Julia and me


There’s a new movie out about Julia Child, the famous (and some would say the best-ever) TV cook. Julia Child graced the airwaves of PBS for decades without pretentiousness, famed for her wit and easygoing style, especially in the face of culinary errors. The movie, “Julie & Julia”, is half biography of Julia child, half the story of a woman who cooks every recipe in her most famous cookbook, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”, in one year.

I have special memories from my youth of Julia Child. My mom worked outside the home when I was in high school and as a single mom of 5 kids she would struggle to come home from work and cook a meal for us all. So the cooking duties began to devolve upon us. We’d come home from school, find a package of defrosting chicken in the sink and a note of instructions. It was during this time that my TV watching habits began to turn from typical teenage boy fare to PBS and the specifically to Julia Child. In the days before the Food Network, PBS was the place for televised cooking instruction, from Julia to “Yan Can Cook” to the Frugal Gourmet. But Julia was queen of them all.

I didn’t learn all my cooking skills from Julia—working in an Italian restaurant kitchen helped as well—but she was instrumental as inspiration. My very first cookbook was not “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which I think I found too intimidating, but another cookbook, “From Julia Child’s Kitchen”. I can’t say I cooked many recipes from it; despite being French cooking for the average American housewife, I was a teenager and our pantry was somewhat more limited than even her simplified recipes called for.

Yet there is one recipe from the book that brings back pleasant memories because it was the first major holiday dish I ever cooked for my family. I can’t say exactly what year it was, but I’d guess it was toward the end of my high school years. I’d seen an episode of Julia’s show in she made it and I told my mom that I would like to try to make it for the family. It was a roast leg of lamb— gigot d’agneau roti—and I would cook it for Easter dinner. I was determined to follow every instruction to the letter and prepare every ingredient as instructed, right down to getting the proper “whole” leg, including hip bone, main leg bone, and shank bone. Most supermarkets only sold them without the shank bone, but my mom went to the effort to find a butcher who could provide the proper lamb.

Long story, short—mainly because I don’t really remember most of the details—the lamb and its sauce were delicious. I made it every year after that until I moved to Steubenville for college and then made it a few times there for friends, but I don’t think I’ve made it more than once or twice since then. I recently picked a new hardbound copy of “From Julia Child’s Kitchen” on Bookmooch, to replace my now falling-apart original copy so it may be time to bring back that old favorite and to try some of those recipes I never had a chance to try back then.

And when I do I will lift a glass of wine in tribute to the dear lady who launched a love of food and cooking in a teenage boy those decades ago.

1 comment
  • I have “Mastering V.1” and “From Julia Child’s Kitchen”. Although I’ve always known about her, it wasn’t until her passing that I was drawn to her life and career. Very fascinating indeed. Both my cookbooks get used regularly and I love them. Time for a glass of wine in tribute.