Being a child of the Sixties, I have vivid memories of watching Julia Child as The French Chef, on a tiny black and white television in the kitchen with my mother.
I don’t remember her ever cooking one of Julia’s recipes, and my parents didn’t entertain much. I’m pretty sure that as much as we loved to watch Julia, the food she cooked seemed unapproachable and fussy to my mother, not to mention calling for ingredients way over her weekly grocery budget.
My mother prepared dinner every night for our family of five, economical favorites like Sloppy Joes, American Chop Suey, and baked chicken with my favortite seasoning, Shake n’ Bake; pretty typical fare in our working class New England neighborhood.
Watching Julia fling a duck onto her counter as she readied it for Canard à l’Orange might have had the same effect on us as watching Iron Chef Morimoto disembowel a blowfish would today – totally bizarre, impractical and kind of eccentric.
When I was much older, living on my own and seriously considering a career working in restaurant kitchens, I met Julia at a professional conference in Miami.
She was just finishing up her hour of book signing when I hurried over with my newly purchased copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I already owned an old, beat-up copy of the book, but I’d forgotten to bring it. I figured having the chance of getting close enough to a living culinary legend like Julia Child was worth spending the extra bucks for a crisp, new book; so unlike the worn, musty-smelling one I had at home.
As I smiled and approached her with my book, she stood up and shook her head. She said something like “I was just on my way up to my room for a siesta – I’ll have to sign your book another time. Oh, it’s been such a long day”.
I don’t remember exactly what I replied, but somehow my tragic disappointment must have been writ large on my face, since she did finally make her way back to her seat to sign my book.
So, I add my Julia Child moment to the list. If you have a moment inspired by Julia, leave me a note in the comments – I want to hear about it!