Friday, January 2, 2009

Cheese, Bread and Julia Child

Yummy cheese, photo from Zabar

Edward has good cheese karma; I have to start with that. He chose a lovely taleggio he had never tried to take to my mother's in October, and last night he came home from Central Market with this Alta Langa Cravanzina. It is from the Piedmont region of Italy and a lot like a brie, maybe a little earthier, maybe a little tangier...I don't know, it's hard to describe the difference. Very, very soft, very delicious.

From Zabar's in NYC: A delicate and lovely little round from the Italian Piedmonts; in the "paglia" family of cheeses, so named because they are aged on beds of straw (paglia = straw). Covered with a bloomy rind, the voluptuous paste is mild, creamy, buttery, and a little musty. Eat it quickly, otherwise it might run right off the table - not that something this good will be around for that long.

He also brought home a big, lovely pain de campagne, which was almost identical to the rustic bread, with a touch of rye, that I made from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook - still my best home baked bread effort.

My bread, also yummy

I may be thinking about matters of food and cooking more than usual (nahh), because I just finished Julia Child's memoir of her years in France, mostly Paris, (1948-54) and the trials and tribulations of cooking school, testing, writing and publishing her first cookbooks and the (accidental) beginning of her career as a TV chef. She and her husband didn't even have a television when she made her first TV appearances.

I love her absolute enjoyment of food, and the exacting detail that went into her preparation of her recipes - truly hundreds of hours of research and trials to perfect a single recipe that would be foolproof to American cooks and housewives of the 50s and 60s who knew nothing of French cooking but wanted to learn. And her sense of fun.

Unfortunately, I now want to buy most of her books, particularly From Julia Child's Kitchen, a cookbook that also includes comments and stories, my favorite kind. "Unfortunately", because I know most of these early books are full of recipes that I will NEVER make or eat, eel, tripe, brains, rabbits...crazy foods, foods that I wouldn't have considered cooking or eating even if I had not become a vegetarian and also just a lot of beef and chicken recipes and recipes heavy with absolutely perfected French sauces full of butter and cream. And now, even though the holidays are over, and I am ready to trim back on the cooking and eating and shed a few pounds, I am pretty sure that I will be researching the one or two Julia Child cookbooks that I simply must have.

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