Thank you, Julia

photo 4

This time I went with bacon… almost Quiche Lorraine

Not to get all Julie & Julia on you, but this post is about cooking…well, about cooking and writing. About cooking and writing and re-writing, to be precise. And the cooking part? Inspired by one of my favorite cooks—maybe you guessed?—Julia Child.

I used to make quiches all the time when my kids were home. It was kind of a Sunday morning tradition. But now, quiches are reserved for more special occasions. Like yesterday: my son’s girlfriend’s birthday brunch. Last time she was here (at Christmas time) we attempted a quiche together. The crust was gorgeous but the quiche itself? An unmitigated disaster. The problem was it never set. If you’re not a cook—or if you’ve never made a custard—you may not understand. It means that the quiche was a runny, watery mess. (In case you’re curious, I later found out through Internet searches that it was likely due to the asparagus I used in the filling… too much asparagus equaled too high a water content equaled the non-setting of the custard.)

I digress. Although the quiche filling was what failed last time, it’s the crust that I’ve always had more trouble mastering. But finally, through those years I was making quiche every Sunday, I could produce an amazing crust, as evidenced in my blog post on Writer Unboxed about the pie off (which clearly I won).

As I got out my well-worn, well-loved Julia Child French Chef Cookbook, here’s what I read as I loaded up the Cuisinart with ingredients (yes, that’s how I do it):

“Every serious cook should be able to produce a tender, crunchy, buttery pastry crust that is a delight to eat in tarts, quiches, turnovers, or quick hors d’oeuvre. The mastery of pastry dough is simply a matter of practice, as there is a definite feel in the hands you must acquire for mixing and rolling. Do a batch of pastry every day, if you are determined to learn and keep notes as you go along.”

I thought about the last quiche that M. and I made together, remembering that it wasn’t the crust that failed—it was near perfect, in fact (if I do say so myself). Although I hadn’t made a crust everyday, I had over the years become comfortable with making pastry crust, with the feel of it in the hands, as Julia said. It was then and there I decided to blog about yesterday’s effort, so I took some photos along the way.

photo 2

I did some patching…

But of course, wouldn’t you know it, as I rolled out the crust, it stuck to the mat and then it broke apart a bit. In years gone by, I might have gotten frustrated. In fact, ask MEH (My Engineer Husband), I have been known to throw pie dough across the kitchen a time or two. But this morning, partly because I’ve learned the way of the crust (and how to fix things) and partly because I was writing this post, I stuck with it. I finished rolling, put the crust in the pie plate, did some patching, and I crimped the edges.

It wasn’t totally perfect to look at, but it didn’t have to be. I knew that once I added the filling, it (probably) would be fine… although there is that danger point in the oven, when the crust could collapse.

Then I thought about something else. How much like my writing this is right now. I’m in revisions of my current work in progress. I started with a lump of dough and now I’m rolling it out. It’s unfinished and incomplete, but I’m patching it and crimping it and putting it in the pie plate everyday, sometimes over and over again each day. But I’m mastering it. And it’s looking (more) perfect. And that’s when I realized, that I’m writing the Julia Child way.

The mastery of pastry dough writing is simply a matter of practice, as there is a definite feel in the hands you must acquire for mixing and rolling revision and editing. Do a batch of pastry every day Put your butt in the chair everyday, if you are determined to learn and keep notes as you go along.

Thank you, Julia. For the pastry lessons and for the writing advice, too.

Cheers,

Julia

P.S. I’m also guest posting today on Jessica Null Vealitzek’s True Stories blog about the Great Ice Storm of ’98, in a post appropriately titled “The Great Ice Storm.” I’d love for you to visit me there, too!

Have you ever gotten writing advice in unexpected places? What’s your favorite thing to cook?

 

Comments

  1. Micky Wolf says:

    Great cooking–I mean, writing recipe! Love your story. I definitely enjoy preparing a tried and true dish, or attempting a new recipe every couple of weeks. One of my favorite things to make is stuffed pasta shells. And now that you have made me sooo hungry, will get a bite to eat and then put my butt back in the chair. :)

  2. Brill! I love analogies like this, Julia, and I agree with yours – cooking is a creative process too. I wish I had the patience for it that I do for writing ;)

  3. Karen says:

    Loved the movie, then the book so much more. Julie and Julia definitely spoke volumes to me. So does this post, actually. I love to cook and to write and boy, does this make sense. I have put off making pie crust for years. I’d be the one hurling it across the kitchen too. And there are parts of writing that make me feel the same way.

  4. Karen says:

    By the way, I enjoyed your post today at True Stories!

  5. I love the spot on compare/contrast of cooking and writing. Who knew?!

    (Pssst, if you’re ever looking for high nutrient-to-calorie ratio meals idea, head on over to my Pinterest board where I feature healthy creations from my own kitchen: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/265290234273713797/)

  6. I love this so much, Julia! What a wonderful metaphor for cooking and writing. So true that you feel it in the hands, in the massaging of the words, the more and more you practice.

  7. Barb Riley says:

    My favorite thing to cook is nowhere near as complicated as anything with pastry dough, just a simple recipe from my Hungarian grandmother for paprika chicken.

    I love the parallel of mastering pastry dough to writing! I can’t remember ever eating a quiche… I suppose I should put that on my bucket list! LOL

    • Oh my goodness, I love Hungarian food and paprika chicken sounds amazing — yum!! As for quiche, YES it definitely needs to go on your bucket list. Wish I lived nearer by, I’d bake you one! Maybe a trade for some of the paprika chicken ;)

  8. Love the analogy, Julia/Julia! I love to make bread occasionally for my family (and our neighbor who snow-blows our driveway.) I suppose that would make a good writing metaphor, as well, with the process of mixing/kneading/rising/baking. :)

    • I definitely agree that the bread making is a great writing metaphor, too. I also used to bake a lot of bread, a great (and delicious) activity that also requires a lot of patience. You give me an idea, too — a writing and cooking critique group! Food for the mind, body and soul :)

  9. Ah… pie crust! Thanks for sharing your recipe with me! My first attempt, as you recall — truly by hand (I don’t own a food processor, if you can believe it) was a success! And yummy. Such a wonderful and accurate metaphor for writing. Knead, crimp, roll out … I also enjoyed the vision of you flinging pie dough across the kitchen.

  10. I absolutely adore the mental image of you hurling pie dough across the room! Haha! I like your analogy. I do think it takes familiarity; I have a suspicion that this is the same thing people are talking about when they reference “finding your voice.” Practice, ease, confidence — voice.

    • If only I had a video of the pie crust flinging, I could’ve put it on this post (like I said to Melissa, would I really want that kind of fame, though?) — it was better experienced IN the kitchen, anyway, haha. Glad you like the mental image! Yes, inner voice is similar, I’m guessing. I can just see it: Julia Child, life philosopher, can help you find your voice and your baking Zen.

  11. Nina says:

    Absolutely an apt comparison!

  12. Is there a more perfect comparison than writing and baking? I hadn’t thought of that before, but it’s spot on. I especially got it through your failed (sorry!) asparagus quiche. Sometimes you add a little too much of one ingredient and everything falls apart. More isn’t always better. How true in writing too!

    But honestly, Julia, I would come eat your quiche in any form! :)

    • I wish I’d thought of that… that you really can add too much to writing and have it fall apart. As you say, more isn’t always better. Thanks for saying you’d eat my quiche in any form; if I could, I would provide you with a quiche to eat!

  13. Eliza says:

    loved this! the writing part AND the baking part. now i’m hungry, though …

Speak Your Mind

*