Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simple vs. Easy

A couple weeks ago, I read Julie Powell's book Julie & Julia about her year spent cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I thoroughly enjoyed it, laughing aloud at many parts and reading snippets to Keith. One part really sticks with me though, and I'd like to share it with you:

The thing you learn with Potage Parmentier is that "simple" is not exactly the same as "easy." It had never occurred to me that there was a difference until Eric and I sat down on our couch the night of my appointment at the gynecologist's, three months after stealing my mother's forty-year-old cookbook, and took our first slurps of Julia Child's potato soup.   Certainly I had made easier dinners. Unwrapping a cellophane-swathed hunk of London-broil and tossing it under the broiler was one method that came immediately to mind. Ordering pizza and getting drunk on Stoli gimlets while waiting for it to arrive, that was another favorite. Potage Parmentier didn't even hold a candle, in the easy department.

She goes on, several pages later:

Lulled by the calming music of ice clattering in the cocktail shaker, I began to ponder; this life we had going for ourselves, Eric and I, it felt like the opposite of Potage Parmentier. It was easy enough to keep on with the soul-sucking jobs; at least it saved having to make a choice. But how much longer could I take such an easy life? Quicksand was easy. Hell, death was easy. Maybe that's why my synapses had started snapping at the sight of potatoes and leeks in the Korean deli. Maybe that was what was plucking deep down in my belly whenever I thought of Julia Child's book. Maybe I needed to make like a potato, winnow myself down, be part of something that was not easy, just simple.

To me, she captures the reason Keith and I do a lot of the things we do, and why our plans for the future look the way they do. That's not to say we never take the easy way out, because we sometimes do (I pretty much always have a frozen pizza on hand for nights when cooking is just not going to happen).

Certainly it would be easier to forget the garden and buy all our vegetables. Jars of tomato sauce from the grocery store would be easier than canning all of ours. It's simpler, though, to know where at least some of our food comes from and to not worry about how loaded up it is with pesticides and preservatives.

It is simpler, too, to stay home with Bert, to have time to spend with him and time to take care of things around our home than it would be to add the pressures of both of us going to work each day. It would be easier, in a financial sense, if we had two incomes but we decided that wasn't the best choice for our family. That is not to say that I think households with two working parents picked the easy route, because I certainly understand that it is demanding to have both a career and a family. At any rate, I am pretty sure staying home isn't the easy way to go, because there are some long and trying days involved. I guess when it comes to kids, there probably isn't an easy route, and every family has to find what works for them.

I think what Julie Powell was saying, or at least what I was reading, is that it is good to take a longer look and put some work into the things that mean something to us, and taking the easy way out on the important things is cheating ourselves.

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