Phil Reese

Julie & Julia and Mike (and me)

Filed By Phil Reese | January 09, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: boyfriends, cooking, julia child, julie, julie & julia, shopping

Let me tell you about the best duck of my life. That wasn't a typo, I really am going to talk about food today.

I rarely mention my boyfriend, Mikey, on here (mostly because I feel like it would deter stalkers and I really need a few more first...) but those of you who do know about Mikey is that -- even though he's a doctor now -- his true talent and genius lies in the kitchen.

I know a lot of you gay men out there think you're good at cooking. The things Mikey does in the kitchen, however, will make you look like a McDonald's fry cook. He's beyond good.

This, of course, does tend to undermine my diet often. No matter, there's always Monday to get back on the treadmill and work it off.

This most recent Monday, I was in the gym working off one of the most infamous recipes in kitchen history: paté de canard en croute: deboned, pastry-covered, paté-filled duck from Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking Volume 1.

Last week we rented Julie & Julia -- and loved it. For months, Mike had been begging me to allow him to make the infamous deboned duck recipe, and I have flatly refused. Mike has to ask my permission to make recipes out of certain cookbooks because they have caused so much controversy in the past.

There was the infamous black-and-white lasagna noodles that temporarily stained my hands and permanently marred his kitchen counters black with squid ink. The noodles that survived took four hours to make by alternating freshly cut black and white fettuccine noodles, gluing them with egg, and then rolling them out into long lasagna noodles.

Few worked. Lots of swearing happened. Perhaps things were thrown. I don't know. Its all a blur still.

Then there were the blini toppings for New Years. There was the gingerbread, the molded chocolate, Thanksgiving's twelve inch tall "Mile High Apple Pie" which contained 2 dozen peeled; cored and sliced apples, the gooseberry jam...

I will never make gooseberry jam again. I will never go near a gooseberry bush again.

Phil Meets His Match

I was giving him a flat out no on the deboned duck for our relationship's sake. I imagined days worth of preparation and work -- my phone beeping incessantly with panicked friends wondering what had happened to me. Nightmares. Angry words. Violence.

Not a pretty picture.

I'm a pretty busy guy. Besides writing at least weekly--often every other day it seems at times -- for Bilerico Project, I am a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Library and Information Science. I am a graduate assistant, supervising the staffs of the Housing computer labs. I am a blogger, columnist and advertising/delivery representative for Out & About Illinois magazine -- the only downstate Illinois gay media. I am a co-host of the Lundon Calling weekly podcast with veteran LGBT activist Ace Lundon. I sit on the board of the newly launcehd Champaign County Uniting Pride Community Center as well as the board of the first ever Champaign-Urbana Pride Festival (which will hopefully go down this April). I run my own blog at Ameriqueer, I am a big-time LGBT news retweeter on Twitter (follow me!), and I try to have a life.

Dedicating a day to deboning a duck didn't seem like it fit in well.

Mike Meets Julia

Then we watched Julie & Julia. I was shocked at how anti-climactic deboning a duck seemed at the end of the movie. He asked me once again.

"Do you want to debone a duck this weekend?" already expecting a 'no' from me.

"Sure. That actually didn't look half-bad."

I swear he clicked his heels at least twice as he hovered in the air in his victory jump. He was so giddy. We ventured up to Chicago for New Years with my good friend, Roy, and on the way home New Years day, his eyes widened and his mouth started salivating thinking about cooking the most magnificent duck ever.

His cookbook was at home, however, and we were on the highway. I wanted to expedite the process. I knew we'd be passing a billion groceries on our way home. I tweeted and Facebooked from my phone "Can anyone email me the recipe for the poultry paté in Julia's the Art of French Cooking?" I don't eat mammal (soon to be any animal) so the pork paté sounded about as appetizing as a dirty rock with ground glass glaze.

In five minutes I had three emails. We were good to go.

The next day it began quite early. First, Mike had to go to his storage locker and get all of the materials. I was in charge of breakfast while he was gone, as well as dicing up lots of stuff -- and I can't dice worth shit. He took so long we were running an hour behind by the time he got back.

I had arranged it so we'd be enjoying this delicious dish with our friends Kevin and Brandon and their little baby Garrett that evening. I was getting nervous we'd be pushing their dinners back late. We had to get back on track.

For the next few hours we worked feverishly, simultaneously preparing multiple parts of the dish while stopping to take pictures every once in a while. I'll spare you the pictures of the duck mid-deboning. They're not for the faint-or-vegan-of-heart. Time was tight, and at one point I was sure we'd run out of butter.

However, we got the bird in the oven about two and a half hours before we were to arrive, which was dangerously on time. I then proceeded to spend an hour in the back massage chair his roommate has.

54460075.jpgHave I mentioned I really need one of these iJoy chairs, like, yesterday?

However, with half an hour to be there, the bird hadn't reached the requisite 180 degrees Fahrenheit yet. Would we make it?

Before I started to make panicked phone calls to Kevin and Brandon, the bird caught up to my paranoia, and we pulled it out of the oven just in time to be whisked away. Check it out.

Garrett meets Daffy

We arrived, bird in toe, to Kevin and Brandon's house just as Brandon completed the best bean salad I'd ever had in my life, as well as a regular lettuce salad. Kevin was a little perturbed, however.

"Brandon's been telling Garrett that you're bringing Daffy over."

Daffy was still a little too warm for a cold buffet, but luckily, Brandon still had a little more prep to do, and as dinner neared, Garrett seemed less concerned about Daffy's well-being and more concerned about consuming what was put in front of him.

I tried desperately to save that pretty pastry cover, but as I cut it, it became obvious that it was going to have to go. We completely removed it and served the duck sans-crust.

I bit into the dish that Mike had hyped up for me for months.

"How is it?" Brandon asked me curiously.

I turned to Mikey. "Daffy is delicious."

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Now that the holidays are past, I can tell you what I wanted to get you and Mikey for Xmas, but Jerame wouldn't let me.

And EZBake oven and a DVD of Julie & Julia.


Just watched that movie last night, and the duck process was anti-climatic indeed.

Nice meal, nice post!

Mike Johnson | January 9, 2010 4:53 PM

My husband Jimmie has watched J&J ohhh over 2 doz times since we got it. Not thrilled with him making duck with pate. Don't care for eating organs. We now have an Aga so he's wanting to cook more than ever and experiment.

He may be a good cook, but he's not making anyone in my household look like a McDonalds fry cook. No way. My hubby and I know what to do in the kitchen. And I can dice.

We too can cook from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and her garlic mashed potatoes are to die from, er for, although I gotta get the sat fat down in them).

Oh the things that can and do get cooked in my house. Without meltdowns. Julia didn't melt down. She just served up her mistakes after fixing them up a bit. I loved her unmolding of a tarte Tatin where the thing just slides into a mess. She pats it with a spatula, suggests that the apples weren't the right type, and says that it will still taste fine.

I hope that that future meals will be a pleasure even during the preparation process. Good luck and bon appetit!