Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Happy Birthday Julia Child and Evelyn
Julia Child would be 100 years old today -- as every food blogger and food writer knows. I first encountered her work and TV show in the fall of 1964, when I was newly married and learning to cook. Marcy, the secretary of the office where I was working was a member of Book of the Month Club, and purchased Mastering the Art of French Cooking for me at a reduced price. I loved it immediately!
In gratitude, we invited Marcy to dinner, though in fact we didn't have much in common with her. I made the recipe on page 246: "Roast squab Chickens with Chicken Liver Canapes and Mushrooms" -- I used Rock Cornish Hens. I have never made that recipe again, though I've tried dozens of others in that book. Why I remember that one, I can't imagine. I served it on a beautiful Danish Modern wood tray that had been a wedding present. Forever after it faintly smelled of liver.
Over time, I've memorized many of the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and now make them without looking. A few of these favorites: onion soup, carbonnades a la Flamande, casserole roasted veal, gratin Dauphinoise, salade Nicoise. I once roasted a goose according to her recipe (memorable, but it's hard to find another goose), and once made Riz a l'Imperatrice (disappointing). I made clafoutis a few times. I use her recipes for crepes, ratatouille, daube de Provence, and chicken with tarragon, and quite a few others. Despite my love of artichokes, I don't recall having tried her method of trimming them down to the artichoke bottoms and then stuffing them. And I admit that I've never had the patience to try the most challenging desserts, those with puff pastry.
Over the years, I have acquired other Julia Child books, beginning with the second volume of Mastering..., which was published a few years later. Compared to my original copy of Volume I, full of stains, splashes, and dog-ears, my Volume II is pristine. I'm not sure I've ever made a single recipe from it, though Lenny did make the French bread recipe for a while. It's full of things I would be afraid to try, like roast suckling pig.
Julia Child & Company, published in 1978, turned out to be a real favorite. My copy is full of notes about when I cooked various dishes or even whole meals. For example, the "Indoor Outdoor Barbecue" gave us the idea of cooking a butterflied leg of lamb on the barbecue. It's fantastic -- we have done it often. My handwritten notes on page 193 record that I made the entire dinner on May 6, 1984 (including the Topinambours, or Jerusalem artichokes), and repeated all or part of it in 1992, 2004, and 2010. Here's the photo of that meal from the book:
I have loved all her books that I own -- shown at the top of this post. The one I bought most recently was My Life In France, her wonderful autobiography. And I have also enjoyed her kitchen in the Smithsonian, which I wrote up here.
Happy Birthday, Julia. And also happy birthday Evelyn, who shares her birthday.