16 August 2009

Julie & Julia... & Me

If you have not yet seen the hit movie, "Julie & Julia" I highly recommend that you do....soon. In fact, I'd like to see it a second time....very soon! It is so inspirational on several levels. The French passion for food was clear and the French scenery and stage sets were a feast for the eyes. Julia's commitment to cooking techniques was first and foremost a goal to be admired, and Julie's commitment to learning and completing all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking was admirable (more so in the movie than in the book, I thought. In fact, I didn't really like the book, Julie & Julia when it came out, a few years ago.)
Having also read Julia's biography, Appetite for Life, as well as My Life in France, (both great reads, by the way) and having watched Julia on TV so many years ago, I couldn't get over how well Meryl Streep matched my own image of Julia Child. Stanley Tucci was also stellar as Paul, Julia's husband. All around, the movie was superb fun!

Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci

One reason I liked the premise of the movie/blog/book is that, about fifteen years ago, I had made a New Year's resolution to go through Mastering the Art... from beginning to end, learning every technique in it. I was not as successful as Julie Powell, who did complete every single recipe in one year. (Yes, I had young kids at the time, which made it difficult, but excuses aside, mine went the way of most New Years' resolutions, I have to admit.) I had been inspired by Gordon Hamersley, whom I had heard in a panel discussion on Julia, when he said that he had learned to cook quite young by working his way through Mastering the Art... (This informative discussion about Julia had been held at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, where Julia's massive collection of papers is housed; but I digress...)

On one occasion, a few years back, I was incredibly lucky to have been able to cook with Julia Child. I had signed Jack and myself up for a hands-on seminar on EGGS with Julia, at the Boston University School of Culinary Arts. At the last minute, Jack was unable to go, so my mom came along instead. Anyone who imagines that cooking eggs would be an uninteresting subject - think again. As with all food preparation, technique and chemistry are so important to the end result. Julia Child was passionate about learning and understanding both. In truth, the art of cooking cannot succeed without knowledge of both technique and chemistry.

Working with Julia Child in BU's seminar kitchen

This week, I am putting together a list of recipes and class ideas for cooking lessons I'll be offering in my own kitchen, beginning this fall. The overall theme of the classes will be what I am most passionate about - French Country Cooking. I am so thankful to Julia Child for the work she did bringing French recipes to the American cook. Although I don't always follow her recipes verbatim, these days, I know that we would not even be able to purchase so many of the ingredients necessary for French cuisine, if she had not led the way in introducing Americans to their goodness.
In addition to Julia, I have been truly inspired by several other ex-pat Americans like our friend, Patricia Wells, with whom Jack and I cooked and reveled in Provencal food and wine for a full week, twelve years ago. (I know I've promised to write a whole post on cooking with Patricia - I just have to sort through our photos from that incredible week - it will be soon.) We use all of Patricia's books.

I also love the recipes and explanations of Susan Hermann Loomis, whose French Farmhouse Cooking is one of my bibles. Susan spent a lot of time traveling around France and talking with farmers and farm wives, to compile a great collection of "everyday" French recipes.

Stay tuned for my cooking class schedule, which I will publish by the end of next week. It will also include classes by Jack, and some we will teach together. We look forward to sharing what we know (and are still learning) with all of you. Thank you, Julia, for making it possible!

Julia et moi

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