Capers, deprivation and working it like Julia Child


Did you read Julie & Julia? I did, and I enjoyed much of it heartily. Not precisely for the book itself, which is a perfect example of marvelous voice and great story minus adequate time and editing, but for the way it brings to vivid, crazy-passionate life the joy of throwing yourself madly into what you do.

If you are within arms' reach of 50, you might remember Julia Child that way, too, the wild, delightful, not-quite-right lady who dug in and made do and generally got down with her food as an extension of herself. Julia was her food, and her food was Julia, and it was all infused with a kind of messy, art-infused passion you just don't see in a Rachael Ray (who has energy, but fueled by the sell) or a Martha (who has passion, but confined by control) or a Giada (who has the sex-ay, but is, unlike dear Julia, gloriously unhampered by the plainness that plague mere mortals). Big, wild, plain-faced Julia burst through the screen and grabbed your heart because she was all about life, and just used that food as a vehicle to deliver the goods. (Also, she was funny, which goes a long way towards making things work.)

What's more, while Julia brought fine, French cooking to a land whose food at that time was neither, one got the sense that she'd do the same kind of I-love-life cartwheels cooking up a burger or a baked potato as she would any of the fancier items in her repertoire. My own memory is shot (thank you, 1980s!), but YouTube continues to fill in the gaps and offer sound backup to my theses, as in this clip where Julia waxes rhapsodic about roasters with a lineup of actual, dead chickens. Good lord, no wonder a nation was transfixed by her! Even an idiot girl of 10 who had to be tricked into eating Dover sole by being told it was tuna fish in a different shape could dig that fusion of Method truth and vaudevillian showmanship.

I have been thinking inordinately about food and joy and showmanship of late because finally, and really, given my diagnosis and my age and how ill I fare when my fare is less than fair, it probably is final, I am back on the diet I use to manage my Crohn's disease, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. As I've said before, it's not that it's the worst diet in the world, and I'm happy I was dealt the Crohn's card instead* of something that wasn't so easily managed by diet, lifestyle choice and exercise. It's just that...

Well, French fries. And rye toast. And Coca-Cola. And chocolate, especially those Fannie May dark chocolate creams.

It's like meeting three awesome friends in the first grade that you spend an entire lifetime goofing off and carousing with, and while, yeah, maybe some mornings after you wonder if you shouldn't spend quite so much time with them, you still wouldn't want to tell them that you'd come to a point in your life where the relationship wasn't serving you, that you'd grown apart and that while it wasn't them, it was you, you still needed them to understand that you could never, ever hang out ever again. Especially since, given their popularity among throngs of total strangers, you were likely to run into them for the rest of your lives on a regular basis. Awk-ward!

I was talking this over yesterday with my friend, Lucy Rosset, a.k.a. Lucy of Lucy's Kitchen Shop, where many of us SCD-ers buy our SCD-legal supplies. I told her about my backsliding and my shame and how yeah, I knew pizza was a hoodlum but he was so hawt, I couldn't resist. And Lucy agreed, but then she turned the conversation toward cool stuff we could eat. And all of a sudden, dontcha know, we were talking smoked salmon bites and salade Nicoise and dolled-up sandwiches with bacon and avocado and all manner of other delicious "legals" nestled together in the same small space of almond or cashew toast and damned if I wasn't fired up to get all Julia Child on my food, to love up what I had, the gizzards and ends and weird parts, instead of bemoaning what I couldn't. It was Lucy who got to the heart of it: we can't have everything, but we can put crazy attention and focus and creative thinking into what we can, and, in addition to making our food taste a whole lot better, exercising that creative muscle has a wide-ranging, beneficial effect on everything we put our minds to.

It's a nice kind of a practice, in these strange economic times, to focus on what's true and before me. It's a nice kind of meditation for an artist, to work with the materials she has, and to come up with something beautiful out of it. I have seen nothing less than magic worked with no more: fairy worlds from duct tape and plastic, empires from WordPress and persistence, re-written futures from collaboration and creativity.

We never have nothing. And what we can do with it?

Now that's really something...


*Dear Universe: Please feel free to not deal me additional cards. Thank you! Love and xxx, Colleen.

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