Thursday, November 17, 2011

24 Hours with Julie and Julia, and Thoughts on Omnivorous Books


Last weekend, Logan and I made the trek to his hometown, a city that's considered big by Saskatchewan's standards, just under 10,000 people.  We made the journey armed with a big grocery bag full of food, stuff like soy milk and broccoli, since the fridge at Logan's parents house tends to be unpredictable, and we're crazy vegan people who love to eat.

Driving Saskatchewan's highways is always a profound and lovely experience, be it mid-winter or the peak of summer.  The panoramic view is a vast, open prairie with the occasional brush or smattering of trees, and you can see for miles and miles and miles (we go by kilometers here but that doesn't have the same ring to it).  People come visit from Ontario or British Columbia and lament the lack of trees and hills, saying that it's boring, but I revel in it.  It's a never-ending canvas, with a hushed sort of beauty that whispers instead of shouts.  The wide open space feels like freedom.

But I digress.  Julie and Julia.  Before the drive to Logan's hometown, I went all kid-in-a-candy-store at the library, filling my basket mostly with cookbooks, with some food memoirs thrown in for good measure.  Have you guys ever read food-centric books that read like a novel?  Maybe I'm 10 years behind on that bandwagon, but it's my new favorite type of book.  Julie and Julia is one such book, which you've all probably read or seen - again, I'm slow to these things.  But no matter.

There I was, sitting on a sunken couch, the air a mixed bag of scents from various animals like fish, a turtle, several cats and dogs, mixed with a perfumey air freshener and a touch of auto shop (Logan's dad is an auto mechanic).  I was pleasantly bored and waiting for the pizza dough to rise, so I decided to pull out a book from my library goodie bag and read until someone came home.  Logan was off digging through boxes of old childhood remnants, leaving me to my own devices, so thus I began my reading adventure.

And even when Logan's mom was home for a brief moment before rushing out the door to do a tow-truck job some two hours out of town, and even as Logan took the responsibility of Pizza Creator, and later played Soul Calibur with his brother on a huge TV screen with the volume blared, and the next day while he fixed up his car and mine, I devoured the book.  In retrospect, it's clear to me that Logan is awesome for letting me have my own little 24-hour life vacation.  And for changing my tires.  I just didn't want to put the book down.

I liked Julie immediately, even in the times when her writing grew a tad self-absorbed - she's a real person, complete with despair, doubt, and dedication.  No really, I wasn't just going for the triple alliteration.  She's the kind of gal who tells it to you straight, and if something sucks, she says so.  Sometimes she's this crazy lady practicing crepe-flipping with beans on her front lawn, other times she's the lady everyone wants to visit at suppertime, just about as often as she's the lady people avoid at suppertime.

As she cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, depicting gruesome tales of hacking bones to get out the marrow inside, killing lobsters, and the ultimate horror of aspic (think homemade gelatin), I mostly just felt really glad I'm vegan.  And I'm pretty sure that if I was a meat-eater, this book probably would have disturbed me into vegetarianism.

A few years ago, I might have struggled with reading anything very much the opposite of veganism, just like I used to shun blogs that featured meat.  I don't know what changed, but I find that there can be plenty of inspiration in all kinds of omnivorous meals (sometimes - other times, they're painfully boring and same-ish), and the recipes don't freak me out like they used to.  There's definitely an "ick" factor when I see a huge picture of a dead bird or piece of cow, or when I'm reading the graphic yet insightful words of Julie Powell, but sometimes I can find plenty of ideas on how to make the vegan food world a better place from reading omni books and cookbooks.

I'd really like to know your opinions on the matter - do you peruse omnivorous cookbooks just as readily as vegan ones?  Don't get me wrong, I passionately love vegan cookbooks and have an ever-growing collection of them, and there are so many out there these days.  Still, I don't rely only on them and I love grabbing a random assortment of cookbooks from the library, everything from entertaining to cakes to salads.  Where do you draw cooking inspiration from?  Does it weird you out to read meat-filled cookbooks?

9 comments:

  1. I don't really look at meat filled cookbooks as much as I need to . They just leave a weird ick feeling after I have looked over them.

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  2. Interesting thoughts! I saw Julie and Julia, rather than reading the book so actually seeing her make aspic (ugh!) and stuff a chicken was a bit more of a turn-off than reading it might have been. That said, I thought it was a cute movie.
    I work in a bookstore receiving inventory so anytime a cookbook passes through my hands, I take some time to look through it. I've even found some intriguing vegan sides in grilling books but for the most part I don't enjoy looking at pictures of meat. I flip through pretty quickly, there.

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  3. I do the same thing with big photos of meat - just keep on movin'! There has to be some really compelling title that suggests a great marinade or something for me to linger longer than a second. I think it's sweet that you work at a bookstore! And Ashley, I hear you on the ick feeling...I definitely still get that, but not to the degree I used to.

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  4. I like omnivorous cookbooks, as long as they're not too meat-centric or vegan-unfriendly. I've been vegan for so long that I read the recipes as they would be adapted...chicken is tofu or seitan, butter is Earth Balance, so on. I like to check out non-vegan cookbooks and try some of the recipes.

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  5. I love book reviews! _Julie and Julia_ was kind of the nail in the coffin of me+French food...the tribute of a pound of butter at the end pretty much says it all. Plus the meaty gruesomeness, which indeed was toned down considerably in the movie version. The author is apparently now working as a butcher in Italy, so obviously it didn't have that effect on her.

    Re the omni cookbooks, for my first few years of veganism, I couldn't stand reading them, looking at the pictures, etc.; they disgusted me and made me sad. Then I got better at working with vegan meat-alternatives, and my attitude changed. Now I buy all kinds of omni cookbooks and, like Erin, most of the time my brain just automatically goes into conversion mode, translating "chicken" into "soy curls" or "tofu", etc., and veganizing omni recipes is an appealing challenge for me.

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  6. A butcher in Italy, eh? I'm really not too surprised.

    And what you guys said about your brain "converting" when you're looking at a meat recipe, it's true, I do the same thing all the time. Zoa, I couldn't have said it better about not being able to stand omni cookbooks as a new vegan. I find now it's an appealing challenge too because it could lead to some amazing vegan meal that you can share with the world!

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  7. It really depends, I can watch cooking shows and I'm not thinking about the animal products, I'm thinking about how I can veganise the recipe and the same for cookbooks but I don't buy very many omni cookbooks as I prefer to support vegan cookbook authors instead

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  8. Good call on supporting vegan authors, Mandee! I've bought all my old non-vegan cookbooks from book sales where they're like $2 a piece, otherwise I'd have a hard time justifying it too. That, or I've been given them for one reason or another.

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  9. I am not a vegetarian or vegan but I read a lot of veggie cookbooks, etc. and make a lot of veggie recipes. I just love anything to do with cooking :-)

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