Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

bartonmugLast week, I made the momentous announcement in this column that I had finally finished the first draft of my PhD dissertation and turned it in, almost 50 years after I started graduate school at the University of North Carolina.

That was a good news-bad news story. The good news, of course, was that I got the (expletive) thing finished and saved my marriage. Jean told me thatr it was on shaky ground unless I finished it soon!

The bad news is that it has put me somewhat at loose ends and jeopardized my marriage once again. Jean says that my hanging about the house with little to do is driving her crazy.

Then we went to see “Julie and Julia” and it changed my life! The movie is about two real life characters: the world famous chef, Julia Childe and the author Julie Powell who in 2005 published a book about her year cooking every recipe in Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Powell’s book was titled Julie and Julie, just like the movie.

The movie switches back and forth between Julia’s life in Paris and other locales with her Foreign Service husband and Julie’s life in New York with her husband. Julia Child found herself at loose ends in Paris and decides to take cooking lessons at the world famous Cordon Bleu school – and the rest is history. Julie was finding her job as a secretary frustrating and boring and decided to embark on her year-long project and turn the experience it a book. It is a charming and thoroughly enjoyable movie.

One of the key series of scenes in the movie involved the preparation of a scrumptious Boeuf Bourguignon. My mouth watered like nobody’s business. While driving home it struck me! I would solve my loose ends problem by cooking boeuf bourguignon for a small series of dinner parties!

The minute I got home, I pulled out our copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and turned directly to Saute de Boeuf a la Bourguignon (or Beef Saute with Red Wine, mushrooms, Bacon, and Onions – page 326). It looked eminently doable and really scrumptious. I am planning to make my first one sometime next week.

While I was thumbing through the book, Jean had a brilliant idea. Why not cook my way through all of the Boeuf recipes. That way, I could probably stay out of her hair for months. And I bet the book will sell more than my dissertation will.

I thumbed through the meat chapter. There were Tournedos Sautés Aux Champignons, Tournedos Sautés Chasseur, Steak Au Poivre, Biftek Hache A La Lyonnaise, Bifteck Hache (Hamburger) Piece de Bœuf Braisee, Piece de Bœuf a la Cuillere, Carbonnades A La Flamande to name a few. I thought I was in heaven.

So there it is. If any of you would like to drop insome afternoon, I will treat you to a glass of wine and a taste treat. Bon Apetit!