Julia Child passed away yesterday, at the age of 91. Probably most people who are passionate about food and cooking, and spent any time in the U.S. in the last 30 years or so, have felt her influence. I'm no exception - one of my standby cookbooks is her Way to Cook (a perennial recommended book in my sidebar here).

I think I'm too young to have known the huge impact that Julia Child had on American cooking, and American housewives, in the 1970s. I've heard women who were young marrieds in that decade speak of Julia with a mixture of awe and resentment. When I heard of the elaborate dinner parties one was supposed to be able to serve to guests then, I'm quite thankful that we're in a much more informal era, food-wise, now. (I always think of the Veal Orloff served by Sue Ann Nivens in a Mary Tyler Moore episode.) However, for the most part the Julia Child I knew was indeed more relaxed, enjoying food rather than being weighed down with worry about how to prepare it. Her recipes can be simple or very long and complicated, but they are always clear, and most of all, they always always work.

I watched several of her TV shows too, and loved them all. The one that I clearly remember still is, I think, from her Cooking With Julia show from the 1970s, which I saw as a rerun on TV in England some time in the mid '90s. There was a younger Julia, wearing a blue blouse that sort of made her look like Alice in the Brady Bunch, standing in a typically '70s looking drab colored kitchen, with her unique high-pitched voice and her "impeccably clean towel". She showed how to make a perfect omelette, and I almost ran to the kitchen afterwards to try out her technique. It worked perfectly.

That was the magic of Julia. She may be best known for introducing America to fine French cooking, but she could also show you how to do a simple technique just right. And her sense of humor was always wonderful too.

I am sure she is enjoying herself now in her new kitchen.

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Just a couple of other things I always loved about Julia:

1. How she always got a little happy after sampling the wine.

2. That she never had the perfect kitchen. No Viking ranges or appliances like that, and there was never a moment of panic when she dropped some flour or made a mess. It just felt more real.

3. Watching her boss around guest chefs in her later years, like Wolfgang Puck and Martha Stewart.

Joseph J. Finn | 14 August, 2004 - 17:29


she taught me to make salad nicoise

maia | 16 August, 2004 - 06:34

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