Sunday, August 9, 2009

Flip Them

If you regularly read about or follow anything movie, food, or book related then you have undoubtedly within the past week, read about the movie that opened this past weekend based on the memoir Julie and Julia. The media just cannot seem to get enough of this story whether they're covering Nora Ephron who adapted the script (and did an amazing job), Meryl Streep playing Julia Child (and did an amazing job that will almost certainly earn her another Oscar nod), Julie the blogger who wrote the memoir the book is based on (and then in her upcoming new book talks about cheating on her husband - gasp!), or finally the food in the movie (might qualify for a supporting Oscar nod because it is so amazingly amazing).

However, one of the articles that I came across in all of this media hoopla really struck me. This NY Times article was written by Michael Pollan, who I've named checked on this blog several times before because I love his book The Omnivore's Dilemma and the different ways it made me think about the food I eat (like the amount of corn product that is in almost everything).

The article isn't really about the movie Julie and Julia, but rather how Americans have substituted cooking food themselves to watching others do so on their television sets (He kind of gives the Food Network a hard time, which I don't necessarily think is fair, because I actually often DVR shows from FN just to get different recipe ideas. Of course, I also have been known to watch Iron Chef America and Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives just to drool. Anyway, the article itself is interesting and whether or not you agree with all of his points - it is, like all of Pollan's work, thought compelling.).

To begin the article though, Pollan talks about Julia Child and how she influenced what his own mother cooked and served his family when he was a child. According to Pollan, Julia Child encouraged woman who had before been making mostly casseroles with potato chip toppings (full disclosure: as a child I regularly ate my mother's Tuna Noodle Casserole and the potato chip topping was the high point of that wretched dish. She must have missed the Julia Child revolution because we never had an Beef Bourginion nights to balance things out.) to try something a little more... French. Julia Child didn't inspire women by being a Martha Stewart type who taunts us with her own endless perfection, but rather someone who wasn't afraid to try and fail - and who encouraged women within their own kitchens to do so as well.

Michael Pollan writes this anecdote while discussing an episode of Julia Child's show, "The French Chef":

The episode has Julia making a plate-size potato pancake, sautéing a big disc of mashed potato into which she has folded impressive quantities of cream and butter. Then the fateful moment arrives:

“When you flip anything, you just have to have the courage of your convictions,” she declares, clearly a tad nervous at the prospect, and then gives the big pancake a flip. On the way down, half of it catches the lip of the pan and splats onto the stovetop. Undaunted, Julia scoops the thing up and roughly patches the pancake back together, explaining: “When I flipped it, I didn’t have the courage to do it the way I should have. You can always pick it up.” And then, looking right through the camera as if taking us into her confidence, she utters the line that did so much to lift the fear of failure from my mother and her contemporaries: “If you’re alone in the kitchen, WHOOOO” — the pronoun is sung — “is going to see?” For a generation of women eager to transcend their mothers’ recipe box (and perhaps, too, their mothers’ social standing), Julia’s little kitchen catastrophe was a liberation and a lesson: “The only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them!”

Okay, so you knew I was going to bring this back around to writing - didn't you? Of course, you did.

As I mentioned in my last post I've been doubting myself, my writing, and more specifically my poor book.

Did I write it in the wrong tense? Did I start it in the wrong place? Did I inject monumental amounts of suckitude into every last page?

When I get into these bad places I tend to keep it all inside, which is bad. Really bad actually, because my internal voice's answer to those three questions was: "Yeah you did, Duh, and Ye-ep."

Not liking these answers, I turned to my amazingly supportive husband who as amazingly supportive husbands tend to do told me all the right things. Mostly those things were: 1. go ahead and change the tense - you'll feel better once you do and 2. believe in your own writing, and believe in your own voice.

It made me feel better to hear those things - especially the second one. And when I was reading Michael Pollan's article and came to the part about flipping the potato pancake and having the courage of your convictions it just seemed to bring the point home. It also really made me want to find the recipe for that potato pancake, because that thing sounds pretty freaking delicious.

