Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, New Recipe, and a Farewell

(Now on Chopsticks and String: "Sheep May Safely Graze" -- photos from MSU)

There is much to be said about New Year's Day. The sense of anticipation. The relief of closing the books on the challenges from the year before.

It's a tad lazy in some ways -- or can be, with parades, no office schedule, no real obligations (unless one decides to host a party that day. I didn't.)

So, on Friday, I did a couple of interesting things.

The not interesting thing was going to the gym. It was a necessity!

Then later in the day, I went to the funeral visitation of a woman who had been my grandfather's secretary in his insurance business in the 1940s and '50s. There aren't many people around who knew my grandfather, who died when I was about 10. I knew he thought the world of her, as did my mother, and remembered meeting her on a couple of occasions. I wanted to say goodbye to yet another link to my past. (The photos in this post are of my grandfather and various family, by the way.)

I was one of the first to arrive at the visitation and immediately met her daughter, who proceeded to tell me many things about her mother's experience working with my grandfather, as well as things related to the history of our city.

She said Edith had saved clippings related to my grandpa that had been in the newspaper and company publications and she will send them to me. I hope she remembers.

The interesting thing about all this is that when you think about the time they knew one another, the relationship was really fairly progressive. Yes, she was his secretary but according to my mother and aunt, she really kept that business running like a tight ship. And there was such trust -- she was the executor of his estate.

A woman, executing a major estate in 1960 was pretty unusual.

It makes me see my grandfather a bit more completely -- not just as the gruff old man I knew as a child, the trout fisherman, the father of four girls.

My visit showed me a man who gave women their due at a time when many didn't. Who recognized skill and talent regardless of gender. Who was a civic leader -- he was involved in so very much more than I ever knew.

In some ways, Edith's daughter knew more about my grandfather than I did.

And I loved the idea that in a sense, theirs was a love story -- not a romance. Edith had her own family and it was warm and close, and so did Grandpa (with Grandma, above, shortly before she died). But it was the love based on mutual respect, trust, companionship, camaraderie. And I loved that.

That was the "farewell" in this title. But I also promised a recipe in the title of this post. Actually, no recipe included, but the story of preparing one!

Now, I'm not about to go all Julie Powell on the world, but because "Julie and Julia" was my favorite movie of 2009, and because Julia's "My Life In France" was my favorite book, I decided that I had to kick in 2010 by making Julia's Boeuf Bourguginone.

The dish plays heavily into Julie's story, as she cooks her way through Julia's book, and I had to try it!

You can find the recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" or probably online. Here are my observations.

1) Unless you are a serious cook and have all the "right pans for every occasion," plan on using every pan in your kitchen. (I didn't have a stove-to-oven casserole or the right size stove-to-oven anything, which meant I was going from skillet to baking dish and back again. Over and over!)

2) Allow adequate time. The dish calls for two-and-a-half hours in the oven after you've done all the prep work. Even with doing all the mise en place work, my ingredients in nice little bowls, carefully measured and ready to add at the appropriate time, it took me over an hour to prep it!

3) Read the ingredient list carefully. Small white onions are not the same as tiny onions (pearl onions). I discovered this the day before, fortunately. Good thing I didn't wait till New Year's Day!

4) Buy more wine than you think you'll need. It calls for three cups. This left about an ounce apiece to drink at dinner. And believe me, it was taking me every bit of self control to save that little bit for dinner to share, because by that point, I really wanted a slug of wine! I could have sworn there were more than three-and-a half cups of wine in a bottle.

5) Remember that thing about "every pan in the kitchen." You have to wash those pans. Just a warning. (Thank you, Rick!)

I had to laugh -- Julie P. talked about her mother's experience serving this at a dinner -- it was always a hit. I thought "I hope the guests didn't have to look at the kitchen while eating." (Julia does offer a prepare-it-to-this point option in the book. Next time I'll do it the day before and try that one!)

All things said -- it was fabulous! Score one for Julia!


jet1960 said...

What a sweet story about your Grandpa! I always love family stories!

BONNIE K said...

The beef looks wonderful, but you have convinced me not to try it. And the info about your grandpa was very interesting!

Rosa said...

