Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Butter to the bread
Saturday was a busy day at Ragged Hand brewery, as the brewing crew, known locally as Dulcie and Aylwin, nimbly shuttled between the bottling plant and the labelling plant, dealing with their first two production batches. In truth, it must be stated that the bottling and labelling plants are about two feet apart in a small corner of the Raintree kitchen. Nonetheless they were as busy as bees in bringing forth their own nectar. The Oppression Bitter had finished its two-week carbonation stint in bottle. One was nervously cracked (there are so many things one can worry about in brewing that make it a perfect hobby for a hypochondriac) with a satisfying exhalation indicating that, indeed, carbonation had been successful. The taste was pleasingly similar to that of an English bitter and, if I had been offered the same in a boozer, I would not have been disappointed. The second batch, a weightier, hoppier double IPA style is now doing its stint in the bottle. A sneak preview from the residue in the bottling bucket was, frankly, of aphrodisiacal proportion. Maybe this brewing thing isn't that hard after all.
It is that time of year, with the sun all-too-quickly lowering in the west when it is once again to venture forth to the cinema to catch a moving picture show. We generally eschew those fancy megaplexes, where it is necessary to park about half a mile from the entrance and navigate one's way through pullulating crowds of disaffected youth, in favour of the homely, downtown familiarity of The Glen, Glen Ellyn's sole contribution to culture. It may well have the worst projection system, the creakiest seats and the stickiest floors, but it is welcoming and intimate, and one can park easily on Glen Ellyn's deserted streets, which are reminiscent of what Naperville once was before it was turned into an outdoor shopping mall. Is there some happy medium to be achieved between those extremes of commercial success and failure? What of it, The Glen lives on, and we enjoyed watching Julie and Julia there on Saturday night.
The film must rank as one of the most feel-good American films of recent vintage and beautifully void of vulgarity, special effects, loudness and all the other nastiness that commercial film makers seem to think are essential components of modern entertainment. It contains the stories set apart by decades of one iconic foodie (Julia) whose restless energy in her postwar life as the wife of a diplomat drove into cooking and a modern blogger (Julie) who is inspired by the former. Julia was driven to write a book that would teach American women how to cook French food, which was something of an unknown quantity back then. For all the abuse the English take from the Yanks regarding the quality of their cuisine, I am quite confident that American cuisine is just as bad, only in larger quantities. Tater-tot casserole anyone? Julia's part of the film maps out the legendary book's lengthy conception. Decades later, Julie takes on the challenge of repeating all the recipes in the book in 365 days and blogs about them setting up one of the many contrasts between life back then and now. As both an aspiring author and (occasional) blogger I found resonance with both characters. Although the characters are given about equal weight in the film, on an absolute scale of importance, Julia towers above Julie. Julie wonders, as I wonder, as should every blogger with any sense of self-appraisal wonder, if what she is doing really matters.
There is of course no such doubt about the importance of Julia's book. Of course, for most women today, it would do little more than feature as a piece of decoration carefully placed in the vast unused wasteland of their "gourmet" kitchen. For many, the inability to cook is worn as a badge of honour, as if the noble art is somehow beneath them, something that poor people have to do to survive. Dulcie should know form having to deal with them in the building of their nauseatingly excessive residences. Gordon Ramsay in one of the "F" word series includes the theme of getting women back in the kitchen; it received some stick for being chauvinistic. Fortunately, Dulcie knows, as Aylwin all-too-well appreciates, that a well-prepared meal ranks as the highest token of love. Pity the idiots, another Julie, that don't get it.