Julia Child’s ebullient spirit, utter fearlessness, and unwavering confidence have inspired me ever since I first saw Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in the movie “Julie & Julia.” Julia’s rise to fame was before my time, and in my childhood I thought of her as a very old, slightly shaky woman whose signature vibrato and odd stooped posture somehow did not connect; especially alongside other zippier TV personalities at the time, such as Yan Can Cook and the Frugal Gourmet. Seeing her persona spring to life on the big screen, as she met and fell in love with food, cooking, and la belle France, captured the body of emotions that anyone who has been inspired by food knows well.
With the publishing of her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child is widely credited with introducing Americans to French cuisine. Her recipes enabled us for the first time to cook classic French dishes at home, and she did it humbly, diligently, and with passion. In Julia’s cookbooks and TV series The French Chef (which I have since come to appreciate very much), she cared to always point out the details so we would understand that the meat has to be dry when you put it in the pan, otherwise it will steam, not brown. The flour and butter paste you added to the Coq au Vin is called beurre manié in French, and the tablespoon of sugar you are adding to the butter braised carrots is “to develop their flavor.” Julia’s cooking shows and recipes were delivered as if you were a friend invited into her kitchen, and it was clearly important to her that you be able to successfully execute each dish by following her instruction.
It puts a smile on my face to remember and celebrate Julia Child’s vivid life and immeasurable contributions to cuisine in America on her 100th birthday.
More than a decade before the first volume of Mastering was published, Julia’s decision to plunge ahead with her culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu was made (as described in her book, My Life in France) after “Paul and I agreed that the course was essential to my well-being.” I can’t help but be struck by the simplicity and bravery of allowing oneself to be led by this compass; it never did steer Julia wrong. How would our lives be different if we did the same?
I’ll be celebrating Julia’s 100th birthday by enjoying a special meal at RN74 restaurant in San Francisco, and also by cooking from recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Julia said, and devoted herself to instilling in us, that “the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite — toujours bon appétit!”
© 2012 by Revel Kitchen
How will you celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday?
- Boston chefs still infused with teachings of Julia Child (bostonglobe.com)
- Marlo Thomas: Bon Appétit! It’s Julia Child’s 100th Birthday (huffingtonpost.com)
- Julia Child’s Other Favorite Cocktail Recipe: The Angosoda – The 10-Minute Happy Hour (thekitchn.com)
- My dinners with Julia (boston.com)