Katie’s Musings: Our Daily Bread
November 5 2019
There’s a short list of movies I could (and have) watch over and over again and never tire of. Comforting movies, always there for you, to entertain and warm you, like an old friend. For me, Julie & Julia is one of those movies, and I always watch it in the fall and winter.
Based off of a book, it tells parallel stories of Julie Powell, a New Yorker writer stuck working in an office that dealt with the aftereffects of 9/11, and Julia Child, cooking legend and tall-lady icon. (Meryl Streep plays the latter, and due to tall-actress solidarity, that always annoyed me – of course Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep, but Julia Child was well over 6’ tall at a time when that was way less common than it is now, and in many of the scenes, the tall shoes and camera tricks they used to achieve the visual were very obvious. So many tall actresses who would have loved that opportunity… but I digress.).
Julie Powell feels like her life is spinning out of control, and in an effort to center it, she takes on the project of cooking and baking her way through the entirety of Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And at the same time, the movie covers how Julia Child found herself and her calling through cooking at a time when she wasn’t sure what to do with herself and how to spend her life.
In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Julie Powell comes home after a particularly harrowing work day and makes a chocolate cream pie. She tells her husband, “You know what I love about cooking? I love that on a day when nothing is sure – and when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING – you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk… it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”
Ain’t that the truth? In a world where things seem unsure and news is fake and social media is filled with anger and uncertainty, there is great comfort to be had in the formulaic nature of cooking and baking. In a chaotic world filled with problems and persecution that seems to be without resolution, cooking and baking produces an end result. A+B+bake at 350 = C, and if you’re careful, that C is usually something particularly delicious. It might not turn out perfect… but like most things, the perfect isn’t the point. The doing is the point, the steadiness is the point, the surety of knowing that egg yolks will thicken, and that yeast will make the dough rise, and that either melted cheese or ice cream will make everything taste better and cover any multitude of baking sins anyway, and that if you give a person a cookie it will make their day a little bit better… that’s the point.
I was thinking about that this week, as I was trying my hand at french macarons: beating the egg whites, letting them get frothy before adding a little sugar at a time, and then continually beating them until stiff peaks formed, creating the very first perfect, shiny meringue I’ve ever succeeded at…. gently and swiftly folding in the almond flour and powdered sugar and cinnamon, which I’d sifted together, allowing it to fall like snow into the mixing bowl… And I thought about it as I kneaded some bread dough I started this morning, folding the sticky mass of it and leaving it to rise for an hour. Which it totally will, because baking is magic but also reliable if you take your time and focus on what you’re doing. I know… I KNOW… my daily bread will be alright.
Peace and comfort to you all as we head into this holiday season.
I pray you find moments of calm and heaps of joy in the journey.