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?