With the “Sex and the City” movie sequel scheduled for a May 2010 release and the third installment in the Bridget Jones saga not even in production yet, the most eagerly anticipated chick flick du jour is next month’s “Julie and Julia.”
The film is based on a book by a woman who made all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days.
A year ago at this time a similar prospect might have sounded overwhelming yet exciting to me. Not anymore. I’m fairly certain that between 4:45 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. last Friday alone I created at least 524 separate dishes with the hope that just one would appeal to my daughter for dinner. Labor of love took on a whole new meaning when, despite my best efforts, the winning meal was blueberries and a graham cracker.
To be sure, I used to really enjoy cooking. I adore my kitchen and, as an added bonus, it’s stocked with Williams-Sonoma’s greatest hits (courtesy of my bridal shower of yore), all of which makes cooking a pleasure. Before giving birth last August I relished preparing involved meals for my husband and me several nights a week. It was satisfying in a June Cleaver kind of way.
I remember sitting in the hospital with my sister shortly after she gave birth to my nephew nine-and-a-half years ago. I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, “You’re someone’s mother!”
She had tears in her eyes, too. “Yes, I’m a mom. Now I have to cook three times a day for the next 18 years.”
Ever since my daughter graduated from baby food to the real stuff, I’ve been experiencing the same kind of dread. More daunting than raising a happy, well-adjusted, non-serial killer child is the 19,710 meals I’m required to feed her before she can be shipped off to college. More, if you count snacks.
Watching the Food Network is no source of comfort. The Barefoot Contessa, Giada De Laurentiis, the Iron Chefs all make it look annoyingly easy. With their neat little bowls filled with ingredients perfectly pre-diced and sliced off-camera in advance by unseen producers or Keebler Elves. When the hosts do the chopping themselves on camera, I’m never fooled into thinking I’ll be able to do it as well as them and at the speed in which they do it. Even if I had a production assistant sharpening my knives after every meal, I’m sure the only difference when I minced garlic would be that my hands would look like the stump at the end of “The Giving Tree.” Thinking of what to make the baby that she’ll actually eat and then preparing it is time-consuming and not in any kind of fun way when the possibility of multiple rejections is high.
Then there’s the added pressure of trying to keep it organic. I look at my daughter like she’s a blank slate I have a responsibility to keep chemicals and processed food out of for as long as possible. But when I gave her organic spaghetti-o’s with soy meatballs she looked at me with horror like I was force-feeding her Drano. She has started removing the organic macaroni and cheese from her mouth and decisively dumping it on the floor. I swear she was laughing at me when I gave her a slice of gluten-free whole-grain bread with milled flax seed. There’s no doubt “Wonder Bread, please” will be her first request when she starts talking.
I no longer feel like June Cleaver but fear instead that my daughter might take a swipe at me with a cleaver if I don’t serve her something she actually wants to eat on the first try at her next meal.
At the same time I don’t want to deprive her of anything so that she overdoses on Cheetos the first chance she gets. Plus, I get so much pleasure from watching her experience new tastes. Like apple pie ice cream or a piece of pizza (from Costco, no less. Surprisingly delicious, by the way). Fortunately she loves fruit and vegetables, so that’s always a back-up plan when all other foods fail. I just know that while she hasn’t been able to confirm its existence yet, she’s dreaming of neon orange Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. And even though poor Julia Child would probably roll over in her grave at the thought, how much harm can one little Twinkie really do?
Regardless, I’ll definitely be among the throngs of women who see “Julie and Julia” when it opens Aug. 7. Voluntarily cooking 524 meals over the course of just one year? Child’s play.
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