Julia Child

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Credit: WGBH Media Library & Archives

Credit: WGBH Media Library & Archives

Today would have been Julia Child’s 103rd birthday. In my eyes, she is the greatest chef that ever lived. She taught me that cooking could be easy and fun and that is was quite acceptable to make mistakes. I watched The French Chef—her TV show on PBS—as a wee lad. It was my first foray into the world of cooking. She masterfully eschewed the extravagant trappings of French cuisine and made it accessible to the novice.  Once a week I was let into her kitchen and instructed with great spirit how to properly trust a chicken, or how to select the right lobster or on the proper techniques to make a perfect omelette. She ushered in a style of cooking that was unfussy. Things burned, got stuck or were dropped on the floor. No matter. It made her real and this resonated with me. It may sound glib but she has had a profound effect on my life. She taught me to let go of my fears, to experiment and to most of all, have fun. Julia noted that “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” I have steadfastly applied this motto to my cooking and it has served me well. Happy Birthday Julia Child. Thank you for everything that you have given me.

Did you know . . .

  • Julia had several nicknames as a child, including “Juke,” “Juju” and “Jukies.”
  • Julia’s first job after college (she graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts) was in the advertising department of the New York home furnishings company W&J Sloane. Julia transferred to the store’s Los Angeles branch but was soon fired for “gross insubordination.”
  • When she found out that she was too tall to join the military (she was 6’2″), Julia volunteered her services to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where she helped develop shark repellent used on underwater explosives during WWII.
  • Julia’s husband Paul, whom she met while working with the OSS, took her to La Couronne restaurant that started her love affair with French food when they moved to Paris for his work.
  • “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was rejected by publishers several times before being published in 1961 by Alfred Knopf, 10 years after Julia and her French collaborators Simca Beck and Louisette Bertholle began working on the book.
  • When Julia and Paul moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, from Paris, they designed their home kitchen around Julia’s requirements as a cook, installing taller-than-average counter-tops to suit her stature.
  • Julia’s first television appearance was on a show called “I’ve Been Reading,” on a public television station in Boston. Twenty-seven viewers wrote to the station wanting to see more, and the station obliged. By the end of 1965, her show The French Chef was carried by 96 PBS stations.
  • In 1993, Julia became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame.
  • Julia has a rose named after her that she chose herself. The color? Warm butter gold.

 Source:  CookingChannelTV.com

 

JC100 Tribute: Visiting Julia Child’s favourite butcher

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

When I am in Cambridge I like to go to Savenor’s on Kirkland. It’s where Julia shopped and it’s about a five minute walk from her former house on Irving Street.

Savenor’s Cambridge is located at 92 Kirkland Street in Cambridge, MA

The Harvard Crimson reported that the store has been a family-run operation since its beginnings. When it opened in Cambridge in 1940, it was operated by Ron Savenor’s grandfather, Abraham. Abraham started the store after fleeing Lithuania, where he and his wife had a small food store. According to the Boston Herald, Abraham’s son Jack took over the shop when Abraham died a year after the shop’s opening, dropping out of a college pre-med program to become a butcher.

A picture of Jack Savenor appearing on “The French Chef” hangs at the front entrance

The turning point in Savenor’s history came when Julia Child and Jack Savenor struck up a friendship. Jack Savenor became Julia’s butcher and would provide items for Julia’s television program. According to MySecretBoston.com, Jack Savenor was a frequent guest on Julia Child’s “The French Chef.” The Cambridge Historical Commission quotes Jack (referring to her popular television show on which he appeared) as saying “How many geese do you think a guy could sell in a year? Maybe six, maybe seven. But the week after she works on the goose, I sell 65.” Loyal customers fondly recall times when they would find Julia in the store and would be peeking in her basket to see what she was bringing home.

Savenor’s is not your standard butcher. It carries antelope, lion, kangaroo, python, rattlesnake, turtle, black bear, buffalo, alligator and even iguana. But don’t be put off by this exotic selection of meats. You can also get more traditional fare like beef, chicken and pork as well as a wide variety of produce, cheeses, breads, herbs, spices, marinades and prepared food.

Courtesy of Living on Earth‘s website, loe.org

Its slogan is “The Best on the Block since 1939” and they truly are. Throughout the years, Savenor’s has been honoured by Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian and Boston Phoenix. And they’ve just done it again, having been awarded the title of “Best Butcher for 2012” by Boston Magazine.