Oh my gosh, if this is the recipe I tried way back when, it is one of her best!! I remember the wine and I made it while my mother-in-law sat and watched! I think I may have had to swig some of that wine!! (haha, I wish, I'm allergic!). K, not too swift here, did you print the recipe somewhere??? lol

I love the idea of your learning so much about your gf through a daughter of an old employee of his. Sounds like a book in the making!

Julie H said...

Your blog posts are special, i read every word. The story of your Grandfather brought goosebumps and I love the picture of him with his wife.
I am glad you warned me about the recipe - I will never make it (I am vego, but the time would count me out anyway). It sounds like an experience rather than a meal.

Have I said Happy New Year? I will say it again, Happy New Year!

Anya said...

Thanks for the family story
I love reading it !!!


Joanne Huffman said...

I love your appreciation for and sharing of family history. The Boeuf Bourguginone looks wonderful. And, I like the new border :)

Ruth said...

Good for you, Jeanie. You are my second blog friend to post the making of this dish after seeing the film. How's that for inspiration! CottageGirl said it took her 5 1/2 hours. That, and all those dirty pans, is devotion.

I imagine it is totally delicious. It might be easier to fly to Paris and eat it in a bistro! :)

Beth said...

Thats wonderful that you were able to hear such wonderful stories about your Grandfather. And that he treated his secretary so nice, thats always excellent to hear.
I absolutely LOVED the Julie and Julia movie. Meryl Strepe was a great Julia! I want to read the book "My life in France" I have heard it was good too.
Hope you have a wonderful year ahead too, Jeanie!

~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

really special reading about lost links found to your grandfather, thought provoking post Jeanie!

Lemondrop Marie said...

What a lovely post, your photos are wonderful too! I loved the Julie and Julia book!
Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

Wrightboysmum said...

The beef looks good and I had a giggle at the wine. I'm wanting to see that movie when I get a minute.
What a great story about your grandad and how one meeting can illuminate so much.

Anonymous said...

I love your family stories, Jeanie. How wonderful you had the chance to talk to the daughter who gave you a different perspective on your grandpa. I would appreciate having that kind of conversation with someone who knew my grandpa (whose way of saying I love you was to tease without mercy!).

The beef looks delicious, but I will have to live vicariously through you. My hour after hour days in the kitchen are definitely over.

I have found a wonderful restaurant here, that I think you would appreciate:
Serving tapas (little dishes) that are international - not just Spanish. Everyone in the party orders two or three, and then you share. Yum!!!!! Thai red curry, lamb shanks, butternut stuffed ravioli, osso buco, lobster arancini.... my mouth is watering. If you are ever in Milwaukee, I will take you to dinner! (like when you come to Irish fest next summer) And the desserts are to die for - okay, my food rant is over.
Happy new year

Linda said...

Got your card today...and Gypsy looks mahvelous!!!!!! thank you!!!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think that kind of dish requires drinking all THROUGH the preparation!

What a wonderful experience to get to know these varied sides of your grandfather!

Debbie said...

Looks divine. I love anything french. Ahh the french food though, the french pastries mmmm. It still amazes me that they have written a book about why french women do not get fat. I must be missing something I think.

Kristine Campbell said...

Isn't it wonderful to find out new things about our ancestors? Nice story about your grandfather.
I can so relate to the boeuf bourg. After seeing the movie a friend of mine and I made it. It took us all day because we are slow, and did the shopping for everything Julia recommended. It was one of the best meals I've had in my life! Those flavors!!
Happy New Year to you and the best year ahead.
BTW, loved This Emotional Life. What would we all do without PBS. Looking forward to Cranford Part 2.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story. It's true that we often learn interesting things about our loved ones from others after they're gone. I can recall learning things I'd never known about my mother-in-law at her funeral. People she had helped and things she had done. We never know all of a person, do we? Wonderful post.

Nathalie Thompson said...

What wonderful things to learn about your grandfather!

And I also loved your story about how to prepare Julia's dish!

anno said...

It's called seasoning the cook... and any recipe that takes half the day and all the dishes in the house to prepare definitely requires an extra bottle or two. Sounds like it was worth the effort, though -- yum! -- and the recipe paired beautifully with your story about your grandfather. Wonderful to read -- thanks!

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