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Sunday, August 25, 2002
The Book:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. ” First edition, 1961. Louisette Berthole. Simone Beck. And, of course, Julia Child. The book that launched a thousand celebrity chefs. Julia Child taught America to cook, and to eat. It’s forty years later. Today we think we live in the world Alice Waters made, but beneath it all is Julia, 90 if she’s a day, and no one can touch her.

The Contender:
Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theatre, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..

The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you.

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Sunday, September 01, 2002

Sunday -- Leftovers and Contemplation

After a week of the Julie/Julia Project, and a particularlyfrustrating day of moving preparations, tonight seemed a good opportunity to take stock. Quo Vadimus?

Today for brunch I poached egg per JC’s instructions -- i.e., without one of those nifty egg poachers that makes the eggs all nicely shaped. Mine were not nicely shaped. But I draped them in a bechamel sauce enriched with butter, and they were good. And here’s the kicker. I had never in my nearly thirty years of life eaten an egg, but I ate one today. So that’s where I am. In a week of this experiment, I have cooked 14 recipes, but mostly I ate my first egg.

At this point, it’s one week down, 51 one to go, and that’s a pretty intimidating place to be. Tomorrow I have to go pull up tile between exercising, packing and cooking a three-course meal, this on a holiday. I don’t know if I’m going to manage this thing, but I feel more than ever that it’s something worth trying. Plus, Eric and I lost half a pound each. What’s that all about?

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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Cotes de Porc Poelees et Poireaux Braises au Beurre. The folks are still in town, and I am determined not to impose the agonies of the Julie/Julia Project too heavily upon them. Mom’s been worried enough about my sanity or lack thereof, and does not need to witness one of my typical mid-week breakdowns. So we keep it simple. The pork chop recipe is one of her stand-bys — “Mom’s pork chops.” The leeks seem easy enough, and we’ll just roast potatoes with the pork. I’m having a miraculously easy time at work, and can get off by 5, so we arrange to meet in front of the Food Emporium at Union Square at 5:30.

There are kinks, of course. The first is that the Food Emporium actually has two entrances, and since I’m a cell phone-less freak, there’s a tad of back-and-forthing before we manage to find each other. The second is that my parents are clearly exhausted. They’ve spent the afternoon gallery hopping in west Chelsea, and they’re about to fall over. Having both sets of parents in town is a vivid reminder of just how grueling living in (or proximate to) the city really is. Of course, I don’t spend my days gallery hopping in west Chelsea. Anyway, so with the exhaustion there’s a bit of time pressure. So we get the shopping done as quickly as possible ($7.99 a pound for pork chops, though I must admit they look good, good and thick.) Then we set mother down with the groceries and head over to Union Square Wines, where we’re politely bullied into two bottles of Spanish garnacha (“don’t miss it!!!) on top of my parents’ usual, a bottle of Jack Daniels (in the absence of Weller) for Dad, Tanqueray for Mom, and some Smirnoff for Eric and me. It’s just like old times. I set Dad down beside Mom while I go to the Petco for Zuzu feed, and then we’re off.

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Monday, November 04, 2002

So where was I? Ah, yes, eviscerated lobster….

Once I had finished preparing those, I got to work on the Artichauts Braises a la Provençale — artichokes braised with wine, garlic and herbs. This entailed trimming the tops of the artichokes, and the spiny end of the remaining leaves, then quartering them lengthwise and cutting out the chokes. I love cutting out a choke, and not only because it sounds like some kind of S&M jargon. It’s also just fun to scrape out all that nasty hairiness, especially now that I’ve come to love and appreciate the yummy soft stuff underneath. Anyway, all the artichoke trimming takes a little while, and then I boiled them for ten minutes or so. While that was happening I sautéed in olive oil (hence the “provençale”…) some onions and garlic, and turned on the oven.

It was around this time that Bekkah and Jeff showed up. I would like to point out that I have never yet lost a friend en route to my place. Rat- and drug-dealer-infested it may be, but at least it ain’t hard to find….

