Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday.

I think it's pretty clear how her legacy transcends and how well loved she was because of all the social media activity commenorating today. There was a facebook page dedicated to today and a twitter feed. She was even trending on Bing this afternoon.

Celebrity chefs and home cooks alike are paying homage her many accomplishments. She is the person credited with redefining cooking television into what it is today. She co-authored a comprehensive cookbook unlike any other before. She also inspired a generation to get into their kitchens and cook with abandon and enjoy it immensly.

I think that she made it okay for eating to be a primal pleasure. We should savor food that's put in front of us--especially if it's lovingly made from fine ingredients. It's evident from watching clips of her tv show and from interviews that she really did love everything about food--shopping for it, preparing it, and especially eating it.

If you've ever flipped through her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you'll see that some of the recipes have only a handful of ingredients. As a matter of fact, the very first recipe I made in my copy of the cookbook was potato leek soup (like Julie Powell). The best way to describe it is simple. But delicious. Some of Julia's recipes were no doubt complicated, but many of them, are simple and straightforward. This is really the essence of French cooking, even though it's often seen as snooty and fussy.

If you're a home cook interested in expanding your horizons, honing your kitchen skills, or looking to entertain, I cannot emphasize enough that you need to pick up this book. It is quite thick and comprehensive, but it is indespensible in the kitchen. Julia not only outlines recipes for classic French dishes, but there are notes on wine and vegetable pairings for meat courses, basic techniques for skills that carry over to other types of cuisine, and pages and pages of information about different cuts of meat. I've found it to be particularly helpful when I buy meats from the Monroe Farm Market that I don't have any idea how to prepare. There is an answer to virtually any meat product you can find. I used it when I bought sweetbreads from the farmers market, and I'll use it again now that I've ordered calf liver this week. Many of the recipes have a number of variations, so once you master the basic recipe, you can keep trying it new ways. Also, there are many drawings of step by step directions to the more complicated techniques. It truly is a book that you can pick up and learn to cook with.

Today of all days, I should have done a blog entry featuring a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But a Junior League event and a pile of leftovers made it impractical. So, this weekend, I promise to make it up. Flipping through the cookbook though, I just haven't decided what to make yet. The possibilities are definitely endless.

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