Julie & Julia, and Me

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Last night I, along with every other foodie in America, went to see Julie & Julia. I loved the movie, but then, it was hard not to. I loved that look of satisfaction on Meryl Streep’s face as she triumphantly grinned at the bird-beak of meringue that hung smugly from her balloon whisk. I loved the frenzy over Sole Meuniere. I loved the night cap of mignonette and oyster shooters. I loved it because I was salivating, and dying to be back in Paris. I loved it because they got it right, and because it celebrated what I love most in all the world: French food.

As I drove home, I got to feeling ashamed. Over several things. I’ve been so busy with cooking school, and writing my column, that I haven’t spent the time I should have been spending on this blog, the blog that, like Julie in the movie, was started by my boyfriend and which started it all for me. So, readers, I apologize for that. But I was also ashamed because I, who preach the gospel of easy French food for American cooks, have never read or seen one recipe by the grande dame herself, Julia Child. I didn’t know that my “bon app” signature is just slang for Julia’s valedictory “bon appetit”! I didn’t even realize the extent to which I should have known all of this.

Julie and JuliaI always write how here in America, we hold French food up as the gold (butter gold) standard. That even provincial French cooking achieves the effortless elegance of a svelte, scarved Parisian woman. It is a passion that consumes me, and which I happily consume. But I have never really been influenced by the woman who changed everything, I now realize, and who made what I do possible, relatable, and I hope, to someone out there, important or inspiring or just sweet fun.

In some ways, I think the lack of influence is a good thing. Julia and I do very different things. We both may have started at the Cordon Bleu, but, from what I understand, she perfected French traditional cooking, where as I interpret the food on which I was raised into what I hope is something a bit tongue-in-cheek and even more accessible, in a world which has changed, as far as I can tell, very dramatically in the last forty or so years. But now I am fascinated, charmed, and beguiled. I ordered the DVDs and Mastering the Art of French Cooking on Amazon last night, and I am salivating again just thinking about its arrival.

I’ll let you know when they get here. Until then, bon app mes amis!

print this post
Share

Categories: People

10 Responses to Julie & Julia, and Me

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you article was such a lovely & fascinating appreciation of Julia! It made me think about Julia, French food, & cooking in a whole new way! Your writing is so beautiful & interesting! Your a great teacher!

  2. Anonymous says:

    More than "Mastering the Art" (which, while unquestionably superb, is probably more honored by a place on the shelf than by regular use in the kitchen), it as Julia Child’s “The French Chef” television show that was the *real* revolutionary moment. I remember, as a small child, my mother (who was already an excellent home cook, schooled by her mother and grandmother in traditional Jewish recipes), religiously watching Julia Child and introducing dishes and ideas she saw on TV. My father had had some professional training, and had traveled in France and Italy before they married, so he did genuine gourmet cooking on weekends, but I’m sure my mother was not the only person inspired by Julia’s TV shows to move beyond comfort food into really sophisticated cooking. Julia Child was a unique personality, and beyond her expertise, it was her confidence and cheerfulness that really inspired Americans to try something new.

    You talk about great French provincial cooking. America has that too – great regional food as well as all the immigrant traditions. We have nothing to be ashamed of or to bow down to. Julia Child led the way, and one of the outcomes was that America realized its own truly great cooking was just as good as the best of Paris and Lyon and Marseilles and Monaco. She would have agreed with that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, Jon! I am so happy to hear that.

    And Thomas, I just loved your comment. I am so looking forward to these DVDs arriving so I can see Julia in action, and really understand how she can make boning a duck accessible. I believe she did it; I just want to know how. And you are so very right. Perhaps her greatest contribution was not bringing French food to the States, but bringing food itself–the unabashed adoration of it–to this country. The regionality of American food is one of my greatest loves about our country. Making apple pie in New York in the fall, and coming back down to Florida for chocolate dipped key lime pie and fried alligator. We are lucky indeed to have the cuisines of a hundred countries in one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I recently acquired the "French Chef" videos and have been watching–they are great!

    I used to love watching the Julia Child PBS shows on Saturdays–and then later when I had my own place my DVR was filled with them. They were great; but most had Julia accompanied by a guest chef. She kinda played the dumb-person-who-asks-questions-for-the-audience role in those shows.

    So to see her doing all of the cooking and explaining on "The French Chef" is fun–and she's a lot younger and even more enthusiastic. The fact that the shows were filmed live, she stutters or forgets things, makes mistakes, or isn't perfect (watch her take out the wishbone, it makes you feel better about your own wishbone-removal-skills) makes the show all the better.

