That is the dish I laboriously prepared for dinner this evening. Carefully selected ingredients. Several hours in the kitchen. Several more hours of waiting with bated breath on my "French Beef Stew" produced a dish so divine, so unequivocal to "American" Beef Stew that I had to laugh at the thought of how I previously made Beef Stew. (My slow-cooker and a McCormick packet.) Although it warmed us from the inside out on many a cold or rainy night, that quasi-beef stew has and will forever pale in comparison to Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. What prompted me to attempt such a feat? A movie.
Last night, Mr. S and I were blessed to be able to go to the movies while our good friends kept Little Lu. I had been dying to see Julie & Julia, which parallels the life of Julia Child to the year long culinary experiment of Julie Powell. It was a feel-good movie and I laughed out loud several times. I highly recommend it. (And for all you wives, my husband laughed several times as well and really seemed to enjoy it. It's not very often that there is a movie with certain chick flick qualities that we BOTH enjoy... but, I digress.) At one point in the movie, Julie makes Julia's Bouef Bourguinon and it looked so absolutely yummy, that I felt the need to return to my culinary fundamentals. I found something very therapeutic in this 3 page recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This being my first weekend as a working mother, I enjoy the irony of cooking a meal that takes 15 steps instead of 3. Let me be very clear, I say this not to boast that I will be cooking every meal from such a book.
Not so much.
I haven't the time nor the energy to make every dinner a cooking extravaganza-- especially not right now. But there is something to be said for taking the time. For example, I have a close friend who very seldom buys any convenience grocery items. She cooks delicious meals from a few simple and tasty ingredients. She has a wonderful talent of stretching a few dollars into a gourmet meal. Sometimes elaborate, sometimes comfort food, but they are always full of love and warmth. She and I have often joked about some of the "convenience items" that are available and what a rip off they can be. For example, tonight I noticed pre-seasoned, cooked taco meat at the grocery store. (Wow. Is it that hard to add taco seasoning to ground beef? Sorry, soapbox.) Never the less, there are many nights during the week when I need to be able to whip up dinner in under 30 minutes.... but sometimes, you just need to remind yourself that you can cook without any convenience foods. You can prepare a meal the "long" way. Today was such a day.
A few minutes into the process of carefully searing the chunks of perfectly marbled meat in my giant Turquoise Le Creuset, I began to appreciate Julia's gusto for excellent cooking. She did not learn to cook out of necessity but out of a love of food and love for her husband, and in an impossibly tiny kitchen. The last of which concerns me most. Somewhere between slicing perfectly uniform onions and learning a far better way to sautee mushrooms, I found enjoyment in being able to successfully prepare classic cuisine for my husband regardless of how busy life has recently become or how little time I seem to have these days.
My point in writing these ramblings?
1. Everyone should have a creative outlet. No matter how busy they are or how crazy life becomes.
2. Try something challenging once in a while. Even if you fail miserably, you'll be glad you stretched yourself a bit.
3. Even in a tiny kitchen with 7 square feet of counter space, a 5 inch deep sink, and an oven that is 50 degrees off and with lopsided burners-- God provides amazing blessings of encouragment. Though I do not look forward to another 5 days away from my little girl, we have all three had a wonderful weekend together and I personally, feel energized and refreshed.
P.S. Our dinner took so long, we ate at 9pm. Ha! It was worth it though!