Haven’t Seen Julie and Julia Yet?
While foodies may have a bone to pick with the central thesis (or lack thereof) in Michael Pollan’s recent New York Times Magazine cover story about how nobody cooks anymore, I can’t imagine they’d disagree with what he says about Meryl Streep’s conjuring of the French Cook in the new movie Julie and Julia. “Streep captures the deep sensual delight that Julia Child took in food—not just the eating of it […] but the fondling and affectionate slapping of ingredients in their raw state and the magic of their kitchen transformations.”
That delight will get you, and it will make you want to cook.
My parents were in town this weekend, and the three of us went to the movie on Friday night. By Sunday, my Dad and I had managed to assemble all the ingredients for pâté de canard en croûte, the dish that Amy Adams (as Julie Powell) serves at the end of the film.
That’s right, my dad and I bypassed the other 523 Julia Child recipes that Powell cooks BEFORE attempting to debone a duck, stuff it with homemade pâté, and wrap it in pastry crust. What that says about us, I’ll let you conclude on your own. But know this: if you want to buy an entire duck, Madison Market is your store. Call up other grocery butcheries to ask if they have whole ducks and they may reply in the affirmative, but trust me, they are lying. Know this too: if you are going to cook pâté de canard en croûte with your father in a very tiny, somewhat ill-stocked kitchen with a 30-year old oven, make sure you have plenty of time. And wine.
We cooked for five hours, even after we opted not to grind our own veal and chicken for the pâté. (If I had been alone it would have taken more than twice as long, my dad’s a good cook) and the amoebic blob that emerged from the oven after about an 1:45 was odd but tasty, if sort of greasy. The "magic," for me, was that it worked. Yes we were cooking above our level and no, you wouldn’t serve our canard to guests (unless you were planning to serve it in the dark) but we did it, damn it. And it tasted good.
Katherine Koberg, editor here at Seattle Metropolitan and member of a much more reasonable family, saw the movie with her stepdaughter. They had a similar urge to cook from Julia but chose the sensible roast chicken steeped with port wine, cream, and mushrooms. She said it turned out fabulously.