    I haven't seen the movie, but I've read the book _My Life In France_ (two thumbs up), and she did TONS of research and testing of her recipes. She knows her stuff. And she was able to convey that information in an accessible manner without dumbing it down.

    I own _Mastering the Art_ Volumes I & II and _The Way to Cook_. Probably the best cookbooks that I own. _Mastering the Art.._ is of course very influential, but it's really a great cookbook. The actual recipes aside, they are presented in a clear and logical manner. And thorough (the baguette recipe in the second volume is something like 15 pages long). Also there are no photographs but the illustrations are really good. The actual recipes are good, though. I'm probably not the norm, but I used it regularly. The 3rd book I mentioned is better for regular uses as it's not tied down to being slavish to classical French cooking.

    Oh, and if you make it to DC at any point, you've got to check out her kitchen at the American History Smithsonian Museum.

    Enjoy the DVDs!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I still love your posts! Thanks for sharing all these nice thoughts and ideas with us. And it is good to read that someone else has fallen so so deeply in love with Paris. That makes me feel a little less homesick for that beautiful city. Shared sorrow! Take care!

    Love, Mar

  6. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article, I loved the movie, too!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kerry. I had the same "Julia awakening" 2 years ago when I read "My life in France". I loved the book and felt so inspired that I read the book a second time. I felt more ashamed than you for not appreciating and understanding Julia Child while she was alive because I am older than you. Like you, I immediately bought Mastering The Art Volume I. I had to have the original, so I bought a 1966 version on ebay. In any event, it's never too late to appreciate a giant. On a side note, I'll be attending the LCB Paris Intensive Basic Cuisine in November. Any tips? Also, do you intend to pursue The Diplome de Cuisine?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kerry. I had the same "Julia awakening" 2 years ago when I read "My life in France". I loved the book and felt so inspired that I read the book a second time. I felt more ashamed than you for not appreciating and understanding Julia Child while she was alive because I am older than you. Like you, I immediately bought Mastering The Art Volume I. I had to have the original, so I bought a 1966 version on ebay. In any event, it's never too late to appreciate a giant. On a side note, I'll be attending the LCB Paris Intensive Basic Cuisine in November. Any tips? Also, do you intend to pursue The Diplome de Cuisine?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Mark! I am so excited for you that you are doing Intensive Basic Cuisine. I have a lot of advice. Prepare for long and late days, but they'll be fun. Take a spot at one end or the other of the marble counter in the kitchen on the first day. The middle is cramped, and people tend to take the same spot thereafter. If you know you'll need something in limited supply, like a measuring cup or a pot lid, get them together at the beginning of the class. Be early for everything. Make sure that you nickname all the chefs so you can talk about them at school. Think about whether your butter needs to be soft or cold before you realize that it's the opposite of what you want right at the end of class. Keep your knives sharp and clean and never, ever let them out of your sight. Read the recipes the night before you make them. Study hard and early for your finals. Taste everything–it's hard to believe how salty they like things there. Never take the criticism to heart; there's a lot of it, but you won't learn if you get offended. Always tie a paper towel to the handles of pots when they come out of the oven–I've seen a lot of burns. On the same note, watch your hands most when you clean your knives or pack them up; that's when you see the most cuts. Find a good, cheap dry cleaner for your uniforms. The chefs notice the difference. Arrive early to lecture to sit in the front so you can see and hear everything. Make friends of your classmates; you'll see them all the time. Don't take notes in the sequence of the class lecture; designate several pages for each recipe, and flip back and forth, clearly numbering the steps of each recipe. I can't say how much that will help you in the end!

    But first and foremost, have fun, and just get excited every day that you are on your way to school. You will learn more the first day than you thought you would over the whole term.

    And as for me, I do intend to pursue it, although I can't say over what span of time. I'm hoping to head back in the next year or two for intermediate. I'm so excited for you! You'll have to post some updates for us.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Kerry,

    Thanks for all the great advice and your enthusiasm. I know your time is both limited and valuable, so I appreciate that you took the time for such a detailed response. I will use every piece of direction. I am thrilled about the whole upcoming adventure.

    I would guess that you have read Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry". I strongly recommend it if you have not. It's a must for anyone interested in cooking, Paris, and curious about Le Cordon Bleu.

    I would be happy to post a few updates as I go through the Course. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>