It’s been just over ten years since Julia Child left us here to cope with a planet made considerably poorer by the lack of Julia Child.
I owe a lot to her. She’s responsible for my love of cooking and baking, not to mention at least some of my attitude toward life, more probably a large part. She had such a lively disposition, and a devilish habit of speaking her mind regardless of whether there might be consequences. She wasn’t snarky, she was impish. She was – and is – my hero.
I first started watching her when I was a kid, probably right around the time of this episode of “The French Chef”:
This sort of programme was still pretty revolutionary at the time. She probably presented ten times as much information on lobsters as anyone else on television had up to that point. Her thoroughness and breadth of knowledge fascinated me no end, and I remember thinking, “She is great. I want to be like her.”
The episode that really set itself firmly in my memory was when she made traditional French bread. When kneading, she would slam the dough onto the counter, raising great clouds of flour and clearly having a ball. When I did finally start making food for myself years later, that bread was what I remembered, and my first baking project was baguettes, using her detailed instructions in From Julia Child’s Kitchen, the first cookbook I ever owned. That they came out fantastically well guaranteed that I’d never stop, thank goodness. Had I failed miserably at that first attempt, there would be a more than middling chance that my life would be at least an order of magnitude poorer now. I didn’t fail because that’s how good she was at teaching and encouraging novices.
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
In years past, I saw her more than once just off Harvard Square, at the Church Street car park. Each time, I would wave and give a cheery hello, and she did the same. I never had one of her cookbooks with me, but I later wrote a letter of thanks to her and asked if she would sign my copy of The Way to Cook, which I included along with a postpaid box with which to return it. She did, and it is a treasured volume.
I miss her often. Whenever I do, I watch a few of the hundreds of hours of her shows that I have. She brings a smile every time.
A new rose was bred in 2004 and named after Julia Child. It is, of course, the colour of butter. A really good butter. She would have no less.
“Giving up butter means that in about two years you will be covered in dandruff.”