Happy Birthday to America’s Cooking Icon
This coming week celebrates the birth (Aug. 15) and death (Aug. 13) of Julia Child. Had that culinary mastermind still been with us today, she would have been turning 100 this Thursday.
I received my first Julia Child cookbook one Christmas morning when I was about 13. To be honest, I’m not sure if I even knew who she was at the time, but I remember my mom and I slowly working through recipes in that book.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, along with the Joy of Cooking were my first real introductions into the world of food. They both are absolutely generational masterpieces, and both, particularly Julia’s, welcome the readers into their kitchen space with open arms.
Julia’s quirks and comments throughout her cookbooks not only aide in the cooking process, but read almost like a novel. She is a true master and an inspiration, the inspiration for home cooks: having not been trained with a cooking background, she entered the culinary world late when her husband’s job took her to France, and she fell in love with the food.
After going to culinary school, she lived this fantasy life of traveling throughout France and putting together recipes with other women. But she worked hard. She genuinely cared about the American cuisine and how to bring back cooking for that housewife, and how to make it accessible to women who were all of a sudden turned on to canned foods and frozen dinners.
Being classically trained, she learned proper techniques and executed them nearly perfectly because of endless practice. But in her technique and her practice she remained so…salt of the earth, so relatable, which is why most of us know her for dropping her turkey on live T.V. and still using it.
While I don’t use my Julia Child cookbook as often as I once did, I am guilty of being a fan of the movie Julie and Julia. I stumbled across that movie after a breakup, while in culinary school, and somehow it just struck a chord. There’s one specific scene where Julia’s deconstructing a chicken and talking about the importance of putting love and affection with each precise step, and how we must nourish the chicken.
I think about that nearly every time that I’m breaking down a chicken or rubbing it before roasting. There’s something so animalistic about it, the smoothness of the skin, the sharp, thin bones along the rib cage and being elbow deep in blood, guts and salmonella. Yet, as Julia points out, there’s something so … loving about the process, like a true sense of respect for it. A sense of caring that inevitably must go into this deconstruction, not only for the chicken’s sake, but because it will truly effect how it cooks.
And what I always loved about Julia Child, particularly in her shows, is her appreciation for the craziness and her ability to step back and simply enjoy it. There are beautiful moments in the kitchen that occur from time to time in the midst of the chaos. Julia’s schpeal about caring for a chicken is one of those moments. Standing in a room with friends or family or roommates or coworkers, whomever, laughing about the chicken slop I have all over my arms is certainly up there too.
If you happen to read this in time, check out a “Tribute to Julia” Cooking class happening at 7pm 8/10 at L’Academie De Cuisine.