I really wanted to title this post "Why I like the idea of Julia Child - being fearless, having fun, and not being afraid to make a mess and make it known that things take effort" but it sounded a little too "ranty" for a headline, and also far too long. So I settled for something far more to the point - Breaking In.
We spent Saturday breaking in our kitchen and all the fancy new appliances (oven, microwave, immersion blender, le creuset, scan pan roasting rack... the works) we've acquired. It's been many moons since our last dinner party and it felt really good to be back in the kitchen dicing my vegetables and roasting them chickens with Bocelli belting it out in the background. Bocelli is fantastic cooking company.
Though we only had a party of seven (not a lot compared to the annual Thanksgiving cook-a-thon), it turned out to be a substantial number for my significantly reduced kitchen size (wide open counter tops free from clutter, oh how I miss thee!) We decided to keep it to family - in the event anything went wrong, they would be quick to forgive and unlikely to relate our foibles to anyone else. Also, our brothers are fairly easy to please when it comes to food - just give them a lot of it.
Dinner progressed smoothly for the most part. Granted, the chicken was a tad dry (oven temperatures are unfortunately an art) and the salad quite uninspired, but there was enough wine going around to gloss over these details, and the company more than made up for the food. As Julia is oft noted for saying:
"one of the secrets—and pleasures—of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry, and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed."
Let's say there was a lot of grinning that evening. I burned the mushrooms and my brother spilled gravy on the table (it gave the wood a nice shine). The cutlery matched but the serving dishes didn't. People drank from all manner of device that could hold liquid. There were no place mats, much less pretty place settings. We jostled elbows and chinked wineglasses and moved things around in a most haphazard manner. I like to call it happy chaos.
The evening was all very decidedly "Julia" - not so much for mastering the art of french cooking, but for the fact we were unabashed as her about making mistakes (she once insisted to David Letterman live on TV that a failed hamburger - which she passed off as blowtorched beef tartare gratiné - was "very chic").
Julia celebrated the imperfections of home cooking, and made it accessible to millions of Americans. In Julia's world, cooking was an adventure, it was something to have fun with, it took effort, and it didn't always go according to plan, it certainly wasn't always picture-perfect the way these Kinfolk dinner parties are, but everyone always enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal at the end of it.
By the time I remembered to take a photo, only a carcass remained of my juicy, plump, good-looking, well-browned bird (P captured just one shot right when it got plated), but perhaps I should be glad that there is hardly any instagram evidence of my less than perfect dinner party.
In an age where it's not uncommon to see people carrying around white towels and a whole array of props in little trolley bags to ensure they can always set up the perfect food shot with their insanely powerful compact DSLRs before transferring those photos to their iPhones and uploading an image to instagram that on the surface seems oh-so-effortless... it can be a little intimidating to simply snap and upload a shot of an effort-full good old fashioned less-than-photogenic home cooked meal.
But then I remember the old adage WWJD (What Would Julia Do) - she would grin and get on with it because most of the fun is in the experience, and the effort that's involved in putting it altogether, not the evidence we have to show for it.