Monday, September 7, 2009

Achievement on a Holiday Weekend

The day's barbeque had been eaten and enjoyed, and dessert had been served (fruit tart for the grownups; cookie pie topped with M&Ms and toasted marshmallows -- courtesy of my Mom -- for the niece and nephew, although everyone else sneaked a sliver, too).

My sports-obsessed nephew had been tossing a football around all afternoon with various family members, when I -- known as the least likely football player of the group -- picked up the pigskin and asked him to show me to throw a spiral.

(Remember, it's on my list? Yeah, I'd forgotten, too.)

When he heard it had been a goal of mine, he caught my eye, not believing what he'd heard, and we headed into the yard.

My nephew's normal 13-year-old impatience gave way to a forthright, gentle coaching. Laughably, he stood the same distance he uses when throwing to his five-years-younger sister (it's been a looooong time since I'd thrown anything).

We tossed the ball back and forth as he commented on form (follow through with throwing arm down and across body, other arm flows back in same direction to help body twist for power), and made suggestions for a variety of changes and subtle adjustments.

Eventually, I threw one!

Not far, and not easily duplicated, but we even had a witness: My niece, as cheerleader, stood nearby and let out a squeal when it finally happened.

It was a relaxing, and unexpectedly fun and satisfying way to end the day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Julia Child Dinner

Spent Friday night ushering in the long Labor Day weekend with 4 girlfriends who gathered for a Julia Child-inspired dinner at the house of a friend who is a talented cook.

The hostess had prepared chicken with a white wine and mushroom sauce and a smidgen of cream. Sliced potatoes roasted in the oven with Swiss cheese and cream. Tangy ratatouille to cut the richness of the rest of the dishes.

Others had brought appetizers, wine and breads to round out the evening.

After work, I'd rushed home to finish my contribution -- a tarte tatin for dessert. While it took me 35 minutes to slice into 1/8-inch thicknesses the 9 or 10 apples I'd peeled and cored, it was a very zen experience. Counting each slice until I had eight kept me focused on maintaining even slices.

It hadn't caramelized, as Julia had predicted. (But since this was the only dessert on the menu, I opted not to follow the fix of smothering it with confectioner's sugar and broiling it, which seemed a recipe for disaster given my oven's quirky nature.) The resulting sweet and buttery, cinnamon-scented apples were delicious nonetheless.

And in the end, surrounded by apple peels and droplets of juice scattered everywhere in my kitchen, I felt I'd achieved something -- some small aspect of French cooking. I vowed to make more and I could see why Julie Powell set the goal of cooking every recipe in the book as goal.

The comfort from seeing a pile of ingredients come together into something that's satisfying and true can't be beat.

As one of my friends said when raising a toast at the start of our shared meal, Bon Appetit!