P. and I took a break from the ninety-degree
heat and jetlag yesterday to take in a matinee
of Julie & Julia. Delightful movie! I've been a
fan of Ms. Child since the beginning of time,
and just last spring read My Life in France.
(My copy of Julie & Julia is on the docket.)
Meryl Streep is, as ever, absolutely splendid.
She embodied Julia's joie de vivre, fearlessness
and sense of humor. Amy Adams is equally
good, but alas, she doesn't have as iconic a part
to play as Ms. Streep.
The movie got me ruminating on several
Julia-Child-themed memories. My late husband
and I were frequent poetry readers at the Castalia
Reading Series at the University of Washington in the
1970's and 80's, hosted by the late great Nelson Bentley.
An annual and much-anticipated event was "The World's
Worst Poetry Reading." Participants would spend a year
scouting bookshelves for absolutely the most abysmal
poems ever published -- and we'd gather to present them
orally at Savery Hall. M., my late husband, was a regular
at this event, and every year without fail "performed"
a poem titled "Men" (can't remember the author)
in the voice of Julia Child. Rolling-in-the-aisles hilarious!
The Sunday after his memorial service, my two teenage
sons and I decided that the only acceptable thing
to cook -- as we'd been inundated the prior week
with friends & family and a generous supply
of prepared meals -- was Julia Child's French Onion
Soup. So we ventured out to the grocery store,
clinging to each other and fragile as the skin
on the onions we carried in our basket.
Then began the ritual process of homemade chicken
stock, the celery and carrot infusion, the rendering of bones.
For two days the windows steamed up -- water slid down
the glass in rivulets, as if the house was doing its own
grieving. We finally sat down to eat, broken and exhausted.
And that soup saved us, with its undertones of white wine,
with bay leaves and the sultriness of long-stirred onions.
It was the balm that we craved, the taste that assured us
that, though damn close, all was not completely shot to hell.
Note: although a classic French Onion Soup uses beef stock,
it is equally good with chicken or turkey stock. Once I
simmered up the remains of some Cornish game hens,
which makes a very rich and flavorful stock. If you do opt
for a poultry stock, substitute white wine for the red.
Check out Julia and her chickens here.