Julia Child would have been 100 this week, and festivities and tributes are everywhere (see list below).
I am one of the few in our industry who never met Child, despite an opportunity. I saw her hulking presence at the IACP conference, but I was too scared to introduce myself. I also did not cook my way through her books as a young woman, as French cuisine was not in my consciousness in my 20s and 30s.
But I have read Julia Child’s writing, full of gusto and conviction, and doing so always thrills me. Over her career, she wrote or co-wrote 18 books with sales totaling 6 million copies, according to this article in USA Today.
I own two of her books: The Way to Cook, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II. I took the anniversary of her 100th birthday as an invitation to dip back into them and appreciate her prowess as a food writer. Here are three snippets that show her humor and good-naturedness, generous spirit, and practicality. Her ability to become your best friend, standing next to you in the kitchen, astounds me still:
1. From the beginning of the 1989 cookbook, The Way to Cook. It’s impossible not to fall in love with her immediately:
“In this book, I am very conscious of calories and fat…An imaginary shelf labeled INDULGENCES is a good idea. It contains the best butter, jumbo-size eggs, heavy cream, marbled steaks, sausages and pates, hollandaise and butter sauces, french butter-cream fillings, gooey chocolate cakes, and all those lovely items that demand disciplined rationing. Thus, with items high up and almost out of reach, we are ever conscious that they are not everyday foods. They are for special occasions, and when that occasion comes we can enjoy every mouthful.”
“With the probable exception of fresh foie gras, which appears only once, all the ingredients called for here can be found in any well-equipped American supermarket. It is obvious to anyone who is interested in food that you chose the freshest and finest — which does not mean the most expensive, just the best, whatever it may be. If you do not find the right quality for a dish you had planned on, change gears, and pick another recipe.”
2. And from Mastering the Art, which she wrote with Simone Beck in 1970, she’s so sensible and clever:
On pureeing soup: “If you prefer an electric blender or processor, pour liquid off solids and into a bowl; ladle a cup or so of the solids and a cup of the liquid into the container. Puree by turning the machine on and off every second or two to avoid that too-smooth effect of baby food, since you will usually want the soup to have some texture.”
You’ll find lots of tributes to Child this week, including a self-serving one, a new book, videos, and events:
- Julia Child Best Quotes from PBS
- Highlights from her TV Show, Remixed to Guns and Roses
- PBS “Cook for Julia” event
- A new book, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
- A touching video from her friend Jacques Pepin
- Her Essential Kitchen Tips on Epicurious.com
- 100th Birthday event, sponsored by Knopf, her publisher.
One hundred restaurants around the country are celebrating her birthday with recipes inspired by Julia, from now through August 15. To find one in your town, see Julia Child Restaurant Week. And if you’ve yet to make a Julia Child recipe, here are a few to consider.
Bon Appetit, as Child would say. Try to not hear it as Dan Aykroid doing his Julia parody on Saturday Night Live.
What do you think of Child as a food writer? Are you surprised by how current she sounds, given how long ago she wrote these books? What can we learn from her writing?
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I can earn several cents if you make a purchase.]