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Monday, December 02, 2002

Saturday I made the penultimate chicken fricassee, Fondue de Poelet a la Crème, or chicken simmered with cream and onions. My kind of dish. JC suggests serving it with baked cucumbers. Only problem being, I’ve already made baked cucumbers, so I was forced by the parameters of The Project into making creamed cucumbers instead.

Too — much — cream---…

Good stuff all around. The fricassee followed the master recipe for fricassee, with a couple of changes. Basically, instead of simmering the chicken in stock and wine, I simmered it in cream and wine, but then to make up for it I didn’t add the egg yolk-cream liaison at the end. It was flavored with the onions — just regular sliced ones, not pearl onions braised for an hour, which I much appreciated – the Madeira I simmered it in, and a touch of curry. No mushrooms either, and though I like mushrooms, I also appreciated skipping that step. Then once the chicken was done, all I needed to do was cook down the cream sauce by half or so and refresh it with some lemon juice.

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Thursday, January 02, 2003

Two days into the brave new year of 2003, and already I’m running behind. We’ve got lots to catch up on:

New Year’s Eve.

Worked until sometime after two. The office closed officially at one, but our legal department scheduled a 12:30 meeting regarding voicemail messages, which ran long if you can believe it. (Insert low growl indicative of animalistic frustration and rage boiling just beneath the surface here….) Then off to shop. The stores were massively crowded, with people buying either cocktail party nibbles or actual food. Am I sensing a cultural trend? Are people across the nation taking the Julie/Julia cue and sitting at home eating French food to usher in the new year? Only time will tell. At my Turkish grocery I got approximately twenty pounds of stuff, two great big bags, for the same amount of money I paid for a chicken breast and a lemon at the Food Emporium at Union Square. Listen people – rise up! Boycott Food Emporium!!!

Sorry, I haven’t quite gotten over that yet.

Anyway, what they didn’t have was glacéed fruit. Or, more accurately, I couldn’t find any glacéed fruit, which may very well have been the result of my having next to know idea what glacéed fruit is. All I know is that it’s supposed to go into the New Year’s Day dessert, and cherries may be involved.

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Saturday, February 01, 2003

So my husband and I were trying to decide, if I were a celebrity chef, what my trademark saying, my “Bam!”, should be, and we decided that whenever I threw in another stick of butter, I’d say “What could happen?” This catchphrase is perfect, because it works in so many situations. Thus, “The Julie/Julia Project on the Upper West Side – What Could Happen?”

Well the first thing that happened was that I was an hour late getting up to Helen’s place, because I was an hour late getting off work, because we’re all feverishly making sure we get every last thing any moron on earth ever thought about rebuilding lower Manhattan into our database. The people must be heard, after all.

We were making Saute de Boeuf a la Bourguignonne (at Helen’s, not at work), mostly because since I’ve gotten Helen to start eating bacon I like to feed it to her every chance I can get. So I had to stop by my Turkish grocery on the way up to get a big hunk of bacon and some meat. I wasn’t going to spend another forty bucks on another 2 pounds of tenderloin butt, so I bought some thick sirloin steaks to chunk up. And I stopped by the wine store and bought a bottle for dinner – I had been told that Helen’s friend from work, The Redhead, was bringing wine, so I just picked up one cheap bottle for cooking.

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Monday, March 03, 2003

Due to some unaccustomed carousing on Friday – having an actual dinner and going to actual bars with some actual, bona fide, out-of-town friends — Saturday was rather a slow kind of day. I spent the morning making, first, some hash out of the remaining lamb and potatoes with tomatoes and anchovies, which we ate with grits at a brunch-ish sort of time, and then the long-avoided Charlotte Malakoff au Chocolat.

