Thursday, August 06, 2009

Julia Child and Me

This is my favorite photo of Julia Child. This is the way I remember her-- all slap-dash and casual culinary genius. Having FUN with food. She was the inspiration for me as a cook and a new wife and proved to me and the world that cooking could be fun AND enlightening.

Though I haven't cooked bravely in years, I still recall the adventuresome spirit that would seize me after every episode I watched of her TV series. Nothing seemed out of reach. Coquilles St. Jacques-- no problem. Pheasant-- just give me a few minutes. And tarts and pastries-- I learned to bake and make killer tea tarts from The Julia.

To this day, I have an unquenchable desire to make my turkeys flap their wings and to slap them around to make certain they're properly thawed before baking. Yeah, I confess, I like to play with my food.

So when I heard about the movie coming out this weekend, JULIE AND JULIA, I was struck by the concept. And that was before I learned that the inimitable Julia would be played by the inimitable Meryl Streep! Now I can't wait to see this movie. The premise is that a young woman adrift and searching for direction decides to "cook" her way through Julia Child's cookbook and to blog about the experience for a year. And in doing so, she echoes Julia's own search for her niche, years before. It's two stories in one. With lots of food and fabulous character acting. What more could we ask for?

How much do I admire the woman? I don't know if anybody really noticed, but I named the heroine in my medieval "foodie" book, THE MARRIAGE TEST, Julia of Childress. It was my own secret pleasure to know that Julia of Childress was really inspired by Julia Child. I'd like to think that she'd have gotten a kick out of the way I portrayed her namesake and the way people reported "salivating all through the book."

It was my quiet tribute to the grand dame who taught me that cooking could be fun and a challenge at the same time.

Who taught YOU to cook? Do you watch the Food Network? Who's your favorite Food Network star? Did you ever watch culinary TV before Emeril? Who influenced you most as a cook? What did you think of Julia?


magolla said...

I learned to cook by watching my mother, she cooked everything from scratch. Mostly because we couldn't afford pre-packaged food, but it taught me not to be afraid to experiment.

I LOVE the Food Network. I've gotten hooked on the Next Food Network star--love Melissa! In fact two days ago I improvised her dish that won the contest. Easy and fresh. Chopped is a fun show, and of course, the Challenge shows.

I was never much of an Emeril fan. Don't know why, he just didn't work for me.

About nine years ago when I was up in the middle of the night feeding my infant daughter, I would watch the old Julia Child shows--Yes, they were the only thing on at three in the morning that wasn't an infomertial!

Love cooking, Chicken with white wine and mushroom sauce, wild rice, and fresh green beans are on for this evening!

lois greiman said...

Wow Betina, I'm almost inspired to make something more than peanut butter sandwiches after listening to you. But alas, no talent and not much motivation here.

The movie does look pretty cool, though, doesn't it? I'm a little infatuated with Amy Adams--of MN no less--and Meryl Streep is a legend. I saw Funny People last night...not very I'm waiting for this movie to get a laugh.

Kylie said...

Fun post, Betina!

I'll admit I don't watch the food network so it's charms are lost on me. I learned to cook through trial and error. We were so poor when we got married that our meals consisted in large part of the meat my in laws would send home with us. My mother in law raised chickens and they also had cattle. To this day, I can't bear the taste of hamburger, LOL.

I remember being most puzzled by how to get all the food done at the same time. This was a few years before microwaves, so I depended on my cookbooks a great deal.

These days I regularly field calls from my kids about cooking questions. At RWA, one night I had three texts from a son wanting to know how long to warm garlic bread and the temperature needed to cook a pork loin on the grill!

Michele Hauf said...

I can't wait for this movie! Meryl seems to embody Julia. I read the book years ago, and it was great.

I'm not much of a cook, I stick to the tried and true, mashed potatoes and gravy, lasagna, chicken. Would love to expand my cooking horizons, but it seems too daunting.

Kathleen O said...

I love the Food network and first started to watch Emirle.. I love is BAM... My fav to watch are Bobby Flay and Paula Dean..

I learned to cook at an early age, by my mom and grandmother..But nothing fancy. Just plain good meals. My dad was a meat and potatoes guy, The most exotic thing we ate was spegetti. But over the year I have experimented with food.. But I do know how to set a really fine table....that is my forte..

Kathleen O said...

Whoops and I failed to mention, of course I watched Julie.. I loved what she did with food and how she went about it... It was great.

SidneyKay said...

I learned to cook from my mother. I love the food network. I love the pie and cake contests and I love to watch Paula Dean cook with all of that butter.

I also remember Julia Childs, loved to listen to her. I remember watching her when she made spun sugar once, that was fascinating. I also remember the Dan Ackroyd take on her, very funny.

Anyone remember the Galloping Gourmet?

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, God, the Galloping Gourmet! That jump started a brain cell!!

I CAN cook, learned from my mother who is a wonderful, instinctive cook, but I confess I don't particularly like to cook. I was too young at the time to appreciate what Julia Child had to offer (you helped me put that in perspective, Betina) but I think this movie looks fabulous.

Terry Odell said...

Ah, yes! The Galloping Gourmet! I used to watch him faithfully. He came to town for a signing, and I think it was the very first autographed book I owned -- I showed him all the TV cookbooks, plus his first 'big' cookbook, which my husband gave me as a gift (ulterior motive there, I'm sure!).

And we're definitely planning to make a rare venture to the theater to see Julia. She's another of my first teachers. My brother became a chef, and he said of her visit to the restaurant where he was pastry chef at the time, "After 15 minutes, I had to go to the other side of the kitchen, because she sounds exactly like she does on tv, and it gets overwhelming."

And I used to watch The Frug, too.

They all gave me confidence that you could have fun, and nothing had to be perfect.

