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I Will Have My Library
I ask for very little during the holiday season, which is why I am posting this before Christmas Eve, so that you can also stake out your territory as did the father of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride And Prejudice. The restrained and brilliant Fay Weldon production of Jane Austen’s novel remains my favorite version. This clip from the TV series is just one of the many marvelous scenes from the 1980 BBC production, long overlooked in favor of the flashier and somewhat inaccurate versions produced in 1995 and 2005. I completely empathize with Mr. Bennet, a genteel but absent parent. When harassed by wife and daughters, he states unequivocally, “I will have my library to myself!”
Planning For Peace And Quiet
As you can see from my previous posts (2020 certainly a year for the trashcan, 2019 a film I rewatch to this day), on the week between Christmas and New Years Eve, my one requirement is that in the evenings, I be left alone on a couch with a non mind-bending book and film. This tradition stemmed from the absolute holiday chaos in the shop, where we shipped out orders and took care of customer requests for hard-to-find ingredients and equipment for their end-of-the-year festivities. It was always the exhilarating and exhausting finale of every year. We earned our sofa time.
This year’s film perfect for couch-viewing, which requires no introspection on your part, is a funny and quirky comedy about a Latina who wants to make sushi instead of tacos. And she has some really cool sushi inventions using her culinary heritage. It was filmed in 2014 with Oakland, California as the background. East Side Sushi was film director Anthony Lucero’s first try at creating a comedic drama. He had been a director of documentaries and, unbeknownst to me, a creator of some of the special effects in the Star Wars films. It might not be too much to ask others in your home to order you some takeout sushi while you watch.
A Good Re Read
When La Cuisine was an official company with a somewhat minuscule board of directors, our Chairwoman, Tristi Lowther, was the most inveterate reader and witty writer. In our newsletter, “A La Carte”, she wrote delightful reviews of food-related books, including this diverting 2012 piece about a biography of Julia Child written by Bob Spitz. Since I sometimes read books and watch films that I already know will be relaxing, this interesting yet not fawning biography is a keeper.
“Julia Child was 92 when she ‘slipped off the raft’ (her own evocative phrase), thus missing out on the celebration of her centennial this year. She was very conscious of her place in the culinary firmament, however, and would have been delighted, but not surprised, to observe that her centennial had not gone unnoticed. Amongst the production of books and videos, including two books about her cats (!), is a marvelous biography called Dearie by Bob Spitz. Over 500 pages, it befits the long, eventful life of such an outsized personality. ‘Outsized’ is also descriptive of a woman who attained her full height of 6’3” early in life. Indeed, Julia McWilliams was never a tiny tot; towering terror was more like it. A natural ringleader, she taught all the kiddies in her affluent ‘hood of Pasadena to smoke and drink, organized expeditions to throw rocks at cars, and was shockingly mean to her younger sister.
“Poor Julia… she was smart, bored, and ‘always hungry’ (and that is a direct quote). She needed a focus, this large girl who wrote in her diary that she felt destined for something special, but she didn’t find it at boarding school or at Smith College (lots of partying, not a lot of studying). She did eventually find her way to Washington, DC and the OSS. As a senior civilian intelligence officer, she was an official ‘keeper of secrets.’ Sent to Ceylon, she met Paul Child, a fellow officer, and the life she felt she was destined to lead began. Paul, her perfect mate, was the catalyst. He was driven, difficult, sophisticated, and he loved fine food and wine. He developed Julia’s palate, but, as we all know, once they were posted to Paris at the end of the war she had her epiphany, and we are the beneficiaries.
“Dearie (Julia’s name for almost everyone) of course describes the disasters and difficulties involved in the long road to publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, an acknowledged masterpiece. Yet her life was so much more, and Spitz is particularly fine in describing the history and fine tuning of her role as a television chef, one of the first, and one of the most famous. She was such a natural when she started at PBS in Boston (where she and her producers really invented the form), that her almost immediate popularity and name recognition seemed inevitable and easy. Spitz, however, details the enormous innovation and incredible hard work of everyone involved in bringing about this result. Paul was an integral part of the team, and invaluable to Julia, particularly at the beginning of her television career.
“Throughout her life she used her fame to promote a love of cooking, of natural ingredients, of American chefs, particularly women, of California wines, and of French food. She was an ambassador from her beloved United States to her beloved France, and vice versa. It was a role she cherished, and for which she was awarded the ‘Legion d’Honneur.’ And she remained accessible. Her number was listed in the phone book in Cambridge, and worried cooks thought nothing of calling her at all hours to ask how long to cook the turkey and at what temperature, and what about carving, and she answered each and every query! Imagine trying to call Gordon Ramsay with a similar set of questions.”
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.