Tag Archives: Julia Child

My Top Ten Artists

Here, in order of my my favoritism, are my top ten favorite artists. These are the writers, painters, actors, poets, cooks and fashion designers whose work makes my heart beat a little faster.

  1. Virginia Woolf, writer
  2. Emily Dickenson, poet
  3. Bill Bryson, writer
  4. Christopher Kimball, writer & cook
  5. Julia Child, writer & cook
  6. Coco Chanel, fashion designer
  7. Terry Pratchett, writer
  8. John Cleese, actor
  9. Helen Mirren, actress
  10. Rien Poortuliet & Wil Hoygen, writers & painters (collaborators)

This is the fourth part of my week of lists. For last week’s list click here.

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As Always, Julia [A Review]

Joseph Raymond McCarthy.

"Communist food." --Joe McCarthy Image via Wikipedia

When I think of what makes a novel enjoyable I decide that a good novel should be so believable that you could take it for non-fiction. The author must create the world so exactly that you loose yourself in it and find yourself hours later wondering if it really was fiction. This, I believe, is the sign of a good novel.

But what about non-fiction? I find that the non-fiction books I enjoy are enjoyable because their stories are so incredible that I find myself hours later wondering it it really was non-fiction.

Which is why I was so delighted by As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto (Selected and Edited by Joan Reardon. Spanning over 400 pages and almost a decade these are the collected letters exchanged between Julia Child (who needs no introduction) and Avis DeVoto (wife of Bernard DeVoto and impressive woman in her own right) starting from Julia’s letter to Bernard. That first letter was received by Avis, who acted as her husband’s secretary, and was responded to warmly. Julia wrote back. Then Avis. Then Julia. Soon they were dear friends (dear friends who did not meet in person for over two years) and Avis became a sort of shepard for Julia and Simca’s manuscript in America.

The story contained in this gorgeous book is not just the tale of the manuscript that Julia would refer to as “Gargantua”. Throughout these letters my heart was truly warmed by the love and friendship that grew between these two women. But it is not just a story of friendship either. Their friendship begins as McCarthyism is sweeping the nation and as two liberals with friends and family both supporting McCarthy and being hunted by McCarthy their letters contain riveting tales of the time.

I do have a few minor quibbles though. For starters there are times where I felt the book was unfairly slanted towards Julia (a woman who I love greatly for what it’s worth). The cover bears a photo featuring just the well-known woman and the title As Always, Julia (emphasis added) feels as though the book is from her eyes, after reading the book I feel confident that there are many other quotes that could have been selected. Of course, I am no expert on book printing (though I could understand that sales might be helped by more prominently showing the more famous of the two) so take that complaint with a grain of salt. However (I’m going to complain just a wee bit more), the photos on the inside and the little vignettes about the important events happening around them (vignettes I found to be indispensable) also seem to be tilted towards Julia though I found Avis’ life to be equally absorbing.

One last little bit of kvetching. The layout of the photos among the letters I found to be slightly awkward. Often times the photos (though they were quite lovely) depicted people and events referred to in past (and sometimes future) letters and there were times where I found myself momentarily loosing myself as I tried to place the scenes. Also, Ms. Reardon’s footnotes I often felt to be useful and with just the right amount of detail without distracting from the flow of the letters but there were times where there would be pages without a footnote when I felt at least one could have been needed. But these are petty.

On the note of the book’s appearance. Beautiful! The cover is bright and cheerful and makes me think of the 1950s while the inside is similarly well laid out. It might be more economical to purchase this as an e-book but I would be more than willing to plonk down the extra bucks for this in hardcover.

As Always, Julia is a book that only for Julia Child fanatics but one I’d recommend for casual food lovers, those interested in the 1950s and anyone who likes a good tale of friendship.

4.5 stars out of 5.

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A Mess of Crêpes- Actually They’re Crepes.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, original ...

This is (more or less) my copy of Julia and Simca's book! --Image via Wikipedia

First of all. These are not Julia Child Crêpes Suzette or even “real” crepes. I love traditional crêpes but sometimes I want the sugary Joy of Cooking-based recipe that my mother has concocted. In fact to prevent the food purists (of which I kind of am) from writing me about what a crêpe really is let’s just call them crepes. There are /ˈkreɪp/ and there are cray-pps (yes I made up that other phonetic spelling but I think you can get it.) I’m writing about cray-pps.

A few posts ago (maybe two or four) I mentioned that I was making a Mess of Crepes. I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seats waiting to find out what exactly I meant by this so here is the recipe.

First make sure that you like sweet things. Do you? Good.

The next thing you need is our super secret recipe. Basically we just adjusted the recipe in the Joy of Cooking. Here it is:

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
  • 3 large eggs (home raised free ranged eggs are the best but I’m a bit biased)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3+ tablespoons sugar (add more as your taste runs)
  • pinch of salt

Beat it all together. Now take a flat pan, about the size you’d use if you were normally making crêpes or perhaps scrambled eggs, and add a Julia Child sized tablespoon of butter to the pan and heat it so it’s all buttered up. Now pour in the batter. All of it. With a spatula (I’d recommend against using a spoon or fork as the batter tends to stick into these particular utensils) mix it up like scrambled eggs. Keep mixing until it’s firm and lightly, lightly browned. When you’ve got this in your pan then drop it onto a plate. Eat it. Die of cholesterol. Enjoy.

This may not sound like a big break through but I feel like most people wouldn’t do this without some prompting. It’s funny how scared people are to play around with recipes. I’ve never really felt like I need to follow a direction word for word. After all if it turns out inedible then I simply feed it to the chickens or our garden and cook a frozen pot pie.

