I wanted to create a series of posts to honor the many people and things that have helped to guide me into the world of food and shaped who I am as a chef. Some might be expected (Julia Child), some maybe not so much (this post). It took me a while to find a path in life that I felt truly happy be on. It also took some time to get the feeling that I was doing what I was meant to be doing. This is my way of saying “Thank you” and maybe helping to inspire you along the way too.
If you ever ask me what I’m watching and I answer with “porn,” I’m not being so bold as to let you know what my alone-time viewing habits are. If I tell you it’s porn, then I am more than likely watching It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin. When the movie originally came out, I went to see it because it just looked fun. I did not expect the movie to be as full of gastronomical delight as it was. So now I watch the film whenever the mood strikes (which happens to be about once a month on average) and drool over all the food and kitchen and music and bakery and herb garden porn.
If you haven’t witnessed this harmless yet joyful movie, here’s a little synopsis: Jane (Meryl Streep) is divorced from Jake (Alec Baldwin). They get completely smashed at their son’s college graduation and end up in bed. Then a little affair starts, but then there’s her architect, Adam (Steven Martin), who has a crush on Jane and then, obviously, things get complicated from there. It’s a sweet little movie. It’s Complicated is written & directed by Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, The Parent Trap, Something’s Gotta Give). Nancy and her team created a movie that is beautiful to look at and full of foodie-porn. If you haven’t seen it, beware, SPOILERS lie ahead in this little love letter.
So first and foremost, I want to talk about Jane’s kitchen. The kitchen she refers to as small. The kitchen she wants to replace. Jane is insane. Because Oh. My. God! It is gorgeous. I would kill for a kitchen like that. The cake stands, the marble, the tile, the canisters full of spoons and spatulas, the pot rack set over the gas stove and double oven (!!). Simply stunning. Every time I watch, I think to myself that this woman is crazy. But then I realize, in her shoes, living in that house (also stunning) that I’d also probably want a bigger kitchen…plus, she needs a reason to meet Adam. Everything about that kitchen, including that marble island (#NBD), I just want it to be spring, open up the all windows, cook for days and throw a party to say “Hey! Look at me and this amazing kitchen I’ve got!”
As if owning a “tiny” kitchen wasn’t enough, Jane owns a very successful bakery. Not just some rinky dink bakery that sells a few scones, muffins and cupcakes, but a massively, gloriously, bright bakery brimming with freshly baked pastries, baskets of bread piled high, bar seating, lots of bagged treats for retail, fresh fruit, candies and more. It is jealousy-inducing. I want to work there. I want to own it. I want THAT to be MY legacy. It’s…boxed up somewhere in some Hollywood archive that maybe I could get my hands on one day…so, who knows?!
But the movie isn’t just about kitchens and bakeries. It’s also got some classy cocktails featured in it. In New York City, Jane and Jake meet up at the hotel bar where they have martinis and cognac and wine and scotch in all the perfectly cleaned glasses with top shelf liquor and great music playing alongside. I just love a good martini. A Hendricks Martini, straight up, cucumber with a splash of St. Germain. Just thinking about that scene makes me want to make myself a martini…but it’s too early…right? Anyways, when Jane has her lady-friends over they gossip and gab over wine. Wine that’s served in goblets that I want. I hate wine glasses now. Thanks Nancy Meyers. Also, you’re welcome Crate & Barrel.
In case you’ve forgotten how fabulous Jane’s life is (aside from the the fact that she’s divorced and all her kids have left home, if you call that bad), her home, that one with the “small” kitchen, is also home to a pool and a GIANT garden. She grows her own vegetables and fruit and herbs. When you think about it, Meryl Streep is playing a West Coast version of Ina Garten (minus all that gays). And that’s probably why I love this movie so much…it’s Ina Garten (a future Inspiration feature)!
Even though I have nothing but love for this film, there’s one scene in the movie, that I really loved at first, but after working in a bakery making croissants every day, bothers me greatly. Jane and Adam, after getting hilariously high at a party, end up going to her bakery after hours to make some chocolate croissants. I know it’s a movie, but, the realist in me gets slightly annoyed each time (but the romantic in me just eats it up). They laminate dough. They shape dough. They proof dough. They bake croissants. They eat them. Now, I don’t know what time they get to the bakery, but I’m assuming it’s fairly late since it’s dark out and then went to a party where they decided to be that last people to leave. So let’s say they get there at midnight. A bakery like Jane’s would most likely have an overnight staff preparing all the bread (unless, and I can’t believe I’d say this, they don’t bake the bread themselves!). But it’s dark. They are the only people there. And to start with laminating and then shaping right after…that’s not right. It needs to rest! They put too many croissants on the tray to proof! I mean, it’s just not possible!!! And then they just lost all the croissants for the next day and have thrown off the schedule and I’m sure the viennoiserie bakers are not going to be pleased. But again, it’s a movie, it’s not real life, even Jane isn’t perfect and you realize that there is nothing better than a chocolate croissant (or pain au chocolat if you’re pretentious) fresh from the oven…the chocolate melting and oozing, the flaky croissant wheezing and steaming as you bite into it…sorry…where was I?
When I originally saw the movie, I hadn’t yet decided that I was going to go to culinary school. I had no dream of opening up a bakery. I was still content on being a graphic designer. But after multiple viewings, lots of soul searching and many home attempts at teaching myself to make french pastries, I realized I wanted Jane’s bakery. I wanted that house with that kitchen. I wanted people to be so in love with all the food I made that there were lines out the door of my bakery. To be the host that invites friends over and I come out with a bunch of freshly baked pies and we all drink wine from beautiful glass goblets and play Cards Against Humanity (a somewhat recent addition to the dream). I never once thought about starting my own graphic design firm. But I always thought about writing a cookbook. I knew after watching It’s Complicated and dreaming about it for days and days, that I wanted to work in food. I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew it was what I truly wanted to do. To have a life, home and business like Jane’s (sans divorce and children and all that mucky muck) was a goal that I wanted to achieve.
And how did I know all this? Because look at what I’m talking about. Not the plot. Not the whole romantic comedy aspect. I watch this movie and all I see is mouth watering food, an orgasm inducing kitchen, a bakery that leaves me speechless and jealous and a life that centers around food. That’s what I took away from It’s Complicated. So whenever I need a little push or a reminder, I pop the movie in, make a giant bowl of popcorn, grab a bottle of wine and a glass (if I feel like being classy) and snuggle under a blanket and let all those dreams and aspirations come rushing back full force. Afterwards, I’ll find I’ve got a bit more spark and get fired up to start something new like try out a new recipe or go buy some fancy platter from CB2.
So thank you Nancy Meyers for bringing forth a delicious movie that helped to put me on the path that I am currently on and loving. And thank you to Meryl Streep because…well…it’s Meryl Streep.