Have you ever doubted your own writing/voice/style? Did you see this movie or read the book it's based on (I actually bought it half off around Christmas time and made it about halfway through before losing interest) and have a review for me? Did your mother or do (gasp) you serve any dishes that require a potato chip topping? And does anyone out there have Julia Child's potato pancake recipe?


  1. I have doubted myself. Blech.

    I'm going to have to see this movie I guess, now that I'm hearing about it on blogs. And I love to watch Top Chef! Yum!

  2. This is such a great post, Kate!
    I've heard all about the movie (mostly on the Food Network--I do love to watch people cook, and I hate to cook myself), and I'm off to read Pollan's article.

    I love how you brought it all back to writing, and that you just have to take the plunge in order to get better at things.

    I doubt my writing all the time. I wonder if I can really pull it off, how I think it should be in my head.

    My mom made tuna casserole topped with corn flakes toasted in butter. That was the best part of the dish. And I still crave it sometimes when I go back home.

  3. I really want to see that movie. I loved Julia Child--and I LOVE the Food Network. :)

    And to answer your question...YES. I have doubted myself. Oh, poo, I STILL doubt myself.

  4. Alright. I'm going to see the movie now. Thanks for the post! And yes, I doubt myself every darn day. And then I ignore the doubt. And unfortunately, I don't have that pancake recipe, but it sounds awesome.

  5. I have doubted myself. Every single day for a while now. I think it's something that comes whenever you create something. Be that a novel, a handmade card, a quilt or even--wait for it--a meal. Don't you ask, "Is it good? Do you like it?" when you've made one of those new yummy recipes from the FN? I do. It's called "doubt" in something I've created. I need the reassurance that it's good, that I made something worthwhile, that I should continue to make it.

    It's the same with writing.

  6. Fantastic post and fantastic comments! Doubt reads over my shoulder while I'm writing and snickering and rolling his eyes. I wish I could be the type of person that can ignore that - but I'm not. It gets to me. The only thing I don't do, however, is stop writing.

  7. Of course, we all feel that way at times. That's what is so great about blogging...we can help and lift each other :)

    The worst times for me have come when I've allowed 'just anyone' to critique my work. Bad move. Honestly, I don't have a problem w/ critique, but have learned to make sure they know the genre, know the rules of critique and have a clue.

    that may sound harsh, but it was a lesson hard learned. :)

  8. I doubt daily. It's an occupational hazard I think. And I'll have to check out the article. I agree with you, I watch the food network and actually cook meals for my family (sans potato chips) as well.

    And who can resist Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, really? That is damn good television. :)

  9. You know when I write in my WIP I love the voice of my MC, however I've been known to come back and say what the heck happened? It makes me wonder what readers would think and where the disconnect is.

  10. It's funny you say this. Today I began writing a new book and I was doubting myself from word one. I was thinking, "Where is this DOUBT coming from?" I miss the confidence that I had in the beginning...but I think it's natural as we grow that we have to fight those inner voices more and more.

  11. What a great post - - - I think that every writer is subject to periods of "the doubts". But, it is only through our conviction that we CAN actually do this that we eventually make my opinion!

  12. I think I'll have to watch this movie. And, yes, I still doubt a lot of what I write. But like Julia, you just have to proceed and listen to your gut instincts and hope that it won't all fall apart in the end. If it does, scoop it up and either try to mend it, or trash the whole thing and start over! One way or the other, it's not the end of the world.

  13. Don't doubt and writing go hand in hand. Like that last sentence, I doubt it's correct even. Is it Hand and hand?! :) But still I write on.

    Great post Kate.

  14. I'm definitely in the doubt mode right now.

    I'd love to go see the movie! I love FN and experimenting with recipes. My parents were divorced and my mom worked full time, I ended up helping alot around the house. Tuna casserole was big in our house. It was better than sandwiches all the time, or plain ol' mac & cheese.

  15. Kate, this is great! :) Thank you.

    Just wanted to stop by and let you know that I've nominated you for an award!