Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (Hardcover)

I liked the book. It was engaging, entertaining and just how I imagined it would be.

I must mention here that I tend to get influenced by reviews of the books I read. Sometimes I read reviews before I read the book and sometimes as am reading the book.

I understand that reviews are meant to influence your take on the book and let you judge if you want to read the book.

With Julie and Julia, I read a few reviews when I was 3/4th done with the book. I felt a tad let down. I mean, the reviews were spot on for the most part-Julie Powell seems to represent the quintessential New Yorker at least the one that I have been reading about (funnily enough as food writers or quasi food writers, such as Phoebe Damrosch or Elizabeth Gilbert or the Perfect Manhattan authors)-neurotic, edgy, irritable, quirkily funny, self-loathing, ivy leaguer, articulate when you don't expect it and more importantly gifted with the uncanny ability to convert their life's sagas into a moderately well-selling book, with a possible shot at hollywood-dom.

The reviews also correctly pointed out Powell is unnecessarily elucidative on her friends' supposedly prurient sex lives, attention which have been diverted to her interpretation of Julia Child's recipes.

I would agree with all of them. Julie Powell is a 20-going on 30 something with a dead end job at a govt. agency who is at pains to reconcile with her sub-optimal life when she chances upon a idea-cook all of Julia Child's recipes from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking tome.

She sets upon with great gusto and starts up a blog to chronicle her advances. This when blogging was a still unheard of phenomenon in the cyber-world. As is the case with such projects, the blog quickly garners a fan following. It even gets to a point where her bleaders (blog readers, her portmanteau, not mine) send her donations to keep her project going-after all, cooking the recipes that require butter, choiciest pieces of meat and wine does require some bolstering of the secretary income.

The blog became a book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post script, coconut burfi

Right, so the coconut burfi experiment. I did get around to it. But in following or attempting to follow the recipe to the T, I managed to overdo the sugar syrup, such that it would've been just right for coconut candy, not burfi. But, I made the coconut burfi nevertheless. It tastes great, just the way mom's did, but is a lot more brittle.

That's two indian sweets in my repertoire-semiya payasam and coconut burfi (am still gonna claim it. Its the taste that matters...).

I shouldn't be too my age my mother was probably cooking for 20.

In which I've read one too many food porn

I'm so caught up with foodie literature. I've read so much, I've almost beguiled myself into thinking I too could write.

Who am I kidding? I've been cooking for less than 3 years now, and regularly for less than a year. I never thought highly of cooking as a kid, never a foodie when growing up. I thought yogurt rice was ultimate food nirvana. (I still do, actually).
And now, the most creative I get is when I compare blogs and pick the best recipe.
So, who am I kidding?

Having just read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have now worked myself up into a tizzy about making something local, authentic and season appropriate for the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.

Here's why I shouldn't bother:

1. Harvest festivals are seasonally specific.

2. I live in the US and its winter here.

3. I don't harvest. My family doesn't harvest. I come from a family where at least 3 generations have been removed from agriculture or farming and more importantly, harvesting (although the more astute amongst you readers would argue that one needn't be a farmer to celebrate the harvest festival).

4. I searched and searched, and still draw a blank on authentic,seasonal south Indian dishes for Pongal.

5. Let me qualify point 4. Us tamils do make chakkara pongal, ven pongal and may be some variant of payasam for the harvest festival. Chakkara pongal is jaggery infused cooked rice, ven pongal is a savory rice dish and payasam is a porridge of sorts. But I've been eating that atleast 20 pongal festivals. I'm sure there must've been other goodies lined up for the hard working farmers out there.

So am in a fix. Would Barbara Kingsolver approve if I made coconut barfi for Pongal? Granted, there is nothing local about it. I'll be using frozen shredded coconut for crying out loud. Yet, coconut is almost a staple in south Indian cuisine, and coconut barfi a well-liked sweet (back home anything sweet is called a sweet, not dessert, coz labeling it dessert relegates it to the very tail end of a meal, whereas as a sweet, you can consume it anytime, all the time).

But its still not seasonal, or local. Oh well, for all you know, BK is probably chowing down on some KFC chicken wings in her farm house right now.

At least I'm trying, you know. Again, I write this before my attempts at making the burfi.

For all you know, a couple hours later, I'd still be sprawled out on my couch, eating out of the ice cream box, watching Oprah and cursing BK for spawning all this new agey, eat right,do good philosophy in me.

The Super Sam ME