Monday, August 31, 2009

So I've done it.

This morning, just a few moments ago, I made my very first dish using a Julia Child recipe. I've been intrigued and inspired by her ever since I saw the movie and last night, I was up late catching up on laundry and ironing and lo! There on PBS was an original episode of The French Chef! I was so excited I nearly burned a hole in the shirt I was ironing!

I had never actually seen Mrs. Child cook before. She was making omelets. Daria heard her distinctive tones from upstairs and came down to investigate and we watched it together. By the time she had finished the first omelet I turned to Daria and said, "Let's try that right this very minute". Daria's more sensible mind prevailed, however, and she merely rolled her eyes at me and went back upstairs, fresh, hot cuppa in hand.

I was a wee bit disappointed at first. I muttered reproachfully, "Even I know how to make an omelet." HA! Famous last words, my friends, famous last words.

Mrs. Child (I cannot bring myself to call her Julia) first brought me up short by declaring that an omelet only takes 20 seconds to make. WHA-AAA-AT???!!! That made me shut right up. And she proceeded to demonstrate.

Two or three eggs, cracked in a bowl ("don't worry if some shell gets in, it will float to the bottom and most likely not slide into the pan"--this is my kind of gal).

A little water, about a teaspoon.

Whichever dry ingredients you like.

Slosh it all up with two chopsticks! You can, of course, use a whisk if you like but Mrs. Child prefers chopsticks. Interesting...

The pan must be hot so set it on the highest setting. This sent a bolt of fear through my and eggs and high heat do NOT get along! This just couldn't be!

A healthy tablespoon of butter (and no one, except Meryl Streep, says butter like Julia Child, have you noticed that? It rolls off her tongue like a lover's name) into the pan...

And just before it turns brown (which is, like, instantly) dump the beaten eggs into the hot pan.

Now. *This is where the magic began.*

Let the eggs sit in the bottom of the pan for a moment, then shake the pan. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Shake it around flat but in a circular motion so the eggs swirl all over the place. Deardeardeardeardear...

Then...heavens...slightly tip the pan away from you and flip lightly with small, sharp jerks toward you. This (in theory) folds the eggs over onto themselves into a handy dandy tidy little pocket of omelet. Oh dear oh dearohdearohdear...

Then turn the pan so your thumb is at the top of the handle and turn the omelet onto a plate, flipping it over so the better side shows, feeling free to manipulate it with a few forks to nudge it into shape, if necessary.

The whole thing did indeed take about 20 seconds and Daria and I stood there open mouthed in amazement. Immediately, visions of spectacular breakfasts prepared in single-digit minutes bombarded my mind. This was incredible! And then I realized Mrs. Child wouldn't be cooking in my kitchen, I would.

Say it with me, ACK.

Mrs. Child did it about 18 more times, each time with the same child-like glee and enthusiasm she showed the first time. She demonstrated how to practice swirling and flipping the eggs with a pan full of beans (I commented to Daria that I would be picking beans out of all my drip pans if I tried that trick) and then tossed the beans into the garbage with a saucy grin and a "voila!" She burned the butter for one omelet and had to toss it out and start again. She burned her fingers on a pan she took out of the oven. She insulted her mother-in-law, saying she would give her a chicken liver omelet, "that will take care of her good" and then sheepishly admitted she had no mother-in-law. She stumbled over her words, dropped things, laughed at herself and was so real and human and wonderful!

So, this morning, first thing after dropping Redheaded Snippet off to school (and before there were any witnesses), I grabbed my non-stick pan, two chopsticks and the remaining three eggs in the fridge. What was the worst that could happen? Actually I stopped that train of thought before it got out of the station, I've learned not to ask that question in the kitchen.

Deep breath. Pan set on high heat, eggs crack'd, tsp water, smidge of thyme, basil, salt and pepper, generous pat of butter in pan (EEK nearly browning), pour, sizzle, pleading eyes to the heavens, swirlswirlswirl, jerk jerk okay must have confidence FLIP FLIP FLIP, jiggle (oh dear I don't recall Mrs. Child jiggling), weak flip once more, thumb on handle, WHERE'S THE PLATEohyes right there, sliiiiiiiide and one more feeble flip and...excuse me there's no avoiding it--voila!

I couldn't find my camera or I would have definitely taken a photo once I'd started breathing again. Because there, steaming on the plate in my kitchen, was a French omelet that looked just like the one Mrs. Child had cooked on tv last night! I was flabbergasted. I quickly sprinkled some cheese on top, finished preparing my tea and sat down to investigate.

Unbelievable. I had never had an omelet like that before. Soft, fluffy, light, melting in my mouth. And it literally took only moments. What on earth had we been passing as "omelets" in this house before this? Leathery, rubbery wads of overcooked egg, that's what! It was a revelation!

So, I really need to get that cookbook! And a copy of all the episodes of The French Chef wouldn't hurt either. Of course, I plan to make the children watch them with me. It is my rather new-found belief that children should graduate from high school knowing how to cook for themselves. Interestingly, Man-Cub actually has a natural interest in cooking that Redheaded Snippet completely lacks. She can cook, but doesn't particularly like to. Man-Cub, on the other hand, despite his initial concerns that boys shouldn't be interested in cookery (we set him right straight on that one, believe you me, "what will you do if you have no wife to cook for you (and with that attitude you may very well not)"), has started creeping up next to me asking to help, asking what I'm making, what's in it, what is that deliciousness he smells. I smell Future Foodie. That may even help him find a wife! You're welcome, future daughter-in-law, whoever you are!

So, I'm off to strip and remake beds, launder linens and hang them out to dry, if the weather holds out. I have not been able to use my clothes line much at all in the last month. We seem to be alternating between torrential rains and saturating humidity around here, both of which make line-drying quite difficult.

I'm also compiling a recipe/menu database for myself to further streamline my meal planning and Mrs. (Councilor)Nugent is coming over this week to help me organize things like the pantry and bathroom closet! It's pathetic how flat-out excited we both are about this event! Squee!

More on the database and organizing later! I have to wake up a very cranky 8-year-old as part of our Rising Early For School Conditioning.

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