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Filed under The Pantry

Things I Liked In September That You’ll Like In October

”]Family watching television, c. 1958

Drawn from all my September posts here are my recommendations (fun fact: clicking on each item will take you to the post I referenced it in):

Books:

  1. “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks”
  2. “To the Lighthouse”

Television:

  1. “Bones”
  2. “The French Chef”

Blogs:

  1. After I Quit My Day Job

Food:

  1. Annie’s Mac and Cheese
  2. Seitan
  3. Quorn Chik’n Nuggets

Margaret Warner:

  1. Margaret Warner

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Protected: Some Cathartic Writing

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A Bit of a Confession

Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian Natio...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always considered myself a smidgen of a foodie. A young foodie with time to mature and expand my palate. I’ve read MFK Fisher, Judith Jones and Julia Child. My most recent podcast was The Splendid Table with Lynne Rosetta Casper. My bedtime reading has been “The New Larousse Gastronomique“. Curnonsky is a love of mine. I just tore a hunk of a locally baked baguette and shoved it my mouth and quite nearly orgasmed.

My confession is that up until 7.30-ish this evening I had never seen an episode of The French Chef.

For quite awhile I’ve been in awe of Julia Child (I’ve watched Julia and Jaques and another show from the ’90s where she cooks with guests, I’ve seen clips of her online, I’ve read her book, I’ve cooked from Mastering, I’ve advocated just cutting Julie out of “Julie and Julia“, I’ve seen Dan Ackroyd’s sketch many times) but for some reason I’ve never gotten around to seeing her original show.

Tonight I finally lived a dream and combined Julia Child with a date. Alright, so the date turned out not to be a date (we’re just friends, yada yada yada) but I finally got to see The French Chef. It was everything I’d hoped it to be and more, The French Chef that is and not the date, though you probably got that already.

It was beautiful to see Julia Child in her kitchen, so comfortable and so chummy (on the chummy note: I sincerely feel like it’s just me and my not-a-date that Julia talks to when she looks out through the television screen to us.) Watching her cook gave me the same chills down my spine that I get when I see deer in the woods and photographs of J.R.R. Tolkien writing, it’s the chills of seeing someone exactly in their element.

When I think what would have happened if Julia (I feel comfortable calling her Julia in the same way that Benjamin Franklin is Ben and Patrick Leahy is Pat) had not taken Paul’s advice (and the advice of others) and decided to not go into television I get chills of another kind. Just imagining a world without that smile and tooting “Bon Appetit!” Go on, imagine it, I dare you. You just tried to imagine it, didn’t you? And you’re currently curled up in the fetal position with feces stained undergarments and tears running down your cheekbones, aren’t you? You saw the boils in a bag and bland potatoes with flaccid meat and processed food passing through your intestine. Go ahead and sob some more, I understand.

I’m not trying to say that Julia Child single-handedly revolutionized food in America (James Beard, Judith Jones and many others played very important roles) but she certainly seemed to have brought it into the main stream. (Fun fact: Her show was also the first to be adapted for the deaf, according to Wikipedia.)

Where was this post going again? Oh yes:

  1. I don’t know how I lived before watching The French Chef
  2. It’s best to have minor details such as “Is this a date?” cleared up before you watch Julia Child together and go for a moonlit walk in the woods together.
  3. Julia Child is, to quote Satchel Pooch, “The treat giver to my heart.”

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That Ol’ Purple Box

Butter and a butter knife

Image via Wikipedia

Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Annie’s Shells & White Cheese. It has Bernie’s “Rabbit of Approval” so it has to be good, no?

No.

Unfortunately this simple but wholesome fare is so easy to ruin that I’ve had plenty of bad bowls of Annie’s. Runny sauce, clumpy sauce, limp noodles- egh. My own parents can’t seem to produce a decent batch. And no, I’m not picky, I just know what I like and am not afraid to say so.

Don’t despair, there is a way to produce it in a way that makes you just moan with joy. You just need to know how to produce it just right. Let’s look at what the box says:

  • Boil: 8 cups of water in a medium saucepan.
  • Stir In: pasta, bring to boil again.
  • Cook: 8-10 minutes, until done. While pasta is cooking…
  • Measure: 1/3 cup lowfat milk in a measuring cup. Add cheese and stir until smooth.
  • Drain: pasta in colander. Return to saucepan.
  • Pour: cheese sauce over pasta and stir well.”

In my opinion they left out a few things. Let me show you:

  • Boil: 8 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Fine.
  • Stir In: pasta, bring to boil again. Stir these noodles in! Try to keep the noodles from sticking to the bottom of your metal saucepan. (You paid good money for this and want every noodle.)
  • Cook: 8-10 minutes, until done. While pasta is cooking… 8-9 minutes depending on your stove. 10 minutes pushes it for my taste buds.
  • Measure: 1/3 cup lowfat milk in a measuring cup. Add cheese and stir until smooth. Stir? Beat. Beat that cheese into the milk (I say whole milk but that can depend on your dietary needs). It’s smooth? Beat it more. Your wrist hurts? Beat it more. Your fingers bleed? Beat it more. Your measuring cup has broken from your viciousness beating? Done.
  • Drain: pasta in colander. Return to saucepan. Rinse it before returning to the saucepan and then add a dollop of butter to the pasta. And I’m using the Julia Child measurement of a dollop of butter (conversion: two sticks of butter.)
  • Pour: cheese sauce over pasta and stir well. Remember the instructions for the beating of the cheese? Do the same (but a bit more gently, pasta breaks and broken pasta is impossible to stick on your tongue like a yarmulke.)

Keep in mind that these instructions are based off of my own personal taste buds. You can go ahead and ignore these instructions if you want, it’s a free country (despite what Mr. Beck likes to claim.)

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