I’ve long utilized Julia’s wisdom and experience in the kitchen, indeed, long before it was fashionable, I taught myself to cook by cooking my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Would that I’d known I’d become a writer, these many years later, and I’d have written a pithy set of articles, compiled them into a book, had that book made into a screenplay, and never worried about money again.
On the one hundredth anniversary of Julia’s birth, Epicurious.com has excerpted her final book, a “slim volume based on her own” “loose-leaf kitchen reference guide gradually compiled from my own trials, remedies, and errors—corrected as I’ve cooked my way through the years.”
What follows is my response to her tips – which I have paraphrased wildly – as they might apply to the wrighting and writing of plays. Please refer to the links above for the original excerpts.
Julia: Always test baking powder to make sure it hasn’t lost its strength and if it has, throw it out. Me: If your audience hasn’t laughed, cried, or gasped in the first two pages, throw them out. The pages, not the audience.
Julia: Cleaning a burnt pan takes care and quite a bit of time letting it sit. Me: If you think you’ve ruined a scene or play beyond repair, let it sit for a while before making a decision, and when you go back to look at it again, give it a good scrub before you toss it.
Julia: It’s always wise to make sure that yeast is active before adding it to a recipe. Me: It’s always wise to have things happen ON THE STAGE, not ten minutes ago or across the street or in someone else’s play.
Julia: Choose eggs carefully and treat them well. Me: Choose your dramatic question carefully and guard it with care.
Julia: Clarifying butter removes the solids and leaves a much more stable, long-lasting product. Me: Remove scaffolding to the point of your edifice collapsing, to see what structure serves the play and what obfuscates it.
Julia: Why to fold rather than to beat. Me: The elements of a play that flies are distinctly similar to the elements of a play that thuds: in very large part, the difference is in how you mix them.
Julia: Four ways to work with garlic, and how to get the smell off of your hands. Me: Sex or nudity needs to advance or change plot or character, and to get away from pungent topics, I take long, energetic walks.
Julia: When is it done? Me: This question spawned my play THE CONSEQUENCE OF IMPRESSION’s first nub, the 10-minute play FOR LOUVRE OR MANET.
Julia: When using canned broth, add a mirepoix and wine. Me: When adapting a work, add your own spice.
Julia: Advice on cooking with or without wine. Me: I prefer to wait til the day’s writing is done to imbibe!