I woke up yesterday in a pretty crappy mood. After moping around the house for a while feeling sad, for no apparent reason, I decided I needed to cheer myself up so I treated myself to a movie, Julie & Julia, all by myself. It was “that” kind of day.
I’ve been waiting for months to see this movie and knew it get me out of my funk… and it did indeed. The movie was an inspiring story of the lives of acclaimed chef Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell, based on two books Julie & Julia, by Powell, and My Life in France, by Child and Alex Prud’homme. The two stories share the fundamental theme of searching for inspiration and passion in life, for them it was through food, writing, and following their dreams.
Now I will honestly (and sadly) admit that I do not own a single Julia Child cookbook nor do I know more than the average American about her legacy (bad me!). I will also admit that I was never too into cooking until I was in my mid-twenties living in San Francisco. It was right about the time that I finished Graduate School and spent the summer unemployed, bitter (because I was unemployed with a Master’s Degree), and tired of spending hours and hours everyday day just looking for jobs. My brain was also in need of stimulation since I was no longer in school immersed in Grad projects. I decided I needed a hobby. Something to fulfill the mental stimulation that I was lacking ever since school had ended. And that hobby became cooking. Plus, I had cable for the first time since high school and had recently become addicted to The Food Network. I found myself watching shows on the Food Network all morning (sometimes all day) while refreshing Craigslist every 5 minutes to see if anything new had popped up. I would just watch cooking shows until something inspired me, then I would write down the recipe, go to the grocery store and get any ingredients, and cook up dinner each night. And man, my husband really enjoyed that summer… and so did I!
During that time I tested out recipes from many of the celebrity chefs featured on The Food Network but the one that I grew to love the most was Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa). Ina has this genuine spirit about her that is so hard not to love, plus she makes cooking look fun and easy. But it wasn’t until I started actually testing out her recipes that I knew I was hooked. I have tried so many of her recipes that I can’t count, own most of her cookbooks, and I can honestly say she has never has she let me down!
After watching the movie yesterday, I started thinking about how, like Julia Child inspired Julie Powell to cook and follow her passion as a writer, Ina Garten has awakened a passion for cooking and entertaining in me. Interestingly, Ina too, has some similarities to Julia Child. They both did government work before they were motivated by their passions. They both lived in Paris and were inspired by French cooking. They both have adorable and super supportive husbands who stood by them as they fulfilled their dreams. And they both have wonderful personalities and encourage their audiences to be unafraid of cooking.
For me Ina has taught me that entertaining should be fun, not daunting. To never try to cook individual omelets for a group of people for brunch, but to make a frittata instead. To always use “good” ingredients. To use homemade stock when possible. How to make the perfect scones. And she taught me how to make my first Coq au Vin (it was amazing). So today I am making my first Braised Beef Short Ribs! Yes, the former wannabe vegetarian is making Beef… on her own!
If you have read any of my food posts before then you may know I have spent the last 10 years as a “wannabe vegetarian” (whereby I would sometimes eat poultry and fish, but never red meat, pork, or anything I found to be “exotic”). But through my own culinary excursions and experiments I am not so afraid anymore and have spent the last couple of years reintroducing it into my diet. On the occasions when I have consumed meat, however, I have not cooked it on my own. It usually comes from a restaurant, or if at home it is my husbands duty to prepare the meat portion. I usually steer clear of it. But, as a Sommelier, I know I would be missing out on the true magic and joy of the perfect food and wine pairings if I didn’t start experimenting myself. If I describe bacon fat in a wine….should I not know what it smells and tastes like? (Well at least smells like)
Today I was once again reminded of the summer I started learning about cooking. I woke up, started watching The Barefoot Contessa and she was making Braised Beef Short Ribs. It reminded me of the many scenes from Julie & Julia where they made Boeuf Bourguignonne. I actually looked up an Ina recipe for for Boeuf Bourguignonne in her cookbook Barefoot in Paris and became inspired to cook. The two dishes seemed somewhat similar, and both delicious, so I decided to give the Braised Beef one a shot since I TiVo’ed it and could easily watch it for reference if I should get stuck on anything. Ina has a way of making everything look so easy. So I went out, bought the ingredients, and cooked her recipe. And I must say it was indeed pretty easy!
Now I will not post her recipe on this post, since I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but here is the link to this dish.
Many Americans first started cooking French food through Julia Child’s Mastering the art of French Cooking. For me I started cooking French food through Ina Gartens Barefoot in Paris.
I also share a love for all things French so thought it would be fitting to pair this dish with a wine I found on my trip to France last year.
Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion – Nuits-St-Georges – 1er Cru – Aux Murgers 2002
Only when I opened it with dinner I immediately realized it was corked! So, so, so sad since this particular bottle, along with many others, traveled all the way back from Burgundy with me in the two week saga of my bag getting lost (a whole other blog post).
But hey, they can’t all be winners. So instead we just ate our food without focusing on any particular wine pairing and it was delicious! We eventually found another bottle of French wine to drink instead (since I was in an “all things France” mood):
Jean-Luc Colombo 2006 Les Bartavelles Chateauneuf du Pape. Nothing with fond memories attached to it, nor did I actually purchase this on my trip to France, but it was still fitting for the purpose of this meal.
“The good news is”, as Ina would optimistically say, the food came out rich and fantastic, and ditto for the company (my hubby), so all in all it was still a successful meal!
I guess there’s something about France that inspires us all. For me, I can’t begin to write about all of the things that I love about France. But I will say one thing for sure; it is the food and wine from France that would be first on my long list! I have always had a fascination with France, and French wine remains one of my focuses as I continue with my Sommelier studies… but it is Ina Garten who inspired me to actually start cooking French food. And, much like Julia Child, she is not French either… but she definitely gets it!
Bon appetit to Julia Child, Ina Garten, and whomever may be your inspiration!