Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012.08.15 Bon Appetit??

Bon appetit was not something I ever said to my four children. I wouldn’t have dared. I’m no Julia Child, not even close, but I do have a couple of connections with her that I count: Julia who today would be 100 years old, graduated from Smith College as did I several yeas after Julia, and she openly loved McDonald’s french fries. Me too. Also Julia didn’t cook till she was 40; neither did I but for different reasons. Mine weren’t French.

As I approached 40 my life blew up in the way midlife lives sometimes do.  My husband and I separated and I moved into a condo with two teenage sons and an alley for a kitchen.  Most people at times like this would panic about marriage repair, divorce, loneliness, insanity, getting a job that actually came with a pay check, or despair. But I panicked about cooking.

Not that I ever had been a good cook. I made meals you couldn’t call cooking. My husband and I loved to eat and drink wine but we weren’t gourmands. Fortunately, because my first Thanksgiving turkey literally blew up, so dry it fell away from its carcass. My in-laws were gracious as they poured gravy (heated and from a can) all over the dried beast. The brownie mix worked out well at least.

But now I didn’t have the structure of marriage with flattering lies and money to go out for dinner. In one swift neurotic ego-crushing moment I imagined I HAD to be a good cook.

It was about this time that I fell in love.  There was a man involved but the true object of my affection was a sweet, plump insouciant little cook called Crockpot.  I named her Burnt Umber (BU for short) after one of my children’s crayon colors and filled her with one of four meals (beef stew, pork chops soaked in mushroom soup, chicken breasts soaked in chicken noodle soup, or some form of swiss steak smothered in French onion soup mix.)  Even the all-embracing Julia would cringe at my repertoire, but I was thrilled and fell headlong in love with a machine that cookec for me.

My mother didn’t like to cook either although she enjoyed a brief foray into French cuisine in her late middle life. Still, it wasn’t her thing.  Her signature meal for us as kids was English muffins slathered with peanut butter and jelly.  We weren’t starved just palate-neglected.

Julia Child was more than a great cook; she was a gracious woman full of chutzpah and good heart with a voice you’d never forget, sort of a throaty blend of the Marlboro Man and Truman Capote. I’m sure she would have belly laughed about my Crockpot love affair and called me “dearie” anyway.

All of us somehow survived, Julia went on to be famous and spread the word about fun cooking. I went on to marry a man who had a bigger Crockpot than BU and loved to cook.

My Crockpot went to the church rummage sale to save someone else’s life. I will never forget my Crockpot; she not only cooked but taught me to simmer and trust.