As today’s Google Doodle probably already suggested to you, this would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Seems appropriate to raise a glass of wine (or two; this IS Julia…).
I grew up watching old episodes of The French Chef. My mother taped them all off PBS. We had Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volumes 1 and 2) on my parents’ shelf in New York, and another copy in our family friends’ basement in Seattle, just to make sure we wouldn’t be without Julia when we were subletting houses and cat-sitting in Seattle in the summers. My mother was really the source of this Juliaphilia. She lived in Paris for several years after she finished college and fell in love with French cooking, adopting French methods and bringing a French sensibility to traditional Jewish recipes like brisket. We shopped at farmers markets, cooked at home with good ingredients, and delighted in simple food. “It’s best when it’s fresh,” my mother still says, usually to justify herself or a family member reaching for another serving of something delicious.
In college, I was part of a 110-person vegetarian co-op. Once a semester, we were each responsible for collaborating on a special meal, either a fancy Saturday night dinner or a Sunday brunch. My friends and I decided to make French breakfast, a pile of baguettes and croissants and butter and jam and tea and coffee and juices. (This was before I figured out I couldn’t eat gluten.) I called my mother. She faxed me everything Julia wrote about croissants and baguettes. We stayed up all night in the kitchen, spraying the ovens with water every time Julia’s faxed pages said to do it and studying diagrams of proto-croissants.
Being Jewish, I didn’t feel left out when Christians started wearing W.W.J.D. bracelets and using hip language about their faith, like, “I’m down with JC!” (I really did hear someone say that once.) After all, my family had our own ideology: What Would Julia Do? And, of course, we were also down with JC. The very tall JC who wasn’t afraid of butter or fresh ingredients or being utterly delighted by food without having to find cutesy or obnoxious ways to word her utter delight.
To Julia, to butter, to fresh ingredients, and to many more years of inspiring cooking with fresh ingredients and utter delight. And to making sure access to ingredients and cooking skills and time and health are recognized as a right, not a privilege.
picture courtesy Julia Child Facebook page