Today, August 15, is the anniversary of the birth of American icon Julia Child. Her determination to get the 684-page (originally much longer) tome that is Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I published is a lesson in persistence. Originally submitted for publication in 1953, it was rejected with the recommendation to trim its encyclopedic length. After six years of hard work, Julia and her partners submitted a heavily revised version to Houghton Mifflin, and again it was rejected as still being too long, elaborately informative and expensive to publish. It wasn’t until Judith Jones recognized its value and distinction and persuaded her seniors at Knopf to publish the book that it finally hit the presses in 1961.
There is much to be admired about Julia Child in addition to her persistence. I liked her down-to-earth straightforwardness. She knew how good food should taste. She never shied away from using the real thing –butter, lard, cream, bacon or foie gras. If you wanted to cut your calories, that was your business. She never lectured her readers or viewers.
On her famous TV series, The French Chef, she and her producer had the good sense to teach as well as entertain. She didn’t attempt to throw together a four or five course meal in 20 minutes. She most often treated one ingredient. In The Artichoke Show, for example, she demonstrated how to select, clean and cut the artichoke as well as prepare it several ways and serve. The viewer was able to replicate the task at home.
I have many dog-eared pages in her cookbook—her beef bourguignon, French hamburgers—my adaptation http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/play-it-up-like-a-real-hamburger/ and my favorite of all desserts (and this from a chocoholic) tarte tatin, to name a few. Here is a great version: http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com/archives/tarte-tatin-upsidedown-caramelized-apple-tart/
My cooking is constantly informed by her culinary gems:
Asked what her favorite meal was, she might mention duck or leg of lamb, but would almost always add, “I love good, fresh food cooked by someone who knows what he’s doing.”
The secret of Julia Child’s longevity: red meat and gin.
Food is terribly important. And if you don’t know how to cook, it’s tragic.
You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients
I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.
If you’re afraid of butter, and many people are, just use cream.
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.
French hamburger photographed by Bill Brady