An Ode To Julia
Julia Child “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” named #1 on New York Times Best Seller list 8.30.09 – first time in 48 years in print.
She crept into my life in 1968 slowly at first, until she became a dominant part of every week. For Julia Child taught me to cook — one recipe at a time — just as she has so many of us. I began at the beginning of “The French Chef”, and page by page discovered Beef Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, Puff Pastry, Daube, Duxelles, Naverin, Blanquette, Bourride, Bouillabaisse, Coquilles, Omelettes, Aioli, Vacherin, Mousse, Souffles, Pot-au-Feu, Lobster Thermidor, Croquembouche and Crepes Suzette. It was easy, she was there. Can’t you just hear her as she boomed those melodic recipes’ names? I can.
“Admiring a chef and getting to know him is like loving goose liver and then meeting the goose.”
~ Julia Child
I finally met Julia Child twenty years later when she, Paul and I were sharing a “ Loo” at Pat and Walter Wells’ “Chanteduc” in Vaison en Romaine, Provence. About forty of us were there to celebrate Pat’s birthday, but the joy for all of us was “hanging out” with Julia. Picking arugula, making ganache for the birthday cake, baking bread in the outdoor oven and, of course, eating and drinking gloriously, all the while laughing!
“I just love to eat!”
~ Julia Child
Back in New York, we had dinner quite often, when she was in town. She always wanted to try the latest and greatest restaurants, and she always ate with great gusto heaps and heaps! She loved good food! We worked together to enlarge The American Institute of Wine and Food, her energy knowing no bounds in her effort to legitimize the art of food and wine and the professionals who worked in the industry. She cajoled and charmed , relentlessly, for donations to build the AIWF. Julia loved to win!
“Too few people understand a great cheese.”
~ Julia Child
So full was her plate that she never knew what time it was. She’d call our home whenever — without hesitation — before 6am and well after midnight. Over the phone would come JULEE!!!! Yes, in capital letters. Now that wakes you up in a hurry! Bill always knew when I had been speaking with Julia. There was a smile on my face that wouldn’t go away and I’d have to tell him her latest. She loved to laugh! She called once when I was in NY. In asking for me, she said “This is Julia Child” and Bill replied “Oh, I’d never have known”. “Oh quit!” she giggled. The girl loved to flirt!
“I was 32 when I started cooking. Up until then I just ate.”
~ Julia Child
One Winter, my partner from The Silver Palate and I were being roasted by The New York Culinarians, and Julia, Irena Chalmers, Florence Fabricant and Barbara Kalfka were to do the deed. Wills and I were delayed by a snow storm in Aspen and arrived 1½ hours late for the dinner. We thought we’d sneak in and quietly take our seats for dinner. As we entered the room of 400, leaping up into the air, shouting “Wills, Oh, Wills, I must meet you at last.” was Julia. She came galloping amongst the tables, arms outstretched, heading straight for us, actually him! Everyone knew we had arrived! Wills instantly fell in love with her and her with him. My tall man loved that he had to look up at her. She loved men!
She always kept us in stitches, exaggerating about “hundreds of hours” of cooking time and” hundreds of cups” of stock. She kept asking me “How many zillions of cookbooks have you sold, Julee?” as we sat side by side at various tables signing books. She wanted everyone to be successful!
The years flew, and I always wanted to do a “Julia and Julee” cooking class, there were so many stories we could tell. But, I could never ask her. She was always so immersed in serious endeavors for our industry and taking care of her dear, dear Paul. But, as “Julie and Julia” made my eyes overflow with memories for that simpler time when the most important thing was whether the chocolate soufflé would really rise, I decided it’s time.