2 years ago
Sunday, June 15, 2008
It all started with a chocolate souffle
When I brought "The Book" home with me one night after work, my wife said to me,
"You're not planning on doing anything crazy, are you?"
"Yes, I am," I said.
She didn't say anything. She just gave me that look that wives give their husbands when they're about to do something really dumb.
So, I guess I should start by explaining how I got here. It all started with a chocolate souffle. My wife and I decided that, rather than going out for an expensive dinner at a restaurant for Valentine's Day, we'd cook each other a special dinner instead. She'd be in charge of the main course, and I'd make dessert.
I decided that I was going to make a chocolate souffle. What's more romantic and dramatic than that? For the recipe, I decided to go straight to the source: Julia Child herself. So, I went to the bookstore and picked up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But, then something strange happened. When I brought MtAoFC home, I read the book all the way through. Cover to cover. I couldn't put it down. As I paged through, I imagined cooking (and eating) quiches, fricassees, tarts, gratins....
I thought, I wonder if it was possible to make everything in this book. It is possible ... and it's been done. In 2002, Julie Powell, a government employee living and working in NYC embarked on the ambitious Julie/Julia Project: she would cook every recipe in MtAoFC in one year. She made it, documenting her successes and failures on her blog. The blog begat a book, which begat a movie (coming soon to a theater near you).
While I enjoyed living vicariously through Julie's adventures in cooking, I was a little disappointed. Someone had already swam the proverbial English Channel of cooking. But then something wonderful happened. The Wall Street Journal ran this story by Lee Gomes about so-called, "cook-through" blogs: by people who pick a cookbook, commit to cooking every recipe in the book, and blog about the results. Lee's story introduced me to Carol, who's cooking her way through Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman's French Laundry Cookbook and blogging about it at The French Laundry at Home. I also met Ryan, who's taking on Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating and giving all of the gory details at Nose to Tail at Home.
But what inspired me most was that there's a small community of foodies climbing together up the culinary Mount Everest that is The Gourmet Cookbook. With Teena, Melissa, and Kevin blazing a trail before me, I figued that I, too, could cook the 1000-plus recipes in The Book.
So, without further ado, here I go....