Friday, February 15, 2013

My Debt to Julia Child

It made me believe.

While I was a child living with my parents, the family had a cook who prepared most meals. (Actually, we had a succession of cooks: Susie, Tempie Lou, and Earline were the main ones.) My mother seldom cooked. As a youngster, she had been sent out to work and help the family finances, while her younger sister stayed home and learned housewifely skills, including cooking. My father was an enthusiastic cook, but we all scattered when he entered the kitchen, because he could be cranky.

One consequence was that I never played in the kitchen, as my own children did, making odd items from leftover dough. I was supposed to let the cook alone when she was working. So when I got married, I had no idea how to cook. This made me nervous, since I would be eating only what I prepared from that point on. Luckily, I like learning from books. My mother had given me a copy of her favorite cookbook, The Settlement Cookbook, and I had a copy of my mother-in-law's favorite cookbook, The Joy of Cooking. These were useful but not inspiring.

What was inspiring was Julia Child. In the early days of my marriage, she had a cooking show on public television. I watched it religiously. She made cooking seem not only easy but also fun. When I first bought her cookbook, shown above, I was intimidated by the long recipes. But since I had watched her on TV, I could hear her voice in my head and realized that she was just being thorough--the recipes often were not that difficult. So I learned to cook, thanks to Julia, and I really enjoyed it. I tried many of her recipes and never had a disaster.

Cooking has changed in the decades since I first learned, but several of Julia's recipes are still favorites. One, rapee morvandelle, is a standard in my household, because it is delicious for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Others, including French Onion Soup, Beef Bourguignon, Ratatouille, and Poached Salmon with Cucumber Sauce are not standards, but beloved friends I enjoy visiting occasionally. Recently, I saw an online list of the 100 most beloved recipes of Julia Child. I am surprised at how many of them I have cooked.  Thanks for the memories, Julia, as well as for the skills.


  1. Amen. Julia was one of the great women of the 20th century. I admire her and enjoy watching her shows and was fortunate to see her a few times around Cambridge. It was always a thrill!

  2. funny, i retrieved my Julia today, too. She lived in Cambridge and would walk past my workplace on her way to the market, Savenors. Prior to her departure to California, I had the opportunity to talk with her at our eye doctor. Quite a lady. Always arm always wonderful.