Monday, August 10, 2009

Bland No More!

I just finished spending the evening with my Aunt Jean. She's my movie pal. And I can always count on her, even if I want to see a movie that no one else cares about. She's always game. I love her movie enthusiasm! This evening we saw a movie that I've been waiting for rather impatiently and it's FINALLY out in the theaters.

The Julie/Julia Project with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams is the most uplifting movie I've seen in quite some time. It's kind of like 2 movies in one: Merly Streep plays Julia Child as she learns to cook, masters the art of it, begins to teach others how to cook, and finally, writes a cookbook with two other women. Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams (with a horrible haircut) is a young government employee who is burned out and bored with her job. Julie needs something to keep her sane, so she begins a project in which she will cook all 500-some-odd recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, and live to blog about it. Both women go through trials, challenges, joys and successes with the support from their loving husbands.

Maybe to some this might have been a dull movie about something as "boring" and commonplace as cooking. But to Julie, this project she undertook gave her something to look forward to at the end of a stressfull work day. When the previews first began for this movie, I was particularly struck by one scene: Julie is in her cubicle at work, and when she answers the phone, the man on the other end asks, "Do you have power?" Julie responds in irritation, "No." The man retorts, "Well I don't like the bill that's just been passed and I need to speak to someone with power to complain about it." This is what I deal with on a day-to-day basis as I answer phone calls from prospective students who are irritated by the massive budget cuts to the California State University system. They call the peons in the Admissions & Records office to "express" (rather, SHRIEK!!!) their disappointment with me, the Governor, their parents, and even God Himself.

There are some days I come home from work after such phone calls just to sit and stare at the wall, attempting in vain to erase some ridiculous accusation hurled at me through the phone lines. I know these people are upset, and some rightly so, but to deal with this kind of outrageousness day in and day out wears on me. I feel like I'm getting high blood pressure from the stress. I need a release. Something like...well, something like coming home to a great project into which I can pour my frustrations, stir my irritation, and have the end result come out--delicious. Heavenly. Decadent. I do so love to cook, but the time constraints put on any given day restrict me from trying anything complicated or exotic on a weeknight. But that doesn't stop me from compiling new recipes with strange and exciting spices, only to sit on my kitchen counter waiting to be tried when I have a more open time schedule.

For the first year of my marriage to Terry, I tried a new recipe every week. I quickly discovered that anything containing potatoes was a highly favored, and that the more meat a dinner contained, the better. But that didn't limit my creativity to those two ingredients. He ate everything I made and expressed his love and appreciation by eating seconds (and sometimes thirds). But I've grown lazy and Terry's schedule has him going in to work at strange hours, so rarely do I ever take the time to challenge myself with something new and exciting. Why cook for just one person? When I cook for Terry, he knows that I love him. He does the food dance. Yes. He has a food dance. And when I cook a new masterpiece, I can see in his eyes that he loves me more after dinner than before it. My man is easy to please. He brags about my culinary abilities to our friends, his co-workers--his parents, even. I am thankful to have such an appreciative audience.

But that's not the only reason I cook--it's not even the MAIN reason I cook (although it's a lovely side effect). I love taking ingredients and experimenting to create a dish so delicious that the aroma tantalizes our neighbors and has them begging for the recipe. Food is a daily necessity, but it's also the cement that holds together much of our social activity. There were certain attendees at our old church who would never show up unless there was word of a potluck. I don't blame them--the ladies in that community were amazing cooks.

This might sound old fashioned, but I believe there's something incredibly attractive about a woman who can cook. It says something about her personality, I think. It says she's creative and fun, and it also says that not only will she provide for her husband and her family, but that she wants them to enjoy themselves! I've known people who eat as if only to fuel a machine. Food is so much more than fuel! There is no joy to food without flavor. Bland is boring and belongs to those who do not enjoy life.

I am newly inspired to approach my kitchen with imagination and zest. I have been nudged to demonstrate my love and solidarity to my husband through my culinary creativity. Time to take inventory of the contents of my cupboards and the bounty of my refridgerator. I have a rather large collection of recipes that have been shouting at me from the inside of my neglected cookbooks. Restaurants be warned--I am challenging your high fat and calorie-laden dishes with sheer ingenuity and fresh ingredients! Ha ha! Take that!

It's time to browse the cookbooks and plan for the remainder of the week. Yes, it's late, but I'm inspired to make a fresh start! My pots and pans are due for some long-needed attention!


  1. Amanda, I kind of loved this post. And by kind of, I mean a lot! I'm hosting a dinner party for people in my cohort this weekend, which I am super excited about. It is amazing how wonderful cooking and eating can make you feel!

  2. Catherine! My blog has been sorely neglected and I ready your response for the first time! I'm happy to know that you liked my post. :) Sometimes I feel as though I'm writing just to clear my own mind. It's nice to have readers. :) I miss you, friend. And I hope you're doing splendidly up at Stanford.