When Lisa, at Champaign Taste announced her "2nd Annual Julia Child Birthday Event" I promptly jumped in. I would make something wonderful, a fitting tribute to this marvelous woman who did so much for so many of us aspiring cooks.
And I had a whole month to think, plan, prepare. I had the best of intentions.
So, rather than a recipe, I'll post photos of my excuses and words of my thoughts on this lovely, quirky lady.
My first exposure to cooking on the telly came when I was at university in the 70's. We used to skip class (for shame) to watch the 'Galloping Gourmet'. For those of you unfamiliar with the original, and the hilariously funny, Graham Kerr, he would uncork a bottle of wine at the beginning of the show and finish it by the end, tossing a few glugs into whatever he was cooking as he went along.
Then I pretended to grow up and started watching PBS – public television. I was introduced to Yan (Yan Can Cook), Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet) and Julia Child.
("I will not express my opinion of most of the current 'cooking' shows", she sniffs, disdainfully)
Yan was dazzling with his fancy cleaver work.
Jeff was earnest in his endeavor to widen our culinary horizons, traveling the world to introduce us to foods, markets and cooking of other cultures.
Julia just wanted to show us that we, yes, the ordinary 'we', could cook and do it well.
She emphasized the importance of learning the basics: "Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again." then let us know that it was okay to deviate.
She let us know that cooking could be fun. It was serious business: planning and preparing a proper dinner, but we could have fun doing it and our guests (our just ourselves) should enjoy the result. Certain foods can be very intimidating, especially for new cooks, but she showed us how to break recipes down into manageable steps. I have the "Way to Cook" videos (yeah, VHS) and have watched them dozens of times. I like them as background entertainment when I'm working in the kitchen. Every time I watch them I pick up something new.
She let us know that flubs happen. I mean, if Julia Child
can screw something up (this is a tribute, after all)…. If Julia Child can be less than perfect that gives me a whole lot of freedom in my own kitchen. And she reminded us to laugh when it happens, fix it as best we can, and move on.
Finally, she let us know that good food is part of good living. Get the best ingredients you can, prepare them with care and enjoy them with gusto.
She said the world was divided between feeders and eaters: Feeders eat to live; eaters live to eat. She was an eater; so am I.
Every time I grab a bottle of wine and add a 'glug' to the pot I think of Julia. Are my glugs the same measure as hers? I know she would say it wasn't important…
And I know she would understand that this week, in my kitchen, the beans and pickles needed care…
If she were here, I think she'd join me, sitting on the terrace with a glass of rosé, snapping beans.
Go visit Champaign Taste, after August 15th for more on Julia Child, her life and food.