Friends and family frequently ask me: What motivated you to start writing a food blog? With conviction, I’ve always answered that it was a spontaneous whim on a Sunday afternoon, though the seed was probably planted during our fabulous trip to Italy in 2008.
But now that I’ve spent the last few days thinking about Julia Child as we approached what would have been her 100th birthday, I realize I have not been completely accurate. In 2009, our family went to the movies to see Julie and Julia, the movie depicting both Julia Child’s life and Julie Powell, who cooked and blogged her way through Julia’s cookbook. With some reticence, the family humored me and came along. Well we all loved it, especially Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child. We were entranced and laughing with joy over Julia’s determination to succeed at Le Cordon Bleu as she chopped those onions for hours on end, her face after she tasted the sole meuniere for the first time after she arrived in Paris, or her boisterous hello when she entered the room for her first day of the professional cooking classes she begged to join.
Watching and enjoying every minute of that movie with @dormantchef and the kids, especially the Julia Child portions is what really propelled me to start my food blog a few months later in February of 2010. Not because Julie wrote a blog, but because Julia has been part of my life since I was born and her presence via Meryl Streep on that movie screen finally unleashed my passion for food with such gusto that I just couldn’t keep quiet about it anymore.
So I guess it is only fitting that one of my proudest moments since I started writing this blog revolves around one of Julia Child’s most famous dishes, boeuf bourguignon – a wonderful beef stew braised in red wine. A friend of mine from high school and a loyal reader, who describes herself as anything but a cook and owns almost no cookbooks at all sent me the following email:
“A couple weekends ago, I decided I would make Alan (my little Francophile) Boeuf Bourguignon. I looked a couple recipes up online (Julia Child and Jacque Pepin plus a few others I ignored). I more or less followed Julia’s recipe (though I left a step or two out, it was just too fussy) and added some le Soeur peas that Alan picked up. I used more burgundy than Julia asked for, since Jacque’s recipe had no stock in it at all and we both loved it. I was darn proud of myself. Last Sunday we went to a little French bistro after a movie and Alan had the Boeuf Bourguignon and although it was very good, I liked mine better.
And I have to say that it is due, in large part, to you and your blog. I have enjoyed it for these two years and have been at least moderately inspired to cook more (or at least be more interested in it).
So, thank you, my dear, for the inspiration.”
Here, in all it’s stunning, mouthwatering glory, is her accomplishment:
I suspect, when Julia wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it was precisely my friend’s boeuf bourguignon that she was hoping her tireless efforts and detailed recipes would inspire others to create and it still is, to this day.
Alice Waters, who herself is such a profound influence on how we eat at restaurants and at home, is quoted in the anniversary edition about what the influence of Julia’s cookbook has been over the last 50 (+) years:
“Julia Child paved the way for Chez Panisse and so many others by demystifying French food and by reconnecting pleasure and delight with cooking and eating at the table. She brought forth a culture of American ingredients and gave us all the confidence to cook with them in the pursuit of flavor.”
As it turns out, episode 1 of Julia Child’s TV show, The French Chef, was about Boeuf Bourguignon. I watched it yesterday and learned several new things – how to tell if a mushroom is fresh, that high heat will keep mushrooms dry so they can brown, and how to tell when the butter is hot enough to accept the mushrooms to create a nice seer. Thanks for the cooking class Julia. I did, by the way, watch her show on PBS when I was young. The first episode aired the year I was born – 1963.
And tonight, in my mind, if not in reality, I will be preparing boeuf bourguignon for dinner, and pouring a full-bodied robust glass of red to enjoy with it. Bon Appetit.
Happy 100th birthday Julia!
What do you remember most fondly about Julia? What are you doing to celebrate her memory?