So picture this. It’s about 1967 or so and my mother is sitting in the Florida Room at our house in Tampa, laughing uproariously at a TV show she is watching. I’m about 14. I wander in, curious about what program is causing my mother to double over in sidestiches she’s hooting so hard. She is watching Julia Child on The French Chef. My mother cooked only because she had to given the conventions of the time. She had no interest in food. But she just loved watching Julia Child as theater. I, on the other hand, had a great love of food and found Julia Child fascinating. I still do.
I’ve read pretty much everything there is to read about Julia Child and have cooked from her books for years. The copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is from 1983. When Julie and Julia came out a few years ago, I read that, too. I completely empathized with Julie Powell. I wouldn’t have dreamed of cooking my way through Julia’s first book, but I’ve spent more than one day in the kitchen trying to duplicate a few of her more complicated recipes. My sister, Louise, and I made a duck recipe that literally took us eight hours (it was fabulous). And I prepared Turkey Orloff for the actor Joel Gray when he had dinner at my house (long story for another time, but that man could pack away the food).
I saw Julia Child once, at a cooking demonstration in Sacramento, California. I’d driven two hours from Reno with my friend, Sandy Macias, to see her. I remember walking into the demonstration area and seeing her seated at a small table eating a perfect green salad for her supper.
So I went to see Julie and Julia, the movie, with my husband today. I expected to laugh and I did. Meryl Streep is just amazing as Julia. But I didn’t expect to cry. At the end of the movie there is a scene that I won’t spoil for you, but it just sent me into tears. And I think the reason is that I hadn’t realized until then how this woman had so profoundly developed in me whatever expertise I have at cooking.
Tonight I’m grilling lamb chops, with roasted new potatoes and sauteed green beans from a friend at church. It won’t be a Julia meal, but I’ll think about her as I fix it. Then I’m heading to bed to watch Iron Chef America while I thumb through Mastering the Art of French Cooking to pick a recipe to make. It will be a good evening with an old friend I never knew.