While living abroad in Paris, Julia was asked by two collaborators to translate a tome of French recipes. In the film, we witness her struggles with the language barrier, publishers, and cultural differences, as the goal she set out to accomplish evolves into something a bit different and much bigger.
I never in any way thought I would compare myself to Julia Child. My cooking skills are rudimentary at best, I'm very short, I wasn't a World War II spy, and nothing could make me kill a lobster, to name just a few of the major differences between myself and that great lady.
However, my life took a very unexpected turn last night....
About a year and a half ago, our friends J and A went on a trip to Morocco. When they came back, the thing they were most thrilled to tell us was that at the airport they'd run into Cyril Lignac, a celebrity chef here in France. Cyril is very popular, a bit the equivalent of Jamie Oliver.
Lignac is a champion of healthy eating and putting a new spin on traditional French cuisine, and has starred in many TV shows and specials. Recently, we found out that he'd opened two restaurants in Paris. The first, called Le Qunizième, is very high-end and expensive, but the second, called Le Chardenoux, is a hundred-year-old bistro whose cuisine is a mix of tradition and new owner Lignac's personal flair, at a very reasonable price.
For a long time we talked about going to eat at Le Chardenoux, where maybe J would be reunited with her celebrity friend. Last night, we finally did it.
The food was excellent. There were no complaints at our table. What surprised me the most, for my part, was not only the quality but the fact that Lignac and his team were able to make recipes whose richness would normally make me a little queasy - despite being delicious - and take away all that heaviness without sacrificing the taste. For example, I chose a hachis parmentier de canard confit gratiné au parmesan (duck with mashed potatoes and melted parmesan cheese on top). I figured the plate would be swimming in grease and duck fat, yet when I took a bite, I found a flavorful meal that was light on everything but savoriness.
At the end of the dinner (topped off by the house dessert specialty, a Paris-Brest (profiterole-like cake with praline paste and chopped hazelnuts)), our friends gave us a present: Cyril Lignac's book, La Cuisine de mon Bistrot , which is full of recipes from Le Chardenoux.
This morning, waking up happily without a food hangover, my boyfriend and I started talking about how much my foodie dad and talented baker stepmom would love this book. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist in English - and so I find myself completely unexpectedly in Julia Child's position of having to translate a book of French recipes.
Luckily, Lignac's book is much shorter than the one Julia had to translate, and the recipes are generally written in a simple, clear way, since making cooking accessible to everyone is what the chef is all about.
I figured I could buy my dad and stepmother a copy of the book and paste my typed translation below the original version of each recipe. If I translate one or two of the recipes per day, I'll have the whole book done by the time we go to visit them in April.
The only problem is, despite having such useful resources as my trusty Harper Collins Robert Unabridged French-English/English-French Dictionary; the internet; and my boyfriend, there are still some terms that are so specific, I'm having trouble translating them.
Today's term that has us stumped (and that my internet research reveals is even confusing to a lot of French people) is:
The literal translation is, of course, "liquid cream". The problem, as even French cooking forums attest, is what kind of cream? Do they mean whipped cream (chantilly)? Do they mean sour cream (crème fraiche)? In the photo that goes with the recipe in question (Velouté de Châtaignes, creme au lard paysan - Chestnut Cream with Cream of Farmer's Bacon) it looks like they mean whipped cream, but my boyfriend thinks the recipe would taste better with sour cream. It probably is something like what he thinks, but my research shows that many French people don't know the difference between sour cream and "crème liquide". Is there a difference, or is the latter just liquified sour cream? If it's liquified sour cream, is there a special English term for that in the cooking world?
Image source: La Cuisine de mon Bistrot by Cyril Lignac, p. 17, photo by Thomas Dhellemmes, published by Hachette
I know a lot of you are much more akin to Julia Child than I. And that many of you live in areas where people speak French. And so, I'm posting this cry for help: would any of you know the exact way to translate "crème liquide"?
Mon dieu, the first recipe translation and I'm already in way over my head! If you can help, I will truly consider you the "crème de la crème"!