Vegetarian Collard Green Gumbo

In the spirit of food writing, since I’ve just read the Julia Child book and all that, I thought I’d share what I’ve been eating this weekend, aside from pears and grapes, of course. I heard about a recipe for collard green soup that was making the rounds. Because I’m a vegetarian I didn’t want to make it the way it was told to me. Because I’m lazy I didn’t bother to look up a vegetarian recipe or deliberately search out proper ingredients. This is what I did.

While in the grocery store, I happened to noticed a bag of frozen collard greens, and I remembered the collard green soup deal. Next to the collard greens was a bag of frozen gumbo vegetables. I bought both. I didn’t think what I was going to do with them beyond that, but at home I dumped them into the crock pot and started looking for things to add. I put in water and vegetable bullion cubes. I added a can of hoppin’ john and a can of Rotel. I walked into the other room and forgot about it for about six or eight hours. That’s all.

The taste is surprisingly good. I don’t really care for the texture of the frozen vegetables, but goodness knows I wasn’t going to chop all of that. Still, chopping your own vegetables would probably yield much nicer results. All in all, though, I’m enjoying this. Collards are good food.

My Life in France by Julia Child

This book is just delightful. I started listening to My Life in France a few months ago. I got interrupted with pressing concerns like grading papers, and then I didn’t get back to it because I was trying to finish other books for our book club. I came back to it today and listened to the end. My verdict is that if a vegetarian without a single interest in butter roasted chickens can enthuse over a book obsessed with them, it’s likely most anyone can. I loved it.

I have not yet seen Julie and Julia, nor have I read the book it is based on. I didn’t go see the movie because I wanted to read the book first. I didn’t read the book because I wanted to read this one first. I didn’t read this one because I had already paid to download it to my iPod, and I needed the iPod for other things…It’s complicated. All that is to say I hope “the other Julia book” lives up to this one.

This is light reading, but it isn’t escapist or overly sentimental. I call it light only because it didn’t challenge me to think too much. At the same time, though, I did learn from it…not enough to attempt baking my own French bread, but enough to want to read more about French culinary habits.

What we get here is the story of a woman who worked hard her whole life in the service of her art, a woman who had a passion for great food as well as a passion for learning as much as possible about how to make great food. We get her foibles, her setbacks, her disappointments as well as her successes.

Her story of how she could not cook at all when she first got married and how when she set out to learn to cook, she set out to become a gourmet rather than just a passable housewife is so inspiring. Mainly, though, I think this is a story of a woman who understood the gift she’d been given in having the opportunity to absorb another culture. When she and her husband moved to France, Julia Child became determined to learn to cook, not just anything, but the particular meal she enjoyed so much upon first arriving.

This is also a book about lost the artisans of the contemporary, industrialized world. We are so often removed from our food and from the process of producing it. Even when we do cook our own meals, we don’t have access to the freshest ingredients or the most ideal kitchen tools. Nor do we have the time in our busy lives to devote a whole day to a single sauce or whatever it is you have to do in order to create a life changing meal, something that isn’t just sustenance but art.

The real treasure that is Julia Child in this book comes in the fact that she knows the difference in food as sustenance and food as art the first time she tastes art, and from that moment on she devotes everything in herself to learning how to create and recreate the experience over and over and over.

I never was tempted to try the ham puffs or in any way become unvegetarian over this book, but I was tempted by the experiences described. I want to cook something that makes me feel as good as Julia’s cooking made her feel. It wouldn’t hurt if I could speak French while I did it.

The Fruit Window

IMG_0310

The screen on my kitchen window blew away during Katrina, and I’m embarrassed to say that though it sometimes occurs to me to buy a new one, I never have quite gotten around to it. This morning I was happy to have no screen. When I started playing with my food by arranging it for a photo shoot, I wanted something prettier than my kitchen as background. I looked around wondering if I should make a nice stack of tea towels or something to imply that I care more about appearances in my house than might strictly be true. Suddenly I realized I was looking out the window and that the outdoors made the best background of all.

So I put the fruit in the window. I was happy with the results. Maybe I’ll keep a pear there more often. There’s something homey about it, like a pie cooling in the windowsill of your grandmother’s kitchen. Just don’t expect a pie from me any time soon. I made a pie already this year.

IMG_0339