heard of Cathy Erway or her blog, Not Eating Out In New York.  I think I may have browsed over to a link for a recipe on her site once, but by not making myself aware of the context of her writing, I didn’t find it interesting enough to follow.  I only recently heard about her book The Art Of Eating In through a recipe on Serious Eats, of all places.  In fact, the post was the impetus for me to finally test out that whole no knead bread thing.  And even though I wasn’t absolutely blown away by the no knead bread (I think I just like traditional bread with sourdough starters better) I was intrigued enough to seek out the book and add it to my reading list.

Now it should be noted that to date I’ve not found any blog to book treatments that have tickled my fancy, because for the most part a lot of these bloggers’ stories do not resonate with me.  I think I’ve made it quite clear how I feel about The Julie/Julia Project over the past few years, and though I know many people who love it, I never got into The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  Now, if that Hunter Angler Gardener Cook guy wrote a book (he hasn’t yet, has he?) then I could possibly get myself engaged, but generally speaking, it’s just not happening.

As such, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t find The Art Of Eating In immediately riveting.  It’s not bad when considered as a kind of social experiment (in fact, it reminds me of that The Year Of Living Biblically guy crossed with No Impact Man) but I found that the book spent more time meandering around how the whole not eating out in New York idea impacted finding and keeping a romantic interest more than anything else.  Certainly it was neat to read about the act of participating in all sorts of community cook-offs and underground supper clubs and broadening of horizons through foraging and freeganism, but overall I did not find the story to be all that compelling.  The recipes on the other hand were definitely worth reading, and I’ve earmarked several of them to try in the next little while, particularly the smoked tobacco and coffee infused dish from one of her supper club parties.

Perhaps it struck a bit of a chord with the bit of poor girl left in me, but the idea of constantly eating out (in any city) seems ridiculously extravagant to the point of almost being insulting.  Because of that perspective, I might be a little biased when considering the idea of giving something up that for most people is an unimaginable luxury.  Several times whilst reading the book I’ve wondered if I would have found it a more page-turning read if I’d been following her blog for any length of time beforehand.  Truthfully, I think it’s doubtful, but if there was one thing about the book that explicitly pleased me, it was the way it spurred on a number of people to challenge themselves to a week of not eating out, via the gauntlet that was thrown down over at HuffPo.


Food As A Form Of Salvation

It seems like everywhere you look lately, food is in the mainstream media.

There are the articles about food crises, like salmonella in your spinach or listeria in your deli meat.  The provenance of our food is increasingly unknown, and it’s amazing how disconnected we are as a society and how few people actually seem to care.

And you can’t forget the stories about food security or impending scarcity, and how we’re all going to hell in a handbasket for enjoying too many hamburgers or copious amounts of factory-farmed meat.  Not to mention the hullabaloo over obesity epidemics caused by the vast quantities of processed crap that most of us have become too accustomed to swallowing, making us akin to force-fed fois gras geese.

Food’s permeated entertainment media too, with movies like No Reservations, Spanglish, Ratatouille, and the soon to be released Julie and Julia using the culinary arts as their captivating backdrop.  Not one to be left out, in recent years reality television’s also jumped on the edible bandwagon with a plethora of shows to satisfy rampant foodies, like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Chopping Block and many more (dishonorable mention goes to the crapfest that was The Restaurant – shudder!)

While I love the vast majority of content coming out of the food media menagerie, the segment I’m most keen on (and which coincidentally is growing) is that which is focused on using food as a humanitarian equalizing aid.  There’s a whole new division of people using food to teach, transform and heal, and taking the idea of food as nourishment to it’s altruistic climax.  Jamie Oliver did it when he first started Fifteen, shepherding misguided British youth to a more purposeful existence.  Jeff Henderson took a stab at it too with his rather popular Chef Jeff Project, rehabilitating young drug dealers, gang bangers and other ne’er-do-wells by mentoring them in his catering business.  And on our side of the border, Marc Thuet is currently giving ex-cons a second chance by staffing his newest venture, Conviction with them (results supposedly will air this fall).

This seeming trend is all the more reason why the appearance of this documentary warms my heart.  I empathize with those who don’t have enough; specifically people who are marginalized and made to feel like they have no other options.  That there are kindhearted individuals finding ways to use food to unite, inspire and help those who are less fortunate is truly a godsend.  For those of us who are lucky, food is something we might not think too much about, other than for brief moments leading up to it’s consumption 3 times a day.  For others, what may have once been a cause for concern or anxiety is now becoming a lifeline for making something of themselves and seizing a golden opportunity.  Food always had the power to bring people together, but now it’s on the cusp of  becoming the medium to purport positive life change.  That’s a really amazing thing to witness.


