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I learned to cook in England, but the methods I learned were French.

I was a vegetarian at the time.  I had several vegetarian cookbooks by Martha Rose Schulman (whom I consider greatly underappreciated.)  Though I didn't know it at the time, her early cooking was greatly inspired by Beck, Bertholle, and Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

So I made lots of roux-thickened soups, vivid with greens and white beans I'd soaked and cooked the night before.  Tomato and potato soup.  Open-faced vegetable tarts with crumbly wholemeal pastry.  You get the idea.

My vegetables were always browned in butter, because butter was cheap and olive oil expensive: this was England, subsidizing their dairy farmers, creator of the "surplus butter mountain" of the 1980s.

So diced onions going gold and translucent in butter - the smell takes me back to early adulthood, and English kitchens.

I only just realized this morning that that's a French thing, that while I learned to cook in English kitchens, what techniques I know are French.  Funny old world.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2016 12:44 am (UTC)
Onions browning slowly in butter smell so good. It's such a warm and comforting scent.

And French techniques have influenced so much of Western food that I'd be surprised if you hadn't picked them up along the way, especially if you learned to cook in Europe. These are the techniques I grew up learning as well, what with it being the 1970s and my parents, like so many other Americans, glued to Julia Child's show on PBS. I saw her once in Harvard Square -- we were both at the same movie, though damned if I can remember what it was -- and I regret being too shy to introduce myself and tell her how much her work meant to me.
Jun. 24th, 2016 09:47 pm (UTC)
My father is a huge Julia Child fan, not directly of the food (as he was always trying to lose weight and pacifying a very sensitive stomach) but of the show and of her personality.

He rejected David Letterman wholesale in 1984 when the episode I tried to interest him in showed Letterman making fun of Child, who was on his show making steak tartare with a blowtorch.

My dad forms strong attachments and prejudices. He won't buy Apple products, either, because of those commercials showing that punk Mac kid making fun of that nice Mr. PC.

Some time I should buy a copy of the book and learn how to cook in the French tradition, for real.

Edited at 2016-06-24 09:47 pm (UTC)
Jun. 24th, 2016 10:36 pm (UTC)
I share your father's issue with people making fun of Julia. I once saw her on a Martha Stewart special, in which they both made croquembouches; Martha, as I recall, had used a plumb bob to get her tower perfectly straight, while Julia, because she was Julia, had piled up the cream puffs in a less precise pyramid Martha condescendingly referred to as "rustic." I have never forgiven Martha for that.

Do pick up the cookbook! People seem to think it will be hugely intimidating, but in my experience, it's very friendly, albeit opinionated at times.
Jun. 24th, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
The full Mastering the Art ...? Or Recipes From Julia Child's Kitchen, from 1975? I read this article (I was looking to see whether there was consensus on the best edition) and was duly intimidated!

I enjoy spending a whole weekend afternoon preparing something ... but it's a rare treat these days.
Jun. 24th, 2016 11:09 pm (UTC)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The second volume is good, but the first one is a classic. (How good? I don't even own the second one.) Whoever wrote that article has a stick up their butt; I can't count the number of times I've referred to Julia's recipes for quiche, or pastry dough, or potato and sausage gratin, or faux risotto, or any number of other dishes. I think people forget that while Julia was a leader in introducing classic French technique to the U.S., her primary goal was that dishes just plain tasted good. If you adjust things and you're happy with the result, you've succeeded.

BTW, The Way to Cook is almost as good as Julia's first book, too. Get both!
Jun. 24th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)
I've put them on my Amazon Wishlist! My birthday is in August.
Jun. 24th, 2016 11:08 pm (UTC)
There just is something about Martha Stewart that has always made me want to take her down a peg.

Even though I was discovering the delights of domestic goddesshood right when she became famous, I never could get into the Martha experience, although I did once buy a mini-mag of hers for the sake of its very good from-the-pantry black bean soup recipe.
Jun. 24th, 2016 11:11 pm (UTC)
That same holiday special had her showing off her guests using a professional-level drill press to drill holes in walnuts for garlands. Literally the only reason I didn't turn it off at that point was that Julia's segment hadn't aired yet.
Jun. 24th, 2016 11:23 pm (UTC)
And am I right in thinking a croquembouche *is* a rustic dessert? One made by countryfolk?

That laser-like focus on perfection, and a sort of middle-brow, middle-America perfection, at that ... she takes it all so seriously she seems kind of grim.

There's an idea for a new KitchenAid accessory: the walnut-driller!
Jun. 25th, 2016 12:14 am (UTC)
It's a pretty fancy dessert, actually, but would Julia's have tasted any worse for looking slightly wobbly compared to Martha's plumb-straight one? No, it would not, Martha, so STFU.

There's an idea for a new KitchenAid accessory: the walnut-driller!

LOL. I'll add it to my wish list, along with the pasta maker and the sausage grinder.

Edited at 2016-06-25 12:14 am (UTC)
Jun. 25th, 2016 04:12 pm (UTC)
I realized that when I said "middle-brow, middle-American", I didn't quite capture what I meant. And I am middle-brow and middle-American myself, so I wasn't comfortable with my own snobbery.

I meant more, "Department store Christmas display in housewares department" sort of perfection. Beautiful, yes, and successful in whetting your appetite (for food or for more pretty housewares) but more about display for display's sake than actually gratifying or welcoming anybody.

As if, it would be a shame to consume the food because that would ruin its appearance. Julia Child's food is about EATING it.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )