Today marks Julia Child’s (1912-2004) would-be 100th birthday!
Even though it took ten years of recipe tweaking, rewriting, and a change of publishers, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”really had perfect timing. Finally published in 1961, Julia Child’s classic cookbook coincided with a generation of comfortably middle class American housewives bored to tears with Shake n’ Bake and yearning for the cultured chicness of Jackie Kennedy.
Julia Child herself was an unexpected, long-time-coming national treasure herself. Emulating the resigned frustration of so many young American women at the time, uninspired after college, Child wrote in her diary, “I am sadly an ordinary person… with talents I do not use.” It was not until her middle years in France that she discovered cooking. As she remarked in a letter to her sister in-law, “Really the more I cook the more I like to cook. To think it has taken me 40 yrs. To find my true passion (cat and husb. excepted).” When she got her own cooking show, America had never seen anyone like her on television. A middle aged woman over 6’2 and not a beauty, nor a perfectionist chef, it was her very realness that shined. Jooolia‘s fondness for cream and butter could not have been healthy, but it was wholesome. Her home-style kitchen was a fun and hearty place for a generation just beginning to move away from an un-nourishing wider culture. Child was not afraid to try something new, or to make mistakes. As she said in the beloved episode when she attempts to flip a potato pancake:
“When you attempt to flip anything, you must have the courage of your conviction, particularly if it’s sort of a loose mass like this.” She flubs the flip. “No, that didn’t go very well. See, when I flipped it I din’t have the courage to do it the way I chould’ve. But you can always pick it up if you’re alone in the kitchen. Who is going to see? But the only way you learn how to flip things is just to flip them…Any time that anything like this happens, you haven’t lost anything, as you can always turn this into something else.”
Here are my best food-oriented postcards, in honor of this American icon.
One of the first postcards sent to me.
One of my very first postcards.
Palm Court, Omni Netherland Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
New York City
↑Two of my favorite postcards↓
October 12, 2012, (rough translation), “For breakfast I ate pain au chocolat,”
(a chocolate filled croissant-like roll) ”raisin bread toast, a croissant and two baguettes with jam and butter. For lunch I ate a good macaroon at a cafe called Carette that I went to with my girlfriend Fiona.”