My dear friend and temporary roommate Chelsea said something the other night that stuck with me.
She said, “My purpose of writing is to delight.”
She being a creative writer and I being more of a journalistic writer, we obviously have very different writing styles. But what she said made me smile and be, well, delighted. It’s been so long since I’ve seen an attitude so simple-minded and pure about writing.
Many writers, I included, have many purposes and motivations for writing. I write to inform. To tell my story. To tell somebody else’s story. To educate and inspire and to debate and on and on and on. We have such lofty dreams, we writers. But sometimes, the best form of writing comes from the basic human instinct to delight other human beings.
But even before delighting others, I’m learning from Chelsea that my writing needs to first delight me, the writer. After all, I’m forever my first reader. Many times I write with such a sense of “duty” that I lose delight in the very act of writing itself. Seeing Chelsea write when she’s in the car, write when she’s wandering around in the grocery store, write when the sun goes up and write when the sun goes down— just because she loves writing so much—has reinstituted in me why I became a writer in the first place. I love to write.
If there’s ever a person who personifies the definition of “delight,” it has to be Julia Child. I’ve never met her in person, so I only know the Meryl Streep version and the videos of Julia Child cooking, but is there any lady more delightful than Julia Child?
On Sunday afternoon, the sun was so bright and scorching that all Chelsea and I wanted to do was lie on the couch fanning ourselves. We decided to watch Julie & Julia, because I discovered that she had never heard of Julia Child, nor has she watched the movie or read the book.
I was aghast. “You’ve never watched Julie & Julia?” I yelped. And then I proceeded to wax poetics about it, so much that it sounded just about, like, the best freaking movie ever made in history.
So we watched it, she for the first time, I for the fifth time. And just as I guessed, Chelsea loved it.
There is a dish prominently featured in Julie & Julia. Those who have watched it will know what I’m talking about. It’s bouef bourguignon. Ever since I first watched Julie & Julia, I’ve been wanting to make the dish. Unfortunately I don’t have a dutch oven, nor do I have the finances to justify buying it just for the sake of one meal.
But Susan (Mrs. Olasky, my host in Asheville) has a beautiful one. With the Olaskys’ anniversary coming up (today, in fact), I knew we had—absolutely got to—make bouef bourguignon.
No matter that it’s almost 100 degrees, nor that the dish requires the oven to be roasting for hours, nor that the dish is too rich and meaty for summer. Bouef bourguignon, bouef bourguignon, bouef bourguignon! These erotic sounding words just kept trilling in my mind, even though I’m not sure how to pronounce them properly.
So on Monday evening, Chelsea and I got to work. We were so enamored by Julia Child that we sorta dressed up like her, with bright colored blouses and scarlet lipstick.
Gotta love a woman who boils lobsters and stuffs duck in pearls and heels.
Bouef bourguignon is basically an eastern French stew with chunks of tough beef braised until tender in red wine.
Traditionally they use Burgundy, but we just used a cabernet. As Julia Child said, “Who’s to know?”
I made sure to use Julia Child’s original bouef bourguignon recipe, since the theme was Julia Child. But I had to alter the recipe just a little bit. Like…I couldn’t find a whole chunk of bacon, so I used thick-sliced bacon instead.
And instead of one carrot, I used three and instead of one onion, I used two.
Also at the end, I used twice more mushrooms, because we all love mushrooms. You can never have too many mushrooms (at the present I’m eating mushroom chicken while I write this, to emphasize my point).
Minor changes, just minor.
I don’t know why bouef bourguignon was rated “difficult” in many recipe rooms. It’s not at all difficult. It’s just a bit laborious, with several steps more than frying pork in stir-fry sauce.
The best part of making this bouef bourguignon was shutting the lid on the dutch oven and letting it cook and cook in the oven. The aroma of thyme and wine and beef emanating from the oven is just maddeningly wonderful.
At the end, you sauté pearl onions and mushrooms in butter and pour in beef broth and herbs, simmering them until they’re tender and saturated with buttery, beefy, herby flavor. Who are these Frenchies and why are they so awesome? How the heck did they think about doing all of these?
It looked like we weren’t going to dine until past 8 p.m., so Chelsea got to work preparing appetizers again.
She made some kind of baked creamed mushroom toast, a recipe that she’s cooked many times back home when she worked at a restaurant.
Three hours later, the long anticipated dish was ready.
I’m sorry you can’t smell it, but I can tell you that is smelled like the utter joy of the cow who sacrificed its flesh for this wonderful meal.
Okay, back to bouef! OMG. OMG! O.M.G.
The flavor was SO intense! It was not intense in a salty way or a bitter way, but intense in a way that it was so…concentrated in flavor. The alcohol was cooked off and boiled down until what was left was like…the blood of the wine, and the flesh of the beef, and all the juices of the vegetables.
This was surprisingly filling. Just a cup of it for each of us left us stuffed and happy.
We sopped all the broth up with Chelsea’s amazing “pizza” bread, which we reheated in the oven:
What a marvelous meal. What a delightful meal. And guess what? It’s even better the next day.
Here’s a silly little video for you of us trying to pronounce “bouef bourguignon.”
My voice don’t usually sound like that, by the way. I was trying to impersonate Julia Child’s distinctive voice and I went overboard as usual.
Ahh. If everyone could perform their daily activities with the pure delight demonstrated by people like Julia Child and Chelsea, the world would be such an unimaginably delightful place, don’t you think?
Question of the day: What is one thing/person that you find delightful?