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Julie and Julia

September 29, 2009 | by Shira Albertson

Meryl Streep's new film reminded me to chew my food a little longer, and enjoy it a little more.

“Bonjour! Bonjour!” shouts Meryl Streep, playing the role of Julia Child as she wends her way through an outdoor market in Paris. Loudly and ungainly -- at 6’2” tall -- Julia Child is the proverbial bull in the china shop. But, as the movie Julie and Julia demonstrates, she does it with such charm and joy that she is able to win over even the reputedly xenophobic French.

Although a life devoted to cooking and food can veer dangerously into a paean to the body and a hedonistic existence, such was not the case with Julia Child, at least as depicted in the film.

What we witness on screen is a woman in a constant state of awe, a woman with a childlike wonder and pleasure in every new culinary taste and accomplishment. The audience is swept up in her enchantment and I found I spent most of the film with a smile on my face.

Her attitude is certainly something to envy -- and emulate. Most of us experience making dinner every evening as a burdensome chore. And yet it’s such an opportunity for appreciation. So many types of foods. So many colors and tastes. So many recipes and menu possibilities. One can almost imagine Julia Child clapping her hands in delight and anticipation. I’d like to bring a little of that into my home each night!

Likewise with the taste. All too frequently we wolf down our meal not really stopping to notice the taste. We’re “starving” (a word I have banned from my home as too serious to be used in situations of mere hunger). Or we eat on the run. We’re too busy to stop and savor the experience. Not so Julia Child. Every bite of food had the potential to excite. Okay, maybe there’s a happy medium. Maybe excite is too strong. But the Almighty has given us such bounty in the food department, such a wealth of tastes and textures that it seems ungrateful not to notice.

The Almighty has given us such bounty in the food department, it seems ungrateful not to notice.

We rob ourselves when we eat without paying attention. We miss the opportunity to appreciate yet another gift that the Almighty has given us, and to express our gratitude. Yes, our lives are overbooked. We may not be able to indulge in the 2 to 3 hour dinners that Mediterranean countries have made famous. We have responsibilities and commitments. We’re not living to eat; we’re eating to live.

But yet...

We are eating anyway. So why not do it with joy? Why not do it with appreciation? Why not pause, if only briefly, to thank our Creator for the colors, the variety, the flavor? One of our true responsibilities in this life is to taste all the permissible pleasures the Almighty has provided for us. Julia Child knew how to fulfill this responsibility and fulfill it well. It’s a lesson we could all learn.

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