dc5
Dirt Candy Header Side Image

Julia Child For the Win

I have a huge amount of respect for Michael Pollan and I think he’s a great thinker who has done an enormous amount to draw attention to some serious issues regarding America and how it eats. His basic rule about eating pretty much says it all:
.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
.
And I agree with almost every single one of his expanded eating rules.
.

But his piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” left me cold. Pegged to the publicity campaign for the new movie, JULIE AND JULIA it read like a collection of received wisdom and talking points that added up to far less than the sum of its parts. It brought up more questions than it answered, and while that may be what he intended, I found that its relevance was ultimately undermined by the rose-tinted nostalgia that colored the entire piece.
.

julia2

Julia Child has no time for nostalgia.

.

.

This article seemed to say many things, none of them necessarily connected:

.
1) Julia Child is awesome. (Agreed)
2) The Food Network has a lot of flaws in its current programming. (I agree with this to an extent, but then again there are still shows on it that I enjoy. He also barely mentions the fact that Public Television still has some excellent cooking shows running, as does Bravo (Top Chef!), BBC America and the Travel Channel.)
3) Americans don’t spend a lot of time cooking these days. (I agree, but I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. Then again, I run a restaurant so take anything I say on this subject with a grain of salt.)
4) The corporatization of food is really terrible. (I think this is a gross over-simplification. America is a big country, there are many huge corporations that produce our food, some are good and some are not so good. But just to say, “They’re eeeeeevil,” and leave it at that is refusing to engage.)
5) Americans are not healthy. (Depends on what metric you use. Our life expectancies are at an all-time high, and our infant mortality rates are at an all-time low, although we’re still higher than many countries. Although statistics on hunger in America are hard to come by before the 1960’s, we do seem to be experiencing less problems with hunger than we did in 1960.)
.
Where he really lost me, however, was when he wrote:
.
When I asked my mother recently what exactly endeared Julia Child to her, she explained that ‘for so many of us she took the fear out of cooking’.
.
The implied “us” here are middle-class individuals living in cities with access to public television in the 1960′s. He goes on to rhapsodize about happy children, watching in rapt adoration as mom made potato pancakes in the kitchen. He’s speaking to such a narrow audience that he leaves out vast swathes of America. What about people who had both parents working? Almost 40% of women held jobs in 1960 and that number has risen almost every year. Or what about single-parent households? The percentage of married women who divorced almost doubled between 1960 and the late 1970’s. It’s apparent that Pollan isn’t talking about a realistic past, but rather a past lit with shafts of golden mid-afternoon light, like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie. What about families where mom was locked up in the kitchen frantically putting together meals while the kids were banished outdoors? What about moms who regarded cooking for a large family as punishment?
.

julia4

Julia Child is not about cooking as punishment.

.
Pollan sees home cooking as an essential activity necessary for our survival and he bemoans the fact that we currently spend 27 minutes per day on food preparation. He later writes:
.
Though for married women who don’t have jobs, the amount of time spent cooking remains greater: 58 minutes a day, as compared with 36 for married women who do have jobs.
.
So what is the ideal number of minutes we should spend cooking each day? 59 minutes? 70 minutes? Pollan thinks it should be longer than it takes to watch an episode of Top Chef so what about 55 minutes? Ask a woman in rural South Dakota how many minutes she wants to spend cooking and you’ll get a very different answer than a woman in Manhattan. Or maybe you’ll get the same answer. So which number is “correct?” How about this one:
.
However long you want.
.

julia3

Even crop circles love Julia Child

.

Much to Pollan’s credit, he gives plenty of room to Harry Balzer, a food marketing researcher who serves as the cranky contrarian and who says:
.
Here’s an analogy,” Balzer said. “A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking and gutting a chicken. Do you know anybody who still does that? It would be considered crazy! Well, that’s exactly how cooking will seem to your grandchildren: something people used to do when they had no other choice. Get over it.
.
I tend to come down more on Balzer’s side than Pollan’s in this case. If cooking is no longer necessary for survival, if it’s an option, then people who want to do it will do it; people who don’t, will not. Less Americans work on their cars than they used to, but is this an objectively bad thing? Sure it would be nice if everyone knew how to change their own oil, but some people regard it as a headache and they’d rather just go to Jiffy Lube and have it done for them. Other people regard working on their car as an enjoyable hobby. The same with cooking at home: is there something inherently wrong with home cooking as a hobby rather than an obligation? Is there something wrong with people choosing how many minutes to spend each day on food preparation?
.

julia1

Julia Child wants to know what’s

wrong with that?

.

Pollan thinks there’s a lot wrong with that. He writes:

.

We seem to be well on our way to turning cooking into a form of weekend recreation, a backyard sport for which we outfit ourselves at Williams-Sonoma, or a televised spectator sport we watch from the couch. Cooking’s fate may be to join some of our other weekend exercises in recreational atavism: camping and gardening and hunting and riding on horseback.
.
I don’t think this is an accurate view of the current state of home cooking, but even if it is my response would be: good. Cooking as fun, as a hobby, as a social ceremony – that may not be the way our grandparents experienced it, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing from where I’m sitting. One member of a family doesn’t have to sacrifice hours a week to cook because he or she has options. Cooking becomes a choice, not a chore.
.

To bring it full circle, Julia Child didn’t cook because she had to. She cooked because she liked it. She found it fun. And her hobby became her career. As much as I like Michael Pollan’s writing I thought this piece wasn’t up to his usual high standards. He comes off here like a scold, shaking his finger and lecturing us about the good old days. He demands that we go back to the kitchen or our social fabric will be destroyed. His heroine, Julia Child, told us to go back to the kitchen because we could have fun there. Because we would enjoy it. Hers wasn’t a nostalgic trip into the past, but an exciting jump into the future. She didn’t want us to imitate our mothers, she wanted us to learn a new cuisine. As much as I like Michael Pollan, this time around, between the two of them, I’m going with Julia Child.

.

(You should definitely check out Michael Pollan’s piece: agree or disagree it makes for interesting reading)



menu


Menu

Snack

.

Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
.

Appetizers

.

Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

.

Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

.

Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

.

Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

.

.

Entrees

.

Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

.

Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

.

Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

.

Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

.

- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

.

.

Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

.

Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

.

Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

.

Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

.

- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

.

Our wine list (and other beverages)

.

.

Gift Certificates

.

.

FacebookButton

.

twitterimage