Saturday, December 15, 2007
Julia Child, We Salute Thee
For Brandon's birthday this year, he received Mastering the Art of French Cooking, having expressed a desire to learn more about French cooking, and perhaps even eat some French cooking (there don't seem to be many French restaurants around here to try it out). As discussed in an earlier post, the danger of reading a cookbook is the following desire to eat all of the wonderful food described in the glowing prose of Ms. Child. The problem however, is finding or creating an occasion that warrants the 3 days of preparation necessitated by French food. The French never do anything hastily.
Luckily, Brandon's siblings Ashlie and Nick live just up the road in Provo, and both of them had had a birthday in the last year. And what better excuse for a dinner party than a birthday party, too? To make it more of a party, and being meddling older married people, we made them invite dates, so as to further spread the joy of French cooking (and praise for the cooks).
Having already fixated on roast chicken months prior, Brandon and I took faith in the Child, and prepared her suggested side dishes, ratatouille and sauteed potatoes. For a first course we served garlic soup (once again taking a step of faith) with bread, and to finish we had orange Bavarian cream (not French, strictly speaking, but in the book) with hazelnut cookies and hot chocolate.
Writing down such a meal sounds simple; really it should only take a few hours to cook. Roast chicken? Just stick it in the oven. Garlic soup? Boil garlic with a handful of weeds, and add mayonnaise. Bread? It's no-knead, so no problem. Cookies? Anyone can make cookies in 20 minutes. The problem one always runs into when preparing food, however, is not the complexity of individual dishes, but the complexity of everything together. The ratatouille alone took us (there was no way I was going to do this alone) 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.
However, with combination of Brandon's pessimism and my
experience, we accounted for unexpectedly long preparation times and budgeted the prior two days and Sunday morning before church for shopping, chopping, and cooking. And however long it takes to make the food, the food never quite tastes like the culmination of 3 days of preparation, and nobody but the cooks has any idea.
By the time dinner and our guests arrived, Brandon and I were ready to eat anything, after cooking for 2 days. And as is highly unusual with cooking, nothing disastrous happened and the food turned out as hoped for. Everyone seemed, or at least pretended to have a nice time. But we're not doing this again until... Christmas dinner.