Julia long de vie

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Chrysa Smith

A friend invited me to see JULIE & JULIA.

Great, I thought, the perfect afternoon diversion from teaching a summer camp, talking about writing and working on my own new release. So, we went.  Little did I know that this decision would turn into several weeks of Julia talk, Julia cooking and an effervescent evening of celebration, that Julia herself (I’m sure) would have glowingly endorsed, with a nod, a wink and her signature signoff, Bon Appetit!

But before all the glitz and glamour, I didn’t get a break from writing. After all, Julia’s cookbooks are infamous. However, it was sure nice to know that the mother of television cooking shows and French-American cooking herself, was a many-times-over, shunned author. Her work was too complex, too large, too consuming—maybe too advanced or prolific for the dull mind of the average American homemaker. Little did they (the experts) know, as often happens, that she was actually a Renaissance woman—-a woman with vision, beyond the confines of what present day society and cultural norms dictated to her. She was, quite frankly, today’s woman—a woman with a broader mind, sense of adventure and as it turned out, visionary of what was to come, decades down the line: American homemakers cooking more complex dishes, using good, fresh ingredients.

I loved the struggle. I loved the message and I loved the relationship between the modern day Julie and the Donna Reed era Julia—the woman who would don pearls while serving, yet be so bold and brash as to question norms, stretch limits and tell others, only when absolutely necessary, where and when to get off.  I absolutely loved her. And to this day, she continues to roll around in my head as a new role model— to those of us who go for the gusto, stretch the limits, color outside the lines and refuse to be defined by others.

So, being utterly shameless, I borrowed the idea of hostessing a Julie & Julia dinner party for a group of friends—-friends who recently share something in common (besides liking to eat)—-friends who are all relatively recent empty-nesters. What better comfort to give than sharing and serving good food, good wine and good conversation?

And so it was. Seven of the twelve invited women enjoyed appetizers on the deck, then sat in my breakfast room last weekend, dining on Beef Bourguignon, bottles of French and American wine and fresh French bread. A realtor, accountant, teacher, postmaster, nurse, and two authors were united for a few hours, by a sense of loss, a sense of hope and companionship brought to them by the breaking of bread, the sharing from a bottle, the telling of stories. In fact, I believe it might have also inspired a few future dinner parties to come, because in the end, as purveyors of fine food understand, there is little that a good meal and friendship cannot heal.

Ah, la bonne vie!


  1. peggy nelms said,

    September 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    They say the way to a man’s heart is though his stomach. The same is true for a woman as long as you sprinkle in a little friendship. As a guest at the dinner party, I could relate to the sense of loss we all felt with our children going off to school. Although this is a positive change, and one we wish for our children, it still tears at our heart strings. And because time waits for no one we must continue on. It’s amazing that a little dinner, wine and conversation among friends helps to heal the wounds. A timeless tradition that lives on. I think julia would approve!

  2. September 5, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Chrysa, I so wish I could have been there! Sounds like a wonderful group of confreres and conversation! I wonder what the desserts were?

  3. CHRYSA SMITH said,

    September 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Pat, It was. And next ladies bash, you’ll be there. Dessert included chocolate mousse, a rich chocolate cake that Carmen made and a peach strudel.

  4. September 7, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Oh it sounds wonderful! I saw the movie with my mother this summer and was quite taken with Julia, particularly by the fact that she didn’t publish and star in her own television show until she was close to, or perhaps over, 50! There’s still hope, girls! Let’s go for it!

  5. September 11, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Great food. Great conversation. A pleasant evening.
    Thank you Chrysa!

  6. Kristi said,

    September 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I went to my friends home and she did the same thing! Sounds wonderful!

    • CHRYSA SMITH said,

      September 21, 2009 at 10:45 am

      Yes. Between cooking for this event and the early fall weather we’ve had in the Northeast, I’ve picked up my fork, turned on my oven and rolled out the cutting block for some good, hearty meals.

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