I know that I have been silent for a few weeks, but I could not let this day pass without a tribute to one of my personal heroes – Julia Child. You see today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Julia Child. She died 2 days shy of her 92nd birthday in 2004.
Growing up, I was the world’s pickiest eater. Mealtimes for me were nightmares. My mother would make dinner for 8 children and a husband often while balancing a baby on her hip. My father’s arrival home from work meant the house erupted into total silence. My mother would keep 8 rambunctious young children quiet when the self appointed benevolent dictator returned home from work after a stop for a few “pops” at the local tavern so he could “deal” with her and us kids. He would “retire” to the master bedroom until dinner was ready and all 8 of us kids were situated into our assigned seats around the table. In perfect silence. An errant word from any one of us resulted in a backhand or pop with his ring on the top of our heads. Our parents would glare at each other while we attempted to eat the marginal food that was piled onto our plates. I often was found sitting at that table, long after the dishes were cleaned, with ice cold food that my mother swore I would have to eat before I could get up. I still get knots in my stomach just thinking about these times.
So, how did I ever become the foodie that I am today? Well, one of the people who influenced me early on was Julia Child. I can still hear the sign-on music from WGBH in Boston, the PBS station that carried the various shows of Julia Child whom I refer to as “The Original Food Network Star.”
I remember watching her show and being inspired to re-think my image of food and mealtimes.
And, then I moved to Boston. My oldest daughter was born there, and I would rock her in my arms every Saturday afternoon while I watched The French Chef re-runs. I laughed at Dan Akroyd’s parody of Julia on Saturday Night Live. I started to eat and cook new and different foods. Buying cookbooks became a passion.
I own Mastering the Art of French Cooking (among other Julia Child cookbooks) and salivated over early editions of this book that I found in Powell’s bookstore which I visited when I was in Portland, Oregon, this past summer. I imagined the women’s kitchens where these books were used as I flipped through the pages to see the smudges and stains from recipes prepared years ago.
I read My Life in France by Julia Child and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and then went to see the movie based on these books starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.
Book cover image for Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz, (AP Photo/ Alfred A. Knopf).
I downloaded the new biography of Julia Child by Bob Spitz, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, onto my e-reader.
Yes, I am obsessed by Julia Child and everytime I watch a show on The Food Network or The Cooking Channel or The Travel Channel and see the chefs and celebrities preparing food step-by-step I think of how Julia and her beloved husband, Paul, and their good friends set the stage for not only sharing their love of good food but how to present it on television and in cookbooks in new and innovative ways.
Today, in honor of Julia Child, I am preparing one of her signature meals – Boeuf À La Bourguignonne (Beef stew in red wine with bacon, onions, and mushrooms) served with boiled potatoes, buttered peas, a loaf of fresh French bread, and a Beaujolais wine.
This is the dish that Julia’s publisher prepared that convinced her that Mastering the Art of French Cooking would be a success and not too difficult for young housewives to understand. This is the dish that became a standby for young housewives in the 60s and 70s to prepare for special occasions – like when the husband brought the boss home for dinner.
Well, we live in different times now. Julia Child was a role model not only for women in the kitchen but for everyone who loves good food. She is also a role model for everyone, but particularly for women, that if we work hard we can achieve our dreams even later in life.
So, I would like to say Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child!
Oh, and bon appétit!