Julia... Me and You and a Dog named Boo
This month is the 101st birthday celebration of Julia Child, famous American chef who brought back the true art of cooking using classical French techniques. How did I come to know Julia? I had to think about this a lot since in the south she was not one of our favorite cooks to look to. In fact we looked to our Mothers, Grandmothers and Aunts to teach us along with issues of the local newspaper, the Joy of Cooking, Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens. I remember watching her on the local PBS stations with her program “The French Chef”. Then there was “Julia and Company”. But when the Saturday Night Live parodies came along it seared a real interest in my mind about how to cook with Julia and her patented humor. There was no internet in those days so the best anyone could do is to get her books and try to simulate the recipes. Oh, those were the good old days.
I think the first dish I tried was the Coq au Vin. I clipped the recipe out of the newspaper. It was effortless and needed no tending for the hours it braised in the steaming wine. I always used white wine for the pot instead of the traditional red. The house smelled wonderful as the herbed white wine vapor escaped from my slow and low oven or crockpot. Just wash a chicken and veggies, throw them in a large dutch oven or crockpot with some herbs and pour a bottle of wine over it. Easy peasy. It turned out tender and flavorful with the veggies soaking up the juices. The potatoes were to die for. YUM! It became a standard in my home for years. Still is in fact except now I use a cup of wine and a quart of chicken stock with the same finished results. Oh..and no potatotes. I use turnips or white beets now.
I tinkered around with other recipes from Julia over the years with the Boeuf Bourguignon being the one that most symbolized her legacy. She used to opine about using a really good red wine for the dish. She would say 2 cups for the pot and one for the chef. If you follow her instructions you can never fail with the recipe which is perfect for company and you get to enjoy the wine at the same time. For some unknown reason, I switched the formula on the wine..LOL. She taught me how to make béchamel sauce which could be converted using varying ingredients to become other sauces. Cheese sauce from that base recipe was a favorite with all my friends. It was creamy instead of lumpy and oily. They always badgered me to show them how to make it. And the Champignons au Vin (mushrooms in a buttered wine sauce)…oh la la.
For a while I abandoned Julia. Work, health, family kept my attention and I stopped cooking. I prepared food to eat but I stopped really COOKING. Then the movie “Julie and Julia” came out. I didn’t watch it at first release because I thought it was just another Hollywood invention to get money. But one dreary rainy Saturday I decided to watch it on cable and I relived some very funny moments of my own experiences with Julia. Trying to flip an omelet…cutting up a chicken..chopping onions…homemade mayonnaise. It was a treat. I have some of her recipes (converted of course to my eating plan) on the website. So I honor Julia Child in this blog post. The person who brought back basic and classic cooking techniques to this country along with mounds of humor and one of the most recognizable personas in the past century. Bon Apetit!
“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” ― Julia Child
Originally published in 2013