Rescued by Jacques and Julia


“You can leave out the butter if you want – but you’ll be sorry.”

A series of boringly complicated events burst upon me, and I was deeply grateful that Jacques and Julia were there, on screen, chipping off each other, the ideal father and mother, sparring good-naturedly, exploring variations, creating “architectural cooking,” diving into the new way of doing a turkey.

What kind of wine would be served with this? asks Julia – and Jacques responds “a lot.”

Grateful even to see this travesty of a long-dead hero in my lifetime, once more chivying a reluctant Jacques into showing us his technique for parsing a turkey

I am thrown back to the early days once again, listening to this galumpfing ex spy describing omelet, or growing redcurrants so that I might brush the bottom of the strawberry tart with their jelly, preventing it from going soggy.  Watching in the dark, cold farmstead, learning that one might make idiosyncratic charcuterie, or stunning sourdough. Learning that cooking is in fact a most sacred act, the primary way we recognize our core identification, the “us and them” that comes without violence. Without the bullying inherent in “your father likes it done this way.”

The world opened, the goat milk became goat ice cream, the yearly pig became celestial ham and bacon.  We have not forgotten, only set aside some parts of that.

The tall, gasping woman flirts deeply with the plump young man demonstrating his sourdough method, flirts until he flirts back, bats her eyelashes though she can no longer comb her own hair, shows us all how to age – not gracefully but fiercely, plunging into each new experience as we did at 8.

This is the root of a powerful resistance, of preferring no butter to fake “butter,” of insisting on foregoing lingonberries is there is no sugar to accompany them, part of how we can honor the pig in its enormous contributions to our table, let the chickens roam and cluck as they eat the grasshoppers, never waste an egg (or a thigh), Begin, maybe, to come closer to understanding what those first generations of people had to learn and teach, so that we can be here now.

If the best we can do is strangle pelicans, we may be required to start again at the beginning.