Next time you’re in Boston definitely visit Savenor’s Cambridge store on Kirkland. Before walking into the store, direct your gaze down at the sidewalk. Ensuring her connection to Savenor’s would be forever preserved, Julia signed her initials and famous phrase “Bon Appétit.” 

 

Savenor's Market on Urbanspoon

JC100 Tribute: All-hail braised celery

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

I get a little unhinged when I’m at Costco. Like I’m under some kind of trance. I know you know what I mean. On my last trip to the “Big C,” I somehow ended up with 2.5 lbs of celery and buyers remorse. That’s about six stalks of celery or 36 cups. What was I thinking? What’s wrong with me? What was I going to do with all that celery? Then it came to me. “What would Julia do?” And there, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was my answer: Braised celery.

While I don’t have permission to reprint this recipe, I can tell you that it involved some chopping, some boiling, some sautéing, an hour and a half of braising in the oven and of course, it was all topped off with a butter sauce. The end result was quite delicious. And although Julia did save me from a celery debacle, I promise never again to buy gargantuan amounts of Costco produce. I’ve learned my lesson!

JC100 Tribute: Visiting Julia’s House

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

When I visit Boston I stay in Cambridge, about a ten-minute walk from where Julia Child used to live. I’ve visited her house a few times. That is, I’ve seen where she used to live. Since Julia’s house is a private residence, I didn’t dare knock on the door and ask for a tour. Though I was tempted.

 

Julia and her husband Paul moved into 103 Irving Street in 1961. The 6,000 square foot home had 5 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths. The neighbourhood is lined with turn-of-the-century houses and is just blocks from Harvard Square. According to Elizabeth Bolton of Centers & Squares, this neck of the woods is long popular; with Harvard professorsamong them, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who lived one block over on Francis Avenue, Cambridge’s “Professor’s Row.” The house is directly across the street from the birthplace of poet e.e. cummings and is two houses down from the home of 19th-century philosopher and psychologist William James.

103 Irving Street in 2010

Julia described the kitchen as “the most loved and most used room in the house.” That kitchen was the set for her cooking shows for several years, until she retired to California for the last few years of her life and the house was sold.

Julia Child, photographed in her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen, June 29, 1970.
By Arnold Newman/Getty Images.

Architectural Digest published photos of Julia’s home in 1979. Here’s what it looked liked then:

The house was sold in 2001 to a developer and redesigned with six newly installed, central air conditioning, central vac and a new kitchen. The new kitchen, IMHO, is sterile and devoid of any charm or personality. I have this fantasy that I will one day buy the house and restore the kitchen to its former glory. The newly renovated house was sold in 2004 for $3,755,000. In 2008, Boston.com ran an article about the house being up for sale for $4.35 million. I guess I need to start playing the lottery to make my fantasy come true.

Thankfully the kitchen was not demolished. It was donated to the Smithsonian and the kitchen in its entirety was removed from the house and sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2001, where it resides today.

JC100 Tribute: Thomas Keller

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

Thomas Keller is one of the premier chefs in the world. He is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants, French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City. What with Thomas Keller having achieved the industry’s top honour, one wouldn’t think that anything could intimidate the fabled chef. But he readily admits to Wine Spectator magazine that he and his staff were “nervous wrecks” when it came to cooking for Julia Child, who would often chill out in the kitchen of the French Laundry before eating her meal.
In the three videos below, Thomas Keller talks about the incredible culinary legacy left behind by Julia Child and the most important lesson he was able to learn from her. Hope you enjoy!

 

Celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birthday

In honour of what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday on August 15th, Alfred A. Knopf, Julia’s longtime book publisher, is celebrating Julia and her extraordinary legacy of culinary teachings. The publisher is urging people to share Julia Child’s recipes, photos, memories and stories on various social media sites under the JC100 umbrella.

The publisher released a list of Julia’s 100 most treasured recipes handpicked by a jury of food experts, including Judith Jones, Child’s editor at Knopf; star chefs Thomas Keller, Danny Meyer and Jacques Pepin; and Food 52’s Amanda Hesser.

Look for the JC100 celebration on Facebook at facebook.com/JuliaChild; on Twitter at @JC100; on Pinterest at pinterest.com/knopfbooks/jc100; and on Tumblr at jc100.tumblr.com.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting my own
Julia Child observations, memories and recipes.
Stay locked-in to Cool Food Dude for more on JC100!