Started by soaking the ladyfingers I made a week ago in diluted orange liqueur and letting them drain on a rack. Then I made the au Chocolat part — melted four ounces of semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler with a fourth cup of coffee — instant espresso, actually, we were out of coffee. I made an almond cream — creamed some softened butter with sugar, beat in the chocolate stuff, then some more orange liqueur and some almond extract. Between the desserts and the Caneton a l’Orange and the desserts, I’m tearing through this orange liqueur at an alarming rate — and this stuff tweren’t cheap.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003

April is the cruelest month for the determined anti-Alice contingent. I had asked Eric to pick up some artichokes, thinking he’d get the usual enormous monstrosities our crappy Astoria grocery has, which are perfect for trimming down for the hearts. But instead he brought home tiny, lovely globes, beautiful jewels smaller than my fists. I should have given up and prepared them in some lovely Roman fashion, but that wouldn’t be a contribution to the Project. So I went ahead with the Fonds d’Artichauts Mirepoix, Buttered Artichoke Hearts with Diced Vegetables. Ms. Waters would be turning over in her grave, if she had one. Trimmed the artichokes, rubbing with lemon all the way, simmered them in a blanc made of a flour paste, water, lemon juice, and salt for twenty-five minutes, then drained them and ran cold water over them. When I tried to scrape out the choke, that’s where I got into trouble. The hearts were so tiny and delicate, they fell apart at the smallest over-application of pressure. And when I got them all cleaned, they made for a pretty sad little pile of teeny-tiny artichoke hearts. But no matter. I sautéed up three tablespoons each of minced celery, carrots, onions, and ham in some butter. Added the artichoke hearts, covered, and stuck in the oven for fifteen minutes.

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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Eric said something disturbing to me last night. I was straightening up the kitchen before embarking upon Crepes Farcies et Roulees avec Fondue de Crustaces when he said, “You know, you haven’t thrown a fit in a long time. Like one of those where you smack your head against the wall and scream, ‘I hate myself! I hate myself!’ over and over.”

And you know what? He was right.

I really did get a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach. Jesus. Self-hatred, bitterness and hysteria are my trademarks. I really don’t know what I’ll do without them.

Well, I thought, surely Crepes Farcies et Roulees avec Fondue de Crustaces will provide ample opportunity for practice.

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Sunday, June 01, 2003

By the end of the day Friday my twenty-four hour SARS had me really pretty down, but Jeb was in town! So out we went, to dinner and to see Marcia Ball, blues piano sensation and Austin institution. Up here in New York, as it turns out, she’s got a legion of fans from the NYPD — narcs, to be precise. Which was funny. They all had mustaches and no hair, and they listened to the music sitting at attention. Odd. We were accompanied on our musical adventure by two friends of Jeb’s who are Julie/Julia readers, which was also odd. Neat, but odd.

By Saturday I knew the end was coming. But we tried to make the most of my last day on earth count by going to the Matthew Barney exhibit at the dilapidated Guggenheim. It was, well, bizarre. The best part was watching the faces of all the confused tourists. Not that I wasn’t confused, but confused tourists are much funnier than confused New Yorkers.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The essential plight of the contemporary human is, in my opinion, that there is always too fucking much to do. I don’t care if you run AOL Time Warner or spend your daddy’s money getting makeovers and wasted or collect cans off the street — I guarantee you that on any given day there’s a mental list somewhere buried in the back of your mind with a dozen different things you aren’t going to get to anytime soon. It’s stress- and depression-inducing at the best of times. But when things get really bad, after say a fucking early morning meeting you forgot about, a long and harassing day at your government job, subsequent late shopping and then a two-hour phone conversation with this reporter at the Houston Chronicle about the article you wrote for Archaeology Magazine, which really is great and everything, but you don’t have enough to say on any subject to warrant two hours, your husband doesn’t want to talk with you for two hours straight, well, that’s when you get paralyzed, when you really can’t help seeing your life as this endless and futile struggle just to keep your head above water.

But I am a blogger, and therefore intrepid, so I will try valiantly to keep dog paddling here.

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