When Cooking Was Cookery, Not Celebrity

If you’ll kindly recall, I love Julia Child.  With Julie & Julia coming out next week, Julia is being thrust back into our hearts and minds – as if she ever left – and hopefully, this fond remembrance means someone somewhere will be kind enough to re-air The French Chef or any other of Julia’s shows.  Watching old episodes of The French Chef, even in black and white, serves as an excellent reminder that one learns to cook by understanding the differences between types of whole chicken, why you need this particular pan for that particular saute, and so on and so on — as opposed to learning by staring at Giada’s pelvis-level plate, gazing slack jawed as she baits some pasta with her fork, and plopping it into her waiting lips.  

For those in the general vicinity of Beverly Hills, the Paley Center has answered my hopes, even if it’s not quite the marathon I was hoping.  “Child’s Play in the Kitchen: The Remarkable Career of Julia Child” is a short (45-minute) presentation of selected highlights of Julia’s career, including famous clips from The French Chef and interviews.  Showtime of this retrospective is 12:15 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday until August 17.  For those in need of more immediate satisfaction, Vanity Fair’s August 2009 issue has an excellent summary of Julia’s life, and there always is this clip from The French Chef in which one learns how to make a 2-3 egg omelet (any more eggs, and you’ve got a leathery omelet, and no one wants that).  The best part is when she whisks together the eggs with chopsticks (!!) as part of the process to create “lightly coagulated eggs with a little cloak around, holding them together.”  There is a little bit of Julia in my mom after all.


4 thoughts on “When Cooking Was Cookery, Not Celebrity”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. Julia was a once in a lifetime treasure that should never be forgotten. The utter simplicity and art of a perfectly done omelet is lost in these days of molecular gastronomy. Sure the chef’s of today have the utmost respect for Julia but her kind of teaching has gone the route of the LP vinyl album…pure nostalgia. And that is a shame.

  2. Julia was a fantastic teacher. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I once had occasion to wait on Julia (along with Robert & Margrit Mondavi) at a restaurant in Pasadena. She was delightful. And boy, could she put away some scotch; gotta love a woman who can really hold her liquor.

  3. Ah, that reminds me, Burns!, that Julia was a local as well – from Pasadena, in fact.

    And @fsharp4565, I too wish, wish “her kind of teaching” would come back. “America’s Test Kitchen” is the closest show I can think of, but their you-must-do-it-this-way attitude often sucks away all the fun that cooking is supposed to entail.

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