Julia Child: Cooking With Flair
Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!
Yankee Classic from November 1979.
“When we were first married,” Paul Child says, “Julia was always hungry, but she didn’t know enough about cooking to do anything about it.” With him as her incentive, she took a crash program in learning French, and then immersed herself in cooking lessons in Paris where they were living. Since then she has been doing her own culinary thing with steadily increasing confidence and command.
Some say she could coat the most abysmal meal with a layer of cheese, put it under the broiler for a few minutes, and present it as if it were ambrosia fit for the gods. Likely as not, it would be.
In popularizing the art of good eating, Julia Child has demonstrated to millions of stay-at-home cooks that a certain devil-may-care attitude and dram of humor are nearly as essential as the raw materials all cooks deal with regularly. As with her traditional TV sign-off — a raised glass and a jaunty “Bon appetit” — Julia inspires confidence, even among those who have never felt an urge for culinary derring-do.
Julia Child has perfected the art of good teaching as well. She captures the attention with her energy and her somehow outrageous naturalness. Her husband calls her a clown, a ham even, and Julia doesn’t deny the charge. “When one is a teacher,” she says, smiling, “haven’t you found it so?”
Her recipes tend to be long because they are written with such precision, but they do allow more seasoned cooks to scan directions they do not need. Because of the method of theme and variations — an approach she carefully developed to communicate her information easily to others — many cooks claim her recipes are nearly foolproof.
“She’s a creative artist,” Paul Child explains, “dedicated to making an imprecise art more precise.”
An example of this is Julia’s Strawberry Souffle No. 29. She was determined such a dish could be concocted as a sweet dessert. Her recipe worked well enough for one of her televised cooking lessons. But soon after it was aired, a flood of letters poured into the studio. It seemed her recipe was not infallible. It might have had something to do with the moisture content of the strawberries, so Julia went back to her own kitchen and tried it again. It took 29 attempts before she was entirely satisfied.