A week or so ago I made a challah. I actually made 2 challot (which Google told me is the plural form), and one is waiting, braided but unbaked, in the freezer. I am not Jewish, but my Jewish friend Amy gave me her blessing over text, so please direct any sacrilege-related concerns to her, as I did.
I baked a challah because Sam Sifton's New York Times Cooking email made it seem like a good idea. I feel like Sam Sifton is my friend. He emails me almost every morning, sort of like my dad does, with links to articles he thinks I might be interested in reading and gentle suggestions of food I could cook. He never pressures me to try recipes that seem out of my league or that I don't have the equipment for. Sometimes he includes anecdotes about himself, like in this morning's email:
I used to work a late shift on Fridays, didn't get home until well after 9. Some of those nights, my wife would roast a chicken after work, and we'd eat it late, at just north of room temperature, with roasted carrots and a green salad and plenty of bread to mop up the drippings, sitting in candlelight, tired at the end of a long week. It was just so, so great.
I know how this feels, even though I've never tried to roast a chicken. I'm sharing my first apartment with my boyfriend in St. Louis, and I've started cooking because Will, who has always been the cook, is in his first year of med school and studies all the time. When we pull our stools up to the bar and I look sideways at him eating the dinner that I miraculously made, in the apartment we can miraculously pay for, with a whole big fridge to ourselves (goodbye, one-shelf life!) and a sink we can leave dirty dishes in, I keep having the same thought: I have never been this happy. The freedom of a Friday afternoon makes the feeling even sweeter.
So I had an idea as I ate my challah and thought about how Sam Sifton is my email friend. The idea is similar to a movie you may have seen called Julie & Julia, featuring the delightful story of Julia Child as portrayed by Meryl Streep and the less-delightful story of Julie, played by Amy Adams, a writer who wants to cook her way out of her own whiny and uncertain personality and into the gregarious certainty of Julia Child. The movie ends on a supposedly happy note, when Julie's sense of self-worth and the success of her marriage dangle on the tenuous promise of a pending book deal. The real Julie is actually even more of an asshole than the movie makes her out to be, as you can see by reading a review of her new book.
Still, I thought it might be fun to lightly copy her idea (while avoiding her neuroses) and write some blog posts in response to Sam's emails. I'll make some of the recipes and read the articles like I always do and write a little bit about it here. Might be fun. We'll see.