The Foodie 13 – Non Fiction Food Writing

It’s about that time again…  Well, actually it’s a little overdue for that time, but I’ve been madly twirling lately, so you’ll have to forgive me for the slight delay.  On deck this week is a dissertation on the 13 non fiction (food-based) stories I can’t live without.  So, without further adieu, on with the show…

I should probably preface this by admitting that I have a monstrous collection of food-based volumes.  I’m a pretty voracious reader and every time I go to Chapters I invariably end up with a stack of food books I had no intention of purchasing when I walked in.  My addiction has gotten so bad that we’ve had to purchase additional bookshelves just to store all my crap.  Given that, I’m sure you can appreciate why I spend a portion of every day wishing that the stupid Amazon Kindle would come to Canada already.  My list is devoted to those particular books that followed me home and found a permanent place in my heart.

1- My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme – Julia Child was such an incredible culinary force.  If you’ve ever watched her on TV, then you know she was larger than life (though in real life she was quite Amazonian, too).  This book is her story as told to and through her nephew Alex Prud’homme.  While at times it is sad (there were a few spots that caused me to cry) it’s primarily a jubilant tale of a woman who truly lived and loved life with all that she had wherever that might be.  On top of that, it allows the reader a unique perspective into the creation of her 2 most famous publications (Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Vols. 1 and 2).

2- Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell - Yes, another book that involves Julia Child!  As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a certain kinship with this tale.  The first time I read it, it really spoke to me because I’ve also felt stuck in a dead-end job wasting my god-given talents.  That the spasmodic Julie Powell is a part of the story is almost irrelevant; the moral to be taken away is that sometimes the best way to get out of your rut is to continually challenge yourself.  As is the case with just about any half decent book these days, they’ve made this one into a movie – one I will most likely not see unless it’s on a flight or some other captive audience situation.  Nonetheless, the essence of the tale unites and inspires.

3- The Omnivore’s Dilemma/In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - I’ve listed both because one is really just an extension of the other.  I consider both to be essential reads for anyone claiming to be concerned about the state of our food supply and the ethical, local, organic sustainable movement.  Captivating, well written and thought provoking, they are proof positive that Michael Pollan should probably be running the US Department of Agriculture and saving us all from ourselves.

4- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - I was initially drawn to this book because of it’s beautiful, homespun dust jacket, but once I explored the content within, I was completely and totally entranced.  I credit Barbara Kingsolver and the impact this book had on me with shoving me wholeheartedly into growing my own rooftop garden last year.  This is an amazing tale that represents just how much heart, soul, time and love really need to go into nourishing oneself and your family.  It goes on to show that a little effort and toil is always worthwhile.


Now Is The Season Of Our Discontent

Most of you who read the blog are probably unaware of this, but I work in the automotive industry.  The Everyman used to work in the industry too (that’s how we met, actually) but has since gotten out of it and into the exciting world of plastics (the lucky dog!)

What started as a temp job almost 10 years ago has morphed into (somewhat of) a soul-sucking, stuck-in-a-rut-agitation-inducing career.  I can’t even pretend it’s not a career anymore because I’ve worked for 3 separate automotive companies during that time.  There are a lot of days that I come into work and wonder what one earth I’m doing here, regardless of the fact that I’m good at what I do.  At the end of the day the work is just not fulfilling.  If you’ve read Julie and Julia (which they’re apparently turning into a movie, by the way) you’ll get where I’m coming from.  Some days I feel that this blog is like my personal version of that quest…

During my most recent job hunt (which lasted for approximately 4 months), I applied for plenty of positions that were in my desired field and closer to what I wanted to do with my life.  But as an old friend of mine so succinctly put it, it doesn’t matter if you were a “god” in your field of expertise, when you try to make the switch, more often than not they automatically assume you’re nothing more than a junior coffee bitch in theirs.  Or, to put it more simply, I don’t have enough practical experience in the field I want to be in to command the kind of salary I need to survive.  So, after a handful of rejection letters (because most companies  don’t even bother to contact you to say thank you, but no thank you anymore) I gave up and started applying to jobs in the automotive industry again.  And wouldn’t you know it, mere days after I applied they just had to meet with me right away.

And that’s where I stand now.  If you’ve picked up a newspaper lately (yes, people still read those antiquated things) then you know that my industry is officially in the shitter.  I’m lucky that the company I work for is more of a service provider than a manufacturer, but we still rely on all of those companies that are supposedly going bankrupt to bring us business.  Given the state of things in the North American market, getting out has been sounding more and more like a good idea lately.  Not to mention the toll the lack of a creative outlet takes on my sanity.

A girl’s got to eat, but eating costs money, so what’s a girl to do?  It’s the age old question; is it better to be rich and miserable, or poor and happy?  I know what my heart says, but my bills sing a different tune.

Until next time…