The Food Network is likely to be my background noise when I'm home. (I never liked Emeril, either, though.) Alton Brown is cool.

catslady said...

My mom was the cleaner in her family and my aunt did the cooking. Same thing happened to my sister and me - I liked to cook but I pretty much taught myself. Even when I worked long days I would come home and cook. Unfortunately once the kids came and dinners became chaotic, I got away from it. Now my kids are grown with a husband and a significant other added to the mix so I'm learning all over again to at least make those Sunday dinners lol. I loved watching Julia and can't wait to see the movie.

Kathleen O said...

How could I have forgotten about the Galloping Gourmet... he taped is second time around, afte the rehab.. He was a raging alcholic.. in Toronto and we went to one of his shows.. He was an absolute hoot.. He would always say these outrageous things and you would just be in stitches..

Debra Dixon said...

Julia of Childress ???!!

Betina- I didn't get it. Oh how fun. I'm going to have to get that book out and enjoy the beginning again and we all know that means I'll read the whole book again.

Hubby and I are going to see Julie & Julia. We're just fascinated by the concept and the dead on Meryl Streep turn as Julia.

GunDiva said...

I can cook out of necessity, but after marrying the RockCrawlinChef, I'm finally developing a palate and learning to appreciate good, well-cooked food. I never much watched the Food Network until we got married, but now our schedule revolves around it. Yay, Melissa! I knew she'd win the Next Food Network Star; Hell's Kitchen (love Gordon Ramsey) on Tuesdays, followed by Chopped; Top Chef Masters on Wednesday; etc. I've become a Food Network junkie. Darn it.

As for cooking; if it doesn't come out of a box, it's the RockCrawlinChef's domain!

Liza said...

My dad taught me to cook most everything. I learned how to bake from both grandmothers. In fact, my Nannie just taught me how to make her chocolate chess pie a few weeks ago.

I do watch the Food Network, but not as much as I did a couple of years ago. Paula Deen's show is my favorite to watch.

I want to see Julie and Julia too. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams should both be amazing.

Anonymous said...

I noticed Julia of Childress, Betina! And it really made the book special for me. That's my favorite of the series, too. The best part ... when she coaxes him to take off the nose clip so he can enjoy the food, and he says, "Do you know how long since I've tasted food like this?" and she retorts, "You've been eating food like this for the past three weeks, ever since you hired me!" or words to that effect. Priceless ~

I never watched Julia Child or any other cooking show, but I do love to read and collect cookbooks, and hers are a lot of fun.

Sort of the tongue-in-cheek version of "for chicken salad, first you must catch the chicken" types of instructions that were so popular in the early American cookbooks ~


Terry Odell said...

One other comment from my brother, the chef. He said, "To build a house, you first buy a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" and then build the house around it.

He's my first and best consultant both for "real" cooking (he has a foolproof turkey roasting system) and for my characters. I mean, if your heroine doesn't have baking powder, how's the hero going to make her pancakes? I just ask my brother! Voila, a workaround.

Betina Krahn said...

Sorry I've been out all day-- just back in the house and came straight to the computer! And to find all the lovely comments-- this makes my "meh" day very special!

I do like the Food Network-- used to watch Emeril quite a bit, but less so now. I like Alton Brown, but sometimes he gets a little carried away. (Don't we all. sigh.) Paula Dean-- I think it's so cool that she cooks with her sons! But I have to wonder what her daughters-in-law think of all that. lol.

The Galloping Gourmet-- I LOVED him and was so sad when they yanked him off the air. He wasn't as dignified as Julia, but he was fun and helped de-mystify "le grand cuisine."

I learned to cook from myolder sister. . . who learned a great deal from the other officers' wives in the military. My mother was not much of a cook-- as the eldest of 6 kids, she had to do waaaaay too much "utility" cooking in her youth. But she was a whiz at take-out and catering.

I confess, I started out "baking." I still love making pies of all kinds. And tarts for high tea.

And I did try a number of those medieval dishes I referenced in the book.

Candace said...

The first meal I "cooked" for my husband was KFC but I've come a long, long way since then. Today, I own, oh, at least 75+ cookbooks (including Julia's), and use them regularly. And I am always attending some cooking class or other - French, Persian, Thai..whatever looks good. I love to cook. For me, it's another way to create.

My dad was a chef but he wasn't really into teaching. I obviously watched and absorbed though. Years ago, when I was taking French cooking class we were learning how to bone a chicken. So, I take my raw chicken and my boning knife and set to work...only to look up ten minutes later, chicken completely boned (and intact!)and realize everyone had stopped working and was staring at me. "You done this before," said the teacher accusingly

No, actually, I hadn't ever boned a chicken (why on earth would I?) but I'd seen my dad do it so many times in must have sunk into my unconscious somewhere.

I watch the cooking shows on the Food Network while I work out on my elliptical trainer. Not much of a fan of Emeril but I do like that young woman who does Italian -- Gia something, I think? The name escapes me at the moment. Also the Barefoot Contessa. And Paula Dean. And Rachel Ray when she stuck to cooking.

M. said...

Holy cats, I'm so glad I stopped in today, because-

I LOVED 'The Marriage Test'! It made me search for and delightedly find 'The Husband Test' (which is the book waiting for me at the cottage).

And - I'm reading 'Julie and Julia' right now! And it's really good. Julie Powell has writerly skills beyond what I would have expected simply from hearing the term 'serious amateur cook'.

I still love 'Top Chef' but lost all interest in 'Hell's Kitchen'.

Jill Sorenson said...

I also loved The Marriage Test. So yummy!!! I didn't get the Julia connection until now. Duh. I'm no foodie but I watch Top Chef.

My husband loves Giada, Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee (groan), any cute lady cook. He's such a...guy! But I have a wee crush on Jamie Oliver so